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Road cyclists: ‘We are flesh and bone on a carbon frame against somebody in a cube of steel’

Imogen Cotter was Irish national champion when her life was changed when she was on a training cycle in 2022

At the beginning of 2022, Imogen Cotter had just signed her first professional cycling contract. It had been an extraordinary five years from first taking up cycling in 2017 to becoming Irish national road champion in 2021.

She moved to Girona in Spain for the sunshine and the mountain training in January of that year. All changed on January 26th, 2022 when she was out on training ride. She was near home when she was hit head-on by a van which had swerved onto her side of the road to avoid a cyclist coming the other way.

She was lucky to survive, though she broke bones in an arm and leg which necessitated five operations and also suffered multiple bruises and cuts.

Ms Cotter (30) is the public face of the Road Safety Authority’s latest campaign to raise awareness of the vulnerability of cyclists on Irish roads. Last year, nine cyclists were killed on Irish roads and 216 were seriously injured.


When she first began to raise awareness of cyclists last year as part of a TikTok video campaign, she was taken aback by the hostility towards her specifically, but also to cyclists in general.

“People were using the most violent language to talk about cyclists. I was sharing the most traumatic event of my life and comments underneath were still saying things like, ‘when I see cyclists, I try to get a strike’ with bowling pin emojis,” she said.

“This is a real-life situation and it is not just me who is affected by it. For every cyclist hit, there is a whole network of people who have to deal with the aftermath of it.”

There is a lack of awareness in the disparity between the risks taken by cyclists on the road in comparison with drivers, she said. “We are flesh and bone on a carbon frame against somebody in a cube of steel. We are always going to be the ones who suffer more. My message is for drivers to slow down and realise there is a real person cycling on that road.”

She still suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of being hit by the van. “I’m on a break from racing because the PTSD got really debilitating at the start of the year. That’s the impact of road traffic collisions that you don’t hear about that much.”

Speaking at the launch, Minister of State for Transport Jack Chambers said the latest tragedy on the roads, the deaths of a woman and two girls in Co Mayo, was adding to a “terrible year” for road fatalities.

If present trends continue, there will be 40 more deaths on Irish roads this year in comparison with last year’s figure of 184, which was in turn up 29 from the 155 deaths recorded in 2022. “That would reverse 10 years of significant progress and that would be of serious concern to me as a Minister,” he said.

Mr Chambers said the Government is pressing ahead with legislation in the Seanad at present on mandatory drug testing and speed limits.

Five people were killed and 18 seriously injured on the State’s roads during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend last year.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times