How accidents can change your perspective on life and money

I had a little fall!

A fairly personal post today – excuse me while I self indulge.

This next image is pretty accurate:

cycling accident

Last Saturday, I was working towards my newly set 2014 goals and was on an early morning cycle enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the wonderful city of Marseille.

Around 23 miles in, I was feeling really strong and happy with myself that I’d fully recovered from a slipped disc earlier in the year. I passed the seafront and watched the waves crashing against the rocks. A little slog up a mini mountain earned me full views of the Mediterranean. Heaven.

Heading back home, I was feeling so good that I thought I’d stay out and put in another 5-10 miles. I think I was so happy with life at that moment that I may have been smiling while I was riding along.

It served me right!

Unfortunately, as I was cycling past a parked car at around 25 mph, “monsieur” decided to fling his car door open without looking in his mirror. I was so close that I had no opportunity to hit the brakes or swerve and the door and I became very close friends very quickly.

The impact of the crash flung me over the handlebars and catapulted me over the door. I was attached to my bike pedals as I was wearing cleats, and so I landed after a magnificent summersault on my back and on the back of my head on the concrete, with my bicycle crashing down on top of me. Ouch!

I was very fortunate. It was a two lane road (plus the parking lane) and luckily I wasn’t flipped into the outside lane where I was being passed by a car. Even more fortunate, the car in the lane behind me managed to hit the brakes before squishing me!

That said, ouch.

I was lying in the middle of the road, unable to move with my back in absolute agony. Two lovely people came to my side to help me out. The pain made me feel a little dizzy so I shut my eyes. When I reopened them, the lady who came to help me was checking my pulse. Oh dear, this could be serious.

Next came the ambulance and the stretcher and the neck brace. By this time, I had sorted my head out and, whilst I was in agony, I could feel my toes which I guessed was pretty important.

The ambulance ride was remarkably bumpy considering they were transporting someone strapped to a stretcher and with a neck brace, but it was pretty exciting to be in a nee-nah-nee-nah!!

I was taken into A&E and connected to a drip and fed some painkillers directly into my veins – ooo it felt good!!

I was released from hospital 12 hours later and was returned to my bed by some very (!) friendly paramedics in an ambulance, still unable to move.

Luckily, at the time of writing, 6 days later, I can now get up and walk around.

However, with all things like this in life, I think it’s very important to reflect on what this experience has taught me, good and bad.

Things I’ve lost

First the bad news…

I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but I have lost much of my confidence to cycle in any large city. Combine my accident with the much more serious recent events in London, and I’m now of the opinion that inner city cycling simply isn’t safe. You can abide by every law, take every precaution and spend every second 100% aware of your surroundings, but there is nothing you can do when a careless driver opens his door straight into your face!!

Long-term, this means that I am going to cancel my proposed cycling tour next May which would have seen me and a group of friends cycling from Geneva, to Turin, down to Monaco and across the Cote d’azur back to Marseille. Whilst I think that the cycle will be fine, and I don’t have a huge fear of getting back on the bike per se, I will need to cycle around 20 miles a day as fitness as this route will be grueling and I don’t think that Marseille is a suitable training ground for this.

In the shorter-term, I was also booked to go on a stag do / bachelor party to Val D’Isère in the Alps for a week in December. Given that I can’t currently walk, a week’s skiing doesn’t really seem plausible. Also, due to a mix up in my insurance not covering winter sports, I also am going to lose £650 if I can’t find someone to take my place!! P.S. – anyone want to go on a stranger’s stag do, you’ve got my number…


Things I’ve gained

Whilst I have no long-term damage from my injury (I hope) and I am hugely grateful for that, I’m fully aware that if the car behind had been 5-10 meters closer to me, it could have been a very different story.

This, rather dramatically, has made me reflect on life.

I’ve always enjoyed life and have always wanted to live it to the maximum. The fact that the accident occurred on the streets of Marseille at 9am on a Saturday morning during our 2 year transfer with work to the South of France despite me never speaking French before is probably testament to that!

However, the accident has highlighted to me that I really need to do something every day of my life which is fulfilling and which I thoroughly enjoy.

Most people might expect me to say that I’m now giving up everything and move to a tropical island. Not yet. I can’t quite afford it yet. However, what it has installed in me is a greater desire to achieve.

In the short-term, this will involve me working harder on moneystepper to bring financial freedom a step closer for myself, and my readers. I thoroughly enjoy working on the site and the feedback and engagement from readers has been one of the best parts of the past few months, so this is stage one and then we’ll see what happens from there.

Although I’ve obviously had to cancel the “cycle 3000 miles” goal, it has also given me a greater drive to ensure that I fulfill, and even exceed, all the goals I have set for the next year to bring me closer to financial freedom and to further enjoy life. I have replaced the goal with doing 42,600 sit ups (100 per day). In the short-term, this will help me strengthen my core following the accident. In the long term, it make me look super sweet at the beach when I’m surfing next summer!! J

And last, but not certainly not least, it’s made me realize how awesome my fiancée is! Not only did she rush to the hospital and stay by my side all day, she bought cola bottles!! We had a surprisingly good day in the hospital (we are rating it as one of our best ever dates) where despite the circumstances we managed to laugh all day.

More importantly, how she has looked after me at home since has been amazing! Given that I was constrained to bed for 2-3 days unable to move, I really needed her support and she couldn’t have done anything more!

Luckily, when it came to the issue of not being able to get up to go to the toilet, we never reached the real relationship test, but carrying out warm bottles of wee every few hours certainly shows she must love me quite a lot!!


Let’s make cycling safer

One other thing I hope to achieve with this post and going forward is contributing, however small the contribution, to making the UK and France safer for cyclists.

Europe is already great for cycling. Many of the countries are unbelievable at it and they are reaping the rewards, Denmark being a prime example. And why? Because it’s safe to cycle.

The major cities in UK and France seem to have made some token efforts to appease cyclist groups, but they haven’t embraced the massive changes required.

Cycling is good. In every sense, it is good. It is better for your health (physical and mental), it is better for the environment, it is more social, it is cleaner, it takes up less space. Investing in cycling network benefits everyone. And it is an investment which will pay back in future medical costs. The long list of benefits goes on and on.

Better junctions will help. Making drivers and pedestrians “cycle aware” will help. Transport for London are making these improvements, and they are good – but they are not good enough. We need a proper network of cycling lanes. Again, let’s look to our Danish friends for inspiration (I’m loving the DOUBLE bike lane):

Safe cycling everyone, and I hope that this inspires everyone to work a little harder towards achieving your goals and dreams.


Let me know in the comments what your goals & dreams are? How are you doing in achieving them? Have you ever had moments like this that have inspired you to push on and work harder?

18 thoughts on “How accidents can change your perspective on life and money

  1. That video was fascinating. Wow I’m so sorry that happened to you and glad you are relatively OK. That is scary! I’m sorry it’s shaken your confidence a bit too and has made you cancel your goals. I hope you have a speedy recovery!

  2. Glad you are ok! I used to cycle like crazy in France and was always impressed once I moved to the UK at how far away a car would pass you, at least a good meter, while in France sometimes it is barely 30 cm… that would really be too bad if you canceled that trip, I hope you can reconsider. You could get your bike on the train and cycle in Aix, Cassis, etc. if you don’t want to be in the city for training.

  3. Big OUCH! am still cringing imagining the whole thing happen…split second!
    In a way, I think traumatic experiences serves as a reminder of just how fragile and precious life is. They also remind us what is truly important in the grand scheme of things – in that split second we have clarity about what is really improtant and what isn’t.
    I wouldn’t say I have gone through such an experience, but I have been with people who have and the transformations in their live have to taught me a lot:- Appreciating life and being happy each day, appreciating people and taking the time to spend with them, the value of hardwork and enjoying every moment of it. Life is short I have realized, live a happy fulfilling one 🙂

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  5. So sorry about your accident. Glad you are up and around. You are right, you cannot control the stupidity and carelessness of other people, especially drivers! I tell my dear hubby that all the time. Any major unexpected event can really make you re-evaluate your life choices. This year, in March, my husband’s cousin died from cancer; she was 62. He has a large, very close extended family. Two weeks later his mother fell and broke her wrist while over 1000 miles from home. She was finally allowed to come home in April but only to be admitted to a nursing home (with two more hospital stays over the next 2 months). She died in June. In August we had to admit my father to a nursing home after he was admitted to the hospital. He has Alzheimers among a number of other aliements. In September I was laid off from my job. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not whining or complaining. My husband still has his job and I am picking up odd jobs here and there. We are both doing okay but this year has been tough. It has made me much more grateful for what I have but also given me a heightened awareness that things can and do change in an instant.

    • Suzie – thanks for the comment. It sounds like you’ve had a tough time of late, but I’m glad to hear that you are doing okay and still have a positive attitude. I hope you have an uneventful few months!

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  7. Thanks for an insightful read! Having a crazy accident like this can really wake you up to the fact that life is finite.

    I’m including this post as an editor’s pick in this week’s Carnival of Money, going live Monday 11/25/2013!

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  9. Great reflective post Graham. Sometimes we really have to just take stock of where we are in life and if what we’re doing is the best thing with our limited time on earth.

    More importantly, glad you’re doing okay. Take care.

  10. Oh my gosh – thank goodness you’re OK! It’s events like this that really help to put things in perspective. If something like this were to happen to me in the US in 2014, that’d be an automatic $3,000 with the new deductibles on our health insurance plan 🙂

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