THE headline on BBC Cycling ‘Deaths soar on rural roads in England’ caught my eye as I sat down to write this week’s column. 

It was already in my mind after I came off my bike on Thursday afternoon on a rural road in Surrey.

I hadn’t got out much this week with the drop in temperature, but Thursday provided a break in the rain and cold so I decided to drive out towards the quiet lanes away from traffic. 

I was only 20km from the end of a 70km ride when I was faced with a steep hill.

Now hills are challenging enough when you ride only with one leg and arm. 

I know that climbing them does put me at risk.

That’s why I try to avoid them in the UK. 

I came onto the steepest part of the hill the road went up to 20%.

It was only a short section but just as I went onto it a Land Rover came at a fast speed down the hill towards me. 

I knew the driver would not know I was paralysed and that was confirmed as they held their line which forced me off the road. 

I wasn’t going fast as the hill was so steep, in fact I could hardly turn the pedal, but when you ride paralysed from neck down on one side your bike handling skills are not the best. 

I know for a fact that if I was not disabled I would not have come off my bike, but because I am paralysed I hit the road. 

It was like slow motion.

I saw my wheel go into the leaves then I was in a hole, unable to do anything while the bike started falling. 

All I then remember is my head hitting the ground hard. 

I lay there with adrenaline running through my body.

I was thinking ‘how do I get up and back onto my bike’.

I couldn’t move - one of the hardest things in paralysis is getting up if you fall over. 

Now I know why they focused so much on this in Stoke Mandeville. 

What an end this was to a great week where I had won Paralympic athlete of the year at the Sporting Club awards dinner in London on Tuesday night alongside Mark Cavendish, Frank Bruno, Dan Carter, and a list of top athletes. 

Lying on this road was not how I had seen the rest of my week going. 

It was another reminder for me how close we are to death at any moment and how knowing this should make us live more.

I’ve long since learned this facing so many operations but I also knew this fall was going to leave me feeling frustrated as I injured my paralysed hip and pulled all my neck muscles when my head rebounded off the road. 

I’m frustrated that I am now stuck in bed, and frustrated I left the park to go ride rural roads in the first place.

Deaths on rural roads in England are up 50% post lockdown and British cycling has launched a campaign called Respect Rural Roads to encourage people using the roads to take more care. 

These campaigns are good, but unfortunately to make them effective there is a deep understanding of human psychology needed.

The driver of the Land Rover possibly thought another damn cyclist and that is maybe why they refused to move.

And all the cars passing me within a few inches during my ride all left me feeling vulnerable as a disabled rider.

I know no-one would think I was disabled - they just see a cyclist. But the tension on the roads between drivers and riders is fairly high right now. 

I know what you’re thinking - some cyclists ride badly. 

And yes, I have seen some reckless riding in my time but as a disabled rider who rides for the love of feeling my body move it is sad that each time, I clip in I fear someone hitting me. 

I ride because I love it.

Listening to Cavendish talk about his recent crash that put him in hospital made me see how much we as athletes do what we do because we love it. 

Sometimes this can be lost as people expect you to win all the time or to capture records. 

I was so inspired chatting with Cav hearing his passion for riding and that of course he races to win, but mostly he races because he loves it. 

That’s something that’s keeping me going. I can already visualise the fresh alpine roads waiting for me as soon as I recover from this fall.