The ignominy of victory

Kiwanis biker hit by police car at finish line

Mr. Smith

Mr. Smith swings around the patrol vehicle as he crosses the finish line.
Photo: Eugene Bonthuys

Michele Smith crossed the line first in Sunday’s Kiwanis bike ride, only to be knocked off his bike seconds later by the police lead vehicle.

Although Mr. Smith was not seriously injured, the incident did bring a premature and humiliating end to his victory celebrations. Rather than celebrating with fellow cyclists on the beach at Smith Cove, he was left to give his account of the incident to police officers attending the scene of the accident.

The event, an annual fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club of Grand Cayman, started from the Blowholes with the finish at Smith Cove.

‘With the police car approaching the… finish line, and a crowd of volunteers and spectators and on-coming traffic at the finish line, the police car had to slow down and with myself and (Steve) Abbott doing in excess of 34mph, we approached the rear of the police car fairly quickly so it was a quick decision to manoeuvre around the patrol vehicle at the finish line and we both overtook the patrol car at the finish line because of the big congestion of traffic,’ said Mr. Smith, who represented Cayman in cycling at the Olympic Games.

As he was slowing down after the line, Mr. Smith was suddenly knocked off his bicycle.

‘All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I felt when I got hit by a vehicle on my left side and I and my bicycle were thrown to my right,’ he recalled.

‘I remember being very conscious of the fact that the left side of my head and face and my left shoulder whacked the asphalt road and I remember not being as worried about the status of my bicycle as I was the status of my face and head.’

The incident left Mr. Smith with a cracked cycling helmet, minor damage to his bicycle, as well as a nasty bruise on his face.

In spite of the incident, Mr. Smith views himself as very lucky.

‘As anyone knows, accidents can go much worse… as I told the officer after the accident ‘I could have had broken bones or died’,’ he said.

Had he not been wearing a helmet, his injuries may have been much more serious.

‘The helmet ultimately saving my head from injury and I would like to take this opportunity to highlight to everyone the importance of wearing your helmet when riding. Whether you’re on a leisure ride, training ride or competitive ride, please wear your helmet,’ said Mr. Smith.

Head injuries constitute the leading cause of death in cycling related accidents worldwide, accounting for some 60 per cent of fatalities, while motor vehicles are involved in more than 70 per cent of fatal cycling accidents.

Although the Kiwanis event is not a race, its popularity with the local cyclist fraternity means that there is some cachet attached to being first across the line. This was the 28th edition of the event, which has an excellent safety record.

‘Accidents are called accidents because they are… they are not done on purpose and nobody expects them to happen. You can never tell when you’re going to need your helmet,’ said Mr. Smith.

As a sport that takes place on the open road, cycling is dependent on the assistance of the RCIPS to present safe events for all participants. Unfortunately the speed at which cyclists are able to negotiate roundabouts and sprint for the finish line are often underestimated by those not intimately familiar with the sport, making it technically challenging to drive as the lead vehicle for any cycling event.

In spite of his injuries, Mr. Smith remains philosophical about the incident.

‘It is unfortunate that this particular accident involved a member of the police service but I appeal to everyone to understand that officers are human too and accidents can happen to anyone – I do not blame anyone as this is just simply one of those unfortunate accidents.’

He was also quick to point out that one incident should not reflect badly on the entire event.

‘The Kiwanis bike ride is a fun and safe ride for all age groups and all levels of cyclists, and has been held for many years now. I encourage everyone to continue to participate in and support it and not let this minor incident discourage them or wane their enthusiasm.’