October 4, 2013 7:41 pm

Knocked off my bike, but not off course

‘What would be the last thing that would flash into your mind in that split second when you believe you are about to be killed by a car?’
Illustration by James Ferguson of a broken bicycle bell©James Ferguson

This column is to say thank you. Thank you to all the people who helped me as I lay in the road entangled with my bicycle after an early-morning encounter with a London minicab. I had been on my way to meet a client for breakfast. As I crossed a junction behind Broadcasting House, perfectly legally and after looking all ways, I fell foul of a driver who, waiting in line for a red traffic light, decided that he was no longer prepared to wait. Instead, he was going to reverse and do a U-turn.

Except he didn’t look behind him before reversing and reversed straight into me. There was that split second between his starting to reverse and the actual impact when I realised what was going to happen and that there was nothing I could do to stop it. If I braked, he would hit me anyway; if I speeded up I would not get past him in time. There was nothing for it but to hope that the collision would be swift and merciful.

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Mrs Moneypenny

What would be the last thing that would flash into your mind in that split second when you believe you are about to be killed by a car? In my case, there were two things. The first was some regret that three children were going to be left without a mother. But, hey, they are 23, 18 and 14 and hardly children any more.

The second thing was to experience a rush of relief that my business had recently upgraded our key man insurance. If I die, our company’s banking facilities will be repaid and my colleagues will have more than enough money to hire someone else to oversee business development, which is my main role. As well as to make up for any temporary dip in revenue.

Later, I got to thinking about what would have happened if I had been left permanently disabled or in a persistent vegetative state. No insurance would pay out then and my business would suffer. My Platinum Blonde Girlfriend, herself responsible for business development in her own company, recently had to have a back operation that has taken her out of action for six weeks or more. Her colleagues are finding out what it is like to be without someone critical to the company, and for a small business such as hers, it is far more noticeable. Small businesses may be the lifeblood of a country’s economic ecosystem (99.2 per cent of the UK’s 4.8 million businesses employ fewer than 50 people, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) but they are very fragile.

And even if you could insure against the prolonged absence of a key employee, insurance is hugely expensive. In addition to the company premiums, I pay personally for life insurance to make sure that the Cost Centres will be able to finish their education and Mr M won’t have to give up his golf club memberships. The premiums cost more than our utility bills. (If I was thinner it would be cheaper – the insurance industry is fattist.)

It is interesting to see how I have reacted to my collision with that car. I am very wary now of crossing any road, even on foot. I am doubly and triply careful when reversing my own car. And I have yet to get back on my bicycle, which I know I must do soon or I never will. My goal is to do so once all my numerous and spectacular bruises have faded.

I was rescued from the ground by the pedestrians who rushed to my assistance, which was when I realised I was still alive and could stand, and my bike had not suffered too much damage. The minicab driver got out of the car, smoking, clutching a mobile and frankly not looking very sorry or concerned.

And what did I do when I realised I was in one piece and my bicycle was functioning? I am, first and foremost, a businesswoman.

My mind turned immediately to my waiting client, for whom I was now late, and I decided to press on. I didn’t document the car registration; I didn’t call the police. I did, however, point out to the minicab driver, forcibly, that given I was not going to complain, he was the one who should be thankful.

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mrsmoneypenny@ft.com

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