I like commuting by bike. It keeps me fit and makes me feel like I have actually achieved something before my day has really started. To be honest, it’s that main reason I bought myself a new bike just over 3 years ago. My journey is roughly 7 miles each way and all on main roads with a couple of short, sharp climbs thrown in for good measure. Being a Strava addict I seem to aim for a similar ride time and average speed on each ride, although towards the end of the week my legs and I begin to disagree over the amount of work we think they should be doing.
In the morning I can usually predict the points where the traffic light filters will bottle-neck as the school run meets the “I’m late for my meeting” drivers. This is when I think it pays to be a polite and courteous cyclist, whilst still keeping your alert to the dangers around you. Doing things like riding up the inside of lorries and buses, or sitting behind a car or van in the drivers ‘blind-spot’ are never a good idea. These things just put you at an increased and unnecessary risk.
For a lot of drivers, the thing that can be really irritating is when an arrogant cyclist swerves in and out of the queuing traffic, only to go through red lights or over the people-filled pedestrian crossing. Some cyclists ignore the fact that the rules of the road apply to all that use it. It gives cyclists a bad name and gets peoples backs up. I know it does because it gets mine up too and I’m a cyclist (or at least I like to think I am).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should all be ‘shiny happy people’ at 8am but I have found that a bit of common sense and a few simple gestures have made commuting by bike more enjoyable and a bit safer.
- It sounds simple but signaling your intentions when turning or pulling into the road. If you are going to make a maneuver, at least look behind you and don’t just move across the road thinking the car behind you will slow down because you have your arm out – not all drivers will be alert to what you a planning to do next. As a driver myself, this is incredibly frustrating.
- I always look to make eye contact with the driver in the vehicle behind or beside me at traffic lights to let them know I have seen them and if I am planning to turn when the light changes, I signal at that moment. This is to let them know exactly what I am planning to do so they can think about whether it will be safe to pass me (especially in a filter system).
- If someone lets you move across the road or lets you out or waits patiently behind you before over-taking, a simple wave or as I prefer, a thumbs up to say thank you. Most drives will reciprocate this acknowledgement and will generally drive passed you sensibly and at a safer speed and distance.
Whilst I know these road etiquette tips won’t apply to everyone, I do try to use these whenever I’m out riding. Sadly there are occasions when being a polite and careful cyclist doesn’t have an effect on drivers. Like the HGV that overtakes a little too close for comfort, convinced there is sufficient room between you and the on-coming traffic. Or the van driver who waits for no-one and decides to pull out in front of you even when they see you coming. Unfortunately, as a cyclist there is little that can be done about these types of drivers except staying alert. The first rule of cycling has to be personal safety.
There is still a lot of work to be done to make cycling safer for people of all ages and riding levels. But for me, it has to start with me.