Whilst we all go to sleep at night dreaming of better cycling infrastructure in London, until that day comes, it’s worth recognising the dangers and how we can avoid them.
I was luckily enough to receive a GoPro action camera from Argos to go around London, find danger and film it.
The result is the video below, which if you enjoy, please do like it on YouTube and leave a comment – it helps more people discover the tips it contains.
Along with buses, lorries pose a big danger to cyclists in London. It’s why TfL is experimenting with radars that warn drivers when a cyclist or pedestrian is around the vehicle.
Accident reports often involve a lorry driver that has not seen a cyclist in his blind spot, then turned in to the path of the cyclist, trapping them beneath the wheels of the truck.
When you come across a HGV, it’s worth waiting and not squeezing in to the narrow gaps that surround the vehicle.
There was also a case where a HGV driver didn’t see a cyclist in his blind spot in front of the vehicle. The driver ended up driving in to the Boris Bike when the light changed. Fortunately, in this scenario, the cyclist jumped to safety but it’s worth remembering that blind spots are all around the HGV, not just to the side.
2. Avoiding close overtakes at junctions and traffic lights
When you reach a junction or a traffic light, it’s worth aiming to position yourself in the middle of the lane. This way, when it’s safe to move, you won’t find drivers attempting to dangerously overtake. This is an easy one to remember, but can be tough to implement sometimes, especially if the driver is right at the front of the junction, with no room for you to manoeuvre in front.
3. Avoiding nasty surprises and always being aware of surroundings
I was taught this little tip by a cycle training instructor that has made a huge difference to my experience of cycling in London. Following it makes me feel safer, provides me with a good awareness of surroundings and makes drivers focus on my position.
Every 5 to 10 seconds, depending on where I’m riding, I glance over my shoulder.
It lets me know what vehicles are around, incase I need to move out suddenly to avoid an obstacle. It also means that I won’t suddenly be overtaken by a taxi driver that I hadn’t seen.
The glance, prompts drivers to check what my next move will be and it’s more likely they’ll give me more space, rather than attempting a dangerously close overtake.
4. Watch out for pedestrians and other road users
I always remember during my first year of riding in London, hitting a pedestrian that was stepping off a bus that wasn’t positioned at a bus stop. Who was to blame? The pedestrian for not checking before exiting the bus? Me for riding too fast, not looking closely enough for dangers?
It doesn’t really help pointing the finger of blame, nor does it really matter. I bumped in to their shoulder and I felt awful. That person would think “These bloody cyclists” and I’ll think “These bloody pedestrians”. Of course, that attitude benefits no-one.
When riding around London, especially when filtering through traffic, beware of pedestrians not looking out for cyclists. Of course, beware also of cyclists not looking out for cyclists, bus drivers not looking out for cyclists and so on.
5. Staying clear of car doors and the pavement
Cycle training instructors will always tell you to ride further out from the kerb and from the unpredictable car doors of parked cars. The distance you give yourself from the kerb, will also be the distance drivers will give you, therefore it’s worth giving yourself a little extra space.
Recently considered riding in your local city? If so, take a look at the bikes available here, they’re perfect for both on and off road. But remember safety comes first, always keep your eyes on the road.
Questions and comments below please!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.