I commute as many days as possible on my bike because it has too many benefits not too, including being quicker door to door than the car!
What I have noticed on my travels is other cyclists who don’t appear as confident, aware or simply haven’t worked out that through some simple changes to the way they ride could mean the difference between feeling vulnerable and feeling a lot safer.
Step One – Stop cycling in the gutter.
No matter what speed you are going, if you cycle in the gutter, you are giving the motorised vehicle drivers valuable space to squeeze past and trust me, they will. If you cycle about 2 – 3 feet away from the kerb, then they are forced to hang back until it is safe to overtake properly, giving you more space when they do so and if someone should still pass closer, you have somewhere to escape to, rather than hitting a kerb and flying over your handlebars.
Step Two – Remember, bikes came before motorised vehicles
A lot of car drivers believe they own the road because they pay road tax. WRONG!
A bicycle was first invented by Karl von Drais in 1817. It was the first horseless carriage and predated any mechanised motorised machine.
It is not against the law for a cyclist to use up the whole left hand side of the road. However, as a cyclist, we tend to be courteous and move to the left of the road to allow faster moving traffic more room to pass and thus, this is possibly why drivers think we belong in the gutter. So, don’t cycle there. Change drivers attitudes with one ride at a time. See Step One.
Step Three – Don’t fall for the road tax argument
There is no such thing as road tax, it is Vehicle Excess Duty tax. That means, for any vehicle emitting gases, should cough up. So, unless your trumps are toxic and a potential risk for the ozone layer, then as a cyclist, you don’t need to pay up. Aside from this, in today’s world, most cyclists own a car anyway and have thus paid their VED tax.
So, I can hear yourself asking, how does this help me with my ride? Well, knowledge is power and knowing that you have every right to be on the road as the next person will empower you to cycle that 2-3 feet from the kerb without feeling guilty for doing so because the traffic is now moving slower.
Step Four – High viz versus bright lights
Cycling in the darker or low sunny days of Autumn/Winter, you need to be seen. The first thing most newbies reach for is the high viz coloured clothing, because they have all been brainwashed through various mediums into thinking that wearing such clothing will make them be seen easier. Whilst, I do not disagree with this, I am against it for many reasons and the main reason for me is, drivers respond more effectively to lights than colours and most hi-viz garments you cannot see until you are almost on top of the wearer anyway. With a decent light you can see anything up to a mile or more away on a straight road. I currently use the Catseye VOLT1200 which has 5 settings which includes a pulse option. Very handy when cycling amongst traffic. Don’t bother buying the cheap lights you find in places the supermarkets; they don’t tend to be very bright even from a short distance away. Add a windscreen and rain and you will hardly be noticeable.
I have a rule of thumb as to when to use my lights. If more than a few cars have their lights on, then I MUST have mine on. If drivers feel the need to turn their lights on, you know their view of the world is darker than yours might be. Get your lights switched on, even if you think they can see you, in reality, they probably won’t notice you until maybe it is too late.
Step Five – Courtesy to other road users
There is an attitude with some drivers that cyclists are a nuisance and shouldn’t be on the roads. This is often fuelled by cyclists running red lights, not having bright lights at night (which is insane. I see anything between 4 and 10 each night in Autumn/Winter) or doing silly manoeuvres (because motorised vehicle owners never do any of these things!).
We need to change the attitudes and mindsets of drivers who don’t cycle and I believe that if we acknowledge good driving behaviour, such as waiting patiently until it is safe to pass, or letting you out of a junction, or any other nice courtesy offered you, then it is only right that we return the courtesy and in doing so, we are showing car drivers that we are not just a cyclist, we are a human being and with this being Britain, we put a high stake on manners and through this behaviour, we are sharing the road amicably.
If you use the same route each day and at around the same time, then you are going to be passed by pretty much the same people everyday and building up a non-verbal relationship does work and you should find that people will be passing you wider and with less haste. It has worked for me over the years.
This list is not comprehensive by any means. These few steps are just to get you started. If you think I should have other steps up here, then by all means, please leave a comment below.