Here’s the final part of my exploration of the factors which affect both the safety and quality of cycling in the UK. As well as some helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way.
Many motorists are frustrated by your presence on the road and by the lack of sensible overtaking opportunities impeding their forward progress. This means that they’ll get impatient and overtake on blind bends, on the crests of hills, where there are parked vehicles etc. Well so what? But of course if they then meet an oncoming vehicle they’ll swing into you to avoid it. Amazingly to date I haven’t had an accident because of this.
So, what can you do about poor overtaking?
Get well out in the road where necessary to deter this behaviour. If you hug the kerb this is interpreted as an invitation to go for it. Listen to the tyre and engine noise behind you, judge when cretinous overtaking is in prospect and be prepared to brake. If someone waits to pass and gives you a wide berth then acknowledge this with a wave (reinforcing safe behaviour).
People pass you too closely as well. This can be very exciting for the rider if the vehicle is a big one!
The unexpected left turn
This is a celebrated classic. Vehicle overtakes you and then promptly makes a left turn across you, an action of world-class stupidity. Sometimes the perpetrators even signal as they make the turn in an attempt to legitimise what they are doing – priceless.
Types of drivers
Watch out for the old and the young. The former because they can’t see, hear or react and the latter because they think that they can do all of these things extremely well but in reality, they can’t.
I shouldn’t stereotype but I will of course. Road users to be suspicious of include:
- Male 30+ in slightly down at heel 1999 Vectra replete with unrepaired dents, distinct smell of burnt engine oil and occasional puffs of exhaust smoke.
- Male early 20s in any vehicle.
- Female early 20s in any vehicle.
- Any sex but especially male 70+ in Honda Jazz.
- Male/female in either new or 1 year old 5 series BMW or E class Mercedes – it’s a company car so beware, someone else pays for bodywork repairs and someone else will clean your blood off it. They don’t care. They will be on the phone, not hands-free despite the expensive motor and the low cost of hands free kits.
- Male/female in BMW X3 (it’s the wife’s) or X5. Yes I know it’s clichéd to pick on 4X4 drivers but if the cap fits. Vehicle is often too large for them to control properly, they feel invulnerable and drive accordingly. See phones above.
The good stuff
- The farmer who switched off his muck spreader as I passed by on the other side of the hedge.
- The passers-by who collected me out of the road when old Mrs Smyth clobbered me. And the driver who acted as a witness (he couldn’t believe what he’d seen).
- The staff at Royal Preston A&E
- The numerous drivers who have patiently waited… and waited to pass me at a suitable point on the road.
- People who give cyclists a wide berth when overtaking.
- People who leave a gap between their vehicle and the kerb in traffic queues so you can get down the inside.
- People who let you move to the centre of the road to make a right turn.
- People who approach junctions at a rational speed and look properly before pulling out.
Merry Christmas everyone and safe cycling.