Cycling Coach Simmonds lucky to be alive after bicyle falls into ditch
“WHEN I tell you I’m lucky to be alive. It’s just because of experience why I didn’t sustain more damage.”
Those were the words of Jamaica’s national cycling coach, Carlton Simmonds after an incident on one of the under-construction roads in the Corporate Area recently.
Several trenches in Kingston and St Andrew were dug up over the last two months, with minister with responsibility for information Robert Morgan confirming to the Jamaica Observer in November that it is part of efforts by the Government, through the National Works Agency (NWA) and eGov Jamaica, to bolster its Internet broadband network.
However a ride on one of those roads was almost fatal, according to Simmonds. He says on December 2, while going to meet his cycling group at around 5:40 am, he was travelling from Caledonia Road onto South Camp Road when his bicycle unexpectedly fell into one of the trenches, causing him to flip over and fall in the road.
“I dropped into a ditch — it’s about 12 inches wide and about two feet deep — broke my clavicle (collarbone) and fractured three of my ribs. [I’m] lucky to be alive [because] even my helmet shattered. Good thing I had on my helmet,” he said.
The former national representative, who also shared video footage with the Observer of where the incident took place, says he’s considering taking legal action because of the injuries he suffered.
“Somebody has to be held accountable. You can’t just be digging up the place with no recourse and people and cars are getting damaged. I’m going to have to put them to task because somebody has to be liable, because you can’t take me out of my normal function because of your negligence. There has to be some public liablity attached to it,” he insisted.
This incident may have been Simmonds’ closest encounter with death while engaging in the sport he loves but it’s certainly far from the first he and other national cyclists have had on Jamaican roads.
“When you go out to ride, navigating potholes and have to be dealing with motorists, it becomes very risky. So if it is that you don’t have access to a pilot vehicle when you go out with the national team you’re actually putting the national athletes — plus the average guy who uses cycling as part of their recreating for health and wellness — at risk. You have to be focusing on these potholes while navigating the motorists that are coming at you, when 90 per cent don’t see you or recognise you as a road user,” he said.
“If it is that we get permits to be doing races we have to make sure the road surface is in a state that we can have races [so] that we can develop our national athletes — so it affects it in every way, shape or form,” said Simmonds.
In several countries overseas there are designated lanes for cyclists. While suggesting it would be difficult to have these in Jamaica, he’s called on the relevant authorities to ensure cyclists are prioritised.
“What I think can happen is that we move to the point where we have signs erected where it speaks to motorists sharing the road space with cyclists, and create a type of education around that where people can feel safe to ride their bicycle. We talk about climate change and emissions; it means we need to have less cars on the road so… that we can create a safe space in the minds of our motorists where people can feel safe to ride to work. If somebody lives a mile from work it makes no sense they drive a car if he can ride a bicycle and feel safe on the roadway. We [need to] create road awareness programmes through the various ministries, in terms of roads and construction, to highlight and create that synergy in the space to make it safer,” he said.
“Jamaica has a lot of obesity so even the health ministry needs to be part of it to help promote cycling as part of health and wellness in the country. And to take it further, the Government should lift GCT restrictions on people who want to bring in bicycles in the country for their own use; so it’s a 360 approach we need to create that safe space for people who want to commute or want to use cycling as their recreation,” Simmonds added.
Up to press time calls by the Observer to NWA Communications and Customers Services Manager Stephem Shaw went to voicemail.
A release from the NWA earlier this month stated the work is slated for completion by the end of the year.