Riding safe

With the deaths of six cyclists in London making headlines and subsequent appeals for increasing safety levels I wanted to write a blog that took both the perspective of cyclists, car drivers and truckers into account. Far too often the arguments are polarised, completely biased and quite frankly lack a level of honesty that I believe is critical to move the debate forwards.

I’ve driven trucks, up to 7.5 tonnes, held a driving licence for 21 years and have ridden thousands of miles on my bike. Maybe I’m lucky and there will certainly beĀ  many incidents people can point to where they were blameless but, while I have met with very aggressive road rage having shown my dismay to a driver overtaking way too close, I have never been knocked off my bike. Long may that continue.

I find it ludicrous that in the UK bike lanes are shared with buses, end in the middle of the road or are in gutters where potholes render them unusable. I find the “no road tax” argument utterly ridiculous. As is often pointed out, not only are many cyclists also car owners but the very nature of tax is that we all pay for services we may or may not use. It’s how we create society/ community – I wonder what it is that those of us on bikes have done to be singled out in such a way?

I find cyclists with no care for those around them just as annoying as anyone else. They give me a bad name too. They make the road less safe for me too.

As a member of CTC I follow the debates and lobbying. I understand the need for a hard line at times (drivers seemingly getting off with manslaughter on killing a second cyclist through dangerous driving) yet wish there was a recognition of bad riding and an understanding of blind spots on larger vehicles (sometimes lorries and buses really can’t see you). I don’t agree with the call that all lorry drivers should be called to account on the death of a cyclist. I do believe that we should try and determine if accidents were due to bad driving or bad cycling.

Every new driver is taught mirror, signal, manoeuvre yet having past their test this three stage process is often long forgotten. I ride assuming no one uses the side view, few regularly check the rear view and people will pull in or turn without an indicator. I look over both shoulders frequently, expect people to pull out, turn left front of me and open their car door. With all this in mind here are my tips for riding safe.

1. Value yourself. Ride to live. Look around you. Anticipate actions of others and adopt mirror, signal, manoeuvre. That’s what everyone else on the road has been taught. Exemplify this behaviour.

2. Wear a helmet. I think this is a no brainer though am aware some folk differ. Better to arrive with messy hair than not at all!
I’ve seen a number of cracked helmets that have saved riders from serious injury.

3. Be visible. Lights, clothing and eye contact. I do my best to make people see me and acknowledge they have done so – get a smile from the person behind the wheel while you’re both waiting to pull away.

4. Don’t sneak between cars leading up to lights unless you know they are not about to turn red. Cars pull away assuming all is stationary and lined up behind them. This is a time when people really don’t check mirrors. It may not be right but it is what happens.

5. When riding near buses and lorries give them space to turn. You know the length of their vehicles. You’re not stupid and you know how far they will swing out when turning so give them room. If you’re behind them – it’s your responsibility – they have a much bigger blind spot than a car.

Of course, I won’t be perfect and not everyone will agree with my red light policy – avoid stopping late at night and go when it is safest (occasionally this will be when lights are red) but we’re in this together.

We all use the roads….the only irony….if more people felt safer they would ride and if there were more cyclists we would be safer.