IT'S the stuff of cyclists' nightmares.
A Saturday morning ride with a group of friends. A sudden "big bang". Your bike sliding from beneath you. Crashing hard. Seeing blood splattered and debris flying.
The group of cyclists recovering from being hit by a car on the Newcastle Inner City Bypass Inner City Bypass last weekend consider themselves lucky to be alive.
But with the physical and mental trauma of the horrifying incident still raw and fresh, the cyclists were struck by another cruel blow. The vitriol towards cyclists sprayed across social media.
"There were some pretty appalling comments, people saying they'd target us in the future," said James Farley, who suffered a concussion after his bike was swept out from under him, caused by his adjacent rider being struck by the car. The impact cracked his helmet and tore his clothes.
"That's pretty scary to see. There's obviously a hate for cyclists out there."
The comments were in response to shocking footage of the incident, which involved the mirror of the car clipping two riders, first Craig Johnston and then Marek Jankowski, before several more were knocked over in the pile up. The collision caused serious injuries including Mr Farley's concussion, deep lacerations, puncture wounds, bruised bones, sprains and grazes.
"Straight away I knew we'd been impacted," Mr Jankowski said. "Craig was hit first and I caught the remnants of the smashed mirror."
Mr Jankowski has been unable to perform his work duties as a bike mechanic since, but considers himself fortunate it wasn't worse.
"A millimetre or a split second closer and it could have been quite different," he said. "I could have been dead or in a wheelchair."
"I find myself unlucky, but then again I also find myself extremely lucky," Mr Johnston said. "I'm counting my blessings."
"I'm a fairly experienced rider, from what I've seen on the footage it doesn't take much more than that to cause major, major catastrophe," said Danny Collins-Roe, who wasn't directly hit, but got swept up in the carnage and came off his bike.
Along with being physically injured, the incident has left the riders shaken.
"Up until Saturday I didn't feel intimidated," Mr Jankowski said. "I've been riding on those roads since I was 12. It can be relatively safe.
"I want to get back on and ride, they say it's the best way to get over something like this, but it's something that's going through my head all the time. I'm pretty anxious."
"I was planning on doing nationals in early February," Mr Farley said. "The plan was to do a lot of training, but I've got to try and get my head in the right place to be able to ride again."
"Something like this is not going to stop me from riding but it does sit in the back of your mind," Mr Collins-Roe said.
Mr Johnston said the incident made him nervous to get on the road again, but also anxious about his son, who has taken up cycling.
"You're always aware of cars coming by, you can hear them coming, but I think that'll just be a heightened sense now with what had happened," he said.
That apprehension has been amplified by the strong anti-cyclist sentiment on social media from those who believed the riders were either in the wrong, or were following the law, but deserved what they got.
It's something the riders say they face regularly when they're out on the roads.
"The majority of people are pretty courteous," Mr Jankowski said. "But you do get the occasional person who thinks its funny or that we don't belong on the road who will give you a close shave.
"We've had nothing as bad as that before, but we've had plenty of intimidation tactics by vehicles," Mr Collins-Roe said. "Cars swerving at us, honking at us, yelling at us.
"When I started riding 15 years ago, it was a lot worse. I've said to many people over the last two or three years that I thought people's behaviours were getting better. I still think that, especially in this region."
"But it takes one bad accident on one bad day to potentially change your mind."
And Mr Collins-Roe believes no matter how much improvement there its, there will always be a contingent of drivers who don't want to share the road.
"Cyclists are just a catalyst because we're older generally, we dress differently, we're on the road and a lot of people don't want to share the road," he said.
"There's a general animosity on the roads people have towards each other, but with cyclists, they're picking on the weakest person. It seems a bit ridiculous, a two tonne vehicle versus a seven kilo bike and an 80kg rider.
"It's people's lack of recognition that we're vulnerable and not having the temperament or the patience to wait or to avoid confrontation. Like that five, 10 or 15 seconds you have to wait is going to cause you such a delay that it's going to impact your life."
Mr Jankowski urged drivers to think about who the cyclists are... everyday people.
"The people who ride bikes are doctors, nurses, teachers, students," he said. "You might be treated by that nurse, or that teacher might be your child's teacher. Just because on the weekend we ride for fitness or mental health, for some reason there's this animosity and hatred."
"I think people have got to be attentive," Mr Johnston said. "Just be courteous. If they see a cyclist if they could picture them as a loved one, they might be a bit more patient, or give them a bit more space. That's all we need is that little bit of space."
"If you saw a five-year-old kid on a bike on the road, would you swerve your car at him?" Mr Collins-Roe asked.
Mr Collins-Roe believes greater messaging around cyclists' rights on the road would help, whereas Mr Jankowsi would like to see more physical barriers between riders and drivers.
"You don't see too many politicians or leaders in the community coming out and supporting cycling in general, but also the fact that we are legal road users," Mr Collins-Roe said. "They use our money saying we shouldn't speed, we shouldn't use mobile phones, but I've never seen an advertising blitz that recognises other road users.
"No one knows you're allowed to ride two abreast, no one knows you can take up a whole lane if you want to, or that drivers can overtake cyclists on double lines. You are still going to get angry people and you can't take a license off them, but I think our leaders could assist in the culture."
"I definitely think we could use what you see all through Europe, a physical barrier for bike lanes," Mr Jankowski said. "A small concrete curb to prevent cars from drifting. It could double as a breakdown lane, with entry points for cars from time to time."
For 20-year-old Mr Farley, he hopes the incident raises greater awareness about how easily it can happen.
"People my age people don't take things seriously," he said. "They don't realise the consequences of their actions."
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