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Inner City Cycling Tips

A list of tips for safe riding in the city by Paul Gasson

It's easy to feel very paranoid when you start cycling in London... but its generally much better than it looks from the pavement.

  1. Practice riding your bike until it's second nature. There are too many other hazards to risk being distracted by starting, stopping, signalling, looking behind and gear changing.
  2. It is normally best to cycle near to the middle of your lane, as long as you feel reasonably comfortable about this positioning; if you're too close to the kerb many motorists will subconciously see this as a submissive signal (and then they may 'cut you up'). A rule of thumb is that motorists will generally give you as much clearance when they overtake as there is between you and the kerb or parked car you are passing... so if you cycle 6" from the kerb, expect a lot more pratts to drive past you this close than if you were a metre from the kerb.
  3. Make sure you are always a car door's width (about 1 metre) away from parked vehicles; cyclists running into carelessly flung open car doors accounts for around 10% of all serious injuries to cyclists.
  4. In general, position yourself so as to maximise your chances of being seen by other vehicle drivers.
  5. Making eye contact with drivers (eg if they are awaiting to pull cross your path) helps to ensure that they register your presence.
  6. Anticipation is the most effective way to avoid the majority of accidents ... so assume that other suspicious looking vehicles will do something stupid, and prepare yourself accordingly.
  7. You've better hearing than cocooned motorists; use your ears as an information source. Also your height above the road suface means you have fewer blind spots and better visibility than most motorists.
  8. Whilst you are getting used to London traffic, you might want to consider buying a flexible orange reflector which sticks out to the right on your bike to pursuade motorists to give you more clearance. The 'controlled wobble' can also help if you feel you are being intimidated by traffic, as motorists will be scared you're about to lose control of your bike, and give you more room.
  9. Get a map which shows cycle lanes/routes/back streets...you may well find quieter & safer routes.
  10. Look behind, then signal clearly before changing road position or making manoeuvres.
  11. As you gain experience, you should look back every few seconds (even if you are not manoeuvring), so that all the time you have a picture of what is approaching from behind. Or if you are not comfortable with doing this, put a wide-angle mirror on your right handlbar.
  12. Trust your feelings - if it seems unsafe, then get off & walk until you're past the danger.
  13. Do not cycle on the pavement - always wheel your bike (see below).
© Paul Gasson
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