Sunday Post column in full
Gold medal winner Sir Chris Hoy, long distance record breaker Mark Beaumont, world record setter Graeme Obree, Tour de France King of the Mountains Robert Millar and British National Road Champion David Millar.
Scots have finally found a sport where we excel – and there's not a ref, round ball or goalie in sight. But whilst cyclists are fine on a podium -- put them on the road and it's a different story.
Last week 28-year-old cyclist Dan Harris was killed after a collision with a bus outside the Olympic Park in London. Within hours one question was dominating the Scottish airwaves.
Not -- how should road layout change to protect cyclists or -- why do drivers still not look twice for bikes but -- should cyclists be forced by law to wear helmets.
Strange. A ten ton Olympic double decker bus ran over a cyclist and yet the media focussed immediately on the biker's behaviour? We don't know if young Dan was wearing a helmet, we don't know if it could have saved him, we do know the bus driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving – but still it's the cyclist who's under the spotlight.
And London Mayor Boris Johnson said "We have no plans to make (helmets) mandatory. In countries where they are compulsory, it hasn't been good for cycling."
Which mum or dad will let their weans out on the roads (with or without helmets) after tragic accidents like this one? And yet how will cycling get safer without more cyclists on the roads? It's a terrible Catch 22.
More bikes help create more motorist awareness of bikes. If cyclists only appear once in a blue moon drivers don't need to check wing mirrors every time they turn left. If bikes are everywhere, they do.
So more cyclists would top my list of safety measures. I'd also change city junctions to give cyclists priority (as they have across mainland Europe) and I'd consider a law to make drivers legally responsible in any crash involving a cyclist (like they do in Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.)
In fact, the UK is one of only four European nations not to have this "strict liability" law which puts the onus on drivers to give cyclists a wide berth. Once motorists know they'll be blamed in any collision, driving behaviour changes dramatically.
OK – I can feel the opposition to that one! Cyclists are not a well loved set of road-users. There's a pecking order on roads and cars are always on top. Even though that also helps explain why we are the least active, most overweight folk for miles around. Sympathy follows use and most folk don't use bikes.
I'll grant you some cyclists dinnae help. Everyone has a story about couldn't care less bikers who've hit pedestrians, prams or cars and scared the living daylights out of everyone else. But if you do use two wheels you know how hard it is to be the "blasted cyclist" accused of "holding up traffic" as well. And you'll know when you are in the deadliest position on the roads -- inside a bus or lorry turning left which might not see you or even look. Precisely what seems to have happened to Dan Harris. I'll be honest and say I've cycled slowly through busy junctions on the green man (after pedestrians are across) to escape that position – unlike most law-abiding women who (therefore) have the highest chance of obeying the rules and being killed. If pavements beside wet cobbled streets are deadly quiet I'll also nip up rather than run the risk of sliding about or getting my wheel wedged between cobbles. But I hop off (after having a good look at the road traffic) if a see a pedestrian – after all they were there first! I think being a motorist makes me a better cyclist -- there are ground rules about looking carefully before maneouvres that are rammed home powerfully in the driving test and in daily driving – but apply to being in motion on any mode of transport. I also think cycling makes me a better driver -- I check my inside mirror before turning left and I can see a "wobbling" cyclist may actually be dodging sunken drains to avoid being thrown into a car's path.
In any case, let's keep things in proportion. UK Government figures show that in 2007 four people were killed by cyclists whereas 642 were killed by cars and lorries and 35, 794 were injured by vehicles whilst 273 were injured by bikes. So there's a huge difference in the scale of injury and damage caused by cars and bikes.
But as long as most adults don't cycle, bikers are in a no-win situation.
In their heart of hearts, non cyclists just cannot see why anyone would want to be puffing away on two wheels – especially in the rain. And even though politicians go through the motions of supporting cyclists – they quietly think we are all bonkers.
Actually cycling round cities is relatively fast, free and fun – and if you wouldn't choose to wear a helmet inside a car to reduce the risk of head injuries you'll know why many cyclists don't want to wear them all the time either. I'd helmet up if I was hurtling through mountain villages in the Tour de France (fat chance!)
But runner Eilish McColgan –daughter of Olympic medallist Liz – was also hit by a car while out road training for yesterday's (Saturday) Olympic steeplechase heat. Should she be wearing a helmet too?
While cyclists are still the exception not the rule, bikes are seen as a general irritant by drivers.
That's a shame.
Olympic success means our kids want to saddle up - and policy makers won't find a better way to combat inactivity, obesity and road congestion in a oner!
So let's tackle the problem – not the cyclists!
On roads – as in life –we are all in this together.