Cycles, like cars etc, are vehicles under the ‘control’ of a single person. All are entitled to use our roads in safety and none is outside the law.
Declaration of interest – I am both a long experienced driver and cyclist.
Now for some common sense, it does exist.
This isn’t, cyclists – v – cars, lorries or any other traffic; it is about two sets of people, road users, sharing space on our road system which was not designed, in the main, for modern traffic.. Vehicles and their drivers that have paid a UK excise license, vehicle tax, have no more right, subject to certain conditions, to be there than any other user or person in or on the roadway be they other vehicles, pedestrians or horses.
Stating the obvious – cyclists, like pedestrians and horse riders are infinitely more vulnerable than most vehicle users who are surrounded by metal and therefore it is incumbent on both sides to give due regard to the other.
Both sides have legitimate concerns about the other. Let’s deal with a few.
You go first only because it is a shorter section and I would advise you to read the whole article anyway to learn what makes a good cyclist.
I’m not going to address the worst excesses of well publicised incidents.
Remember always that a fragile human being is sitting atop the cycle. They don’t bounce, tend to squidge, break easily and if they should make unintended impact with solid objects like the road or vehicles the cyclist will always come off worst.
A bit like horses, cyclists are unpredictable, they wobble, they occasionally fall off – Keep well clear.
Be patient and give plenty of distance when following and space when overtaking. Do not push past unless you can give them room. Never cut in.
If you are at traffic lights watch out for them coming up the inside. Moving off is the dodgy bit, give plenty of room for them to wobble.
Unfortunately you have to be aware that some cyclists will jump the lights keep a good look out and be prepared to stop when you are on green. Never move off on Amber. I would prefer it if we did not get an Amber in the sequence to ‘GO’ better is Red – Green; it works in France as do the repeater lights at eye level.
Turning left is the other time when a cyclist can be in the way. Unless you have plenty of room to make the turn before the cyclist gets to the corner, it is best to wait behind them to allow them priority.
Any cyclist riding fast on a pavement is likely to leap off into the road without warning.
The most hazardous time is dusk and poor visibility, be prepared for cyclist to be unlit and remain hidden until you are much closer than usual.
Should one of them cause you problems, there are those who get off on confrontation – try to keep calm, some will be taking ‘video evidence’ and should there be an incident/accident, even if the rider appears uninjured, it might be prudent to call the police to save any complications later particularly with your insurance.
If the cyclist rides off they may still be injured and you shouldn’t assume they are ok.
Firstly read the above and remember the only person fully responsible for your safety is YOU!
Visibility – Cyclists who disregard the ability to be seen by wearing or using inappropriate gear need to think again. If it is difficult to see you, you are part of the problem.
Unfortunately, a good number of cyclists choose to trust in kit that does not deliver. It has to be a given – higher visibility = safer.
Visibility is also about the ambient conditions of weather and daylight and how you occupy the road or signal your presence and your intentions.
Other vehicles can only give cyclists due regard if these simple facts are observed.
Clothing – Wear bright colours and if possible with reflective strips or patches, particularly on the arms
Lighting – has two functions:
- to see where you are going
- and to be seen by other road users
Do not use flashing lights.
Many riders believe a flashing light is more visible than ‘fixed’ – it is not. Flashing lights, particularly the powerful LED ones, are like a strobe. They are confusing and do not fully reveal the path and direction of a cycle. If in doubt, have both fixed and flashing to the rear, but fixed at the front.
Some LED lights are now powerful enough to blind approaching drivers particularly the head mounted ones designed for off road use and should only be used so as not to distract or blind other road users.
Pavements and Cycle lanes – as pedestrian I have no intrinsic problem with cyclists riding on footpaths. In the main it is safer to do so, but the pedestrian has total priority and there is no place for reckless riding or bad manners. The same can be said for ‘buggy’ users.
The worst riding includes – not giving way to other users, leaping off the pavement into traffic, deliberate obstruction, rounding bends without regard for others approaching and so on.
Likewise on pedestrian crossings – better to get off and walk, but sensible riding isn’t really a problem.
Where pavements incorporate cycle lanes or are shared the cyclist should still be aware that other users may not full realise they are there. Older people and children need special consideration.
Courtesy – Simple politeness also helps; a ‘thank you’ if people stand still or move over and a ‘thank you wave’ if a vehicle gives way to you.
Traffic Lights –
I know that in certain circumstances a cyclist may feel able to safely ignore the lights and its a pain to have to stop and start again, but it is an offence to ride through a red traffic light and is dangerous.
Cyclists are vehicles and subject to the Highway Code.
The Green to Amber is particularly dodgy. The Amber is designed to give drivers time to stop and depending on the lights timings a cyclist might safely clear the crossing before the Red, but more often will still be in the path of traffic starting from the left.
When in doubt –STOP!
Again I don’t really have too much of a problem if a cyclist takes to the pavement to avoid the lights, BUT not at the expense of other users. Get off and walk, otherwise you are still running a red light.
Road craft –
If you ignore any of the above simple safety points or ride recklessly, you will be a nuisance at the least and a potential danger to yourself and others; you can expect to be shouted at and confronted by angry people.
Hands up, I’m guilty, having done so when I was young and got away with it, but I believe the traffic wasn’t quite so dangerous to cyclists and I really did have my wits about me. Mind you I never rode on pavements even as a paper boy nor wittingly broke the Highway Code. On one occasion though I was followed by a police car on the flat and told off for exceeding the 30mph speed limit.
Be aware all round and the whole of the time. This means engaging the brain, watching and listening and it also means – No using mobile phones, No listening with earphones and No restricted clothing that obscures vision.
Learn to look fully behind you without a big wobble. Mirrors are ok if they give a good view, but can get knocked or caught.
Position – never go up the inside of big vehicles stay behind unless it is safe to get past them where you can be seen. If large vehicles cannot see you, you risk your life as they will pinch you to the edge or worse. You may even end up under their rear wheels. Its just not worth the risk.
Be prepared to ensure you are not cut up. Move out from the kerb and keep the traffic safely behind you.
Turning right should only be done if it is truly safe. Check behind a long way back, assess the traffic, look again, if safe give a clear signal and move out toward the centre. Thank any who give way for you.
If the turn is difficult or dangerous, stop, get off and walk across and then remount; pretty basic really.
For all manoeuvres where there are other road users always clearly signal your intentions allowing plenty of time for others to make allowance.
In heavy traffic allow for others to stop. You can stop quicker than most, but if you can’t see past the vehicle ahead you may not stop in time and could even form the filling in a metal sandwich.
If you must carry anything on a bike remember it will change how your bike handles. Panniers – OK, Back pack – OK within limits, Most everything else can be a problem, particularly bags slung on handle bars which is best avoided unless walking.
Be considerate. If you are with another rider remain in single file unless it is safe to ride abreast, but be prepared to drop back again so as to not impede the traffic.
Should you be involved in an incident remember there are those who get off on confrontation – try to keep calm. Should you be injured, it is in your best interests to call or have someone call the police.
When adrenalin kicks in we don’t always feel or notice our injuries. Take your time to assess whether you are fit/safe to continue your journey. You may even ride off and still be injured.