7 mistakes you are making with your cycling and how you can correct them

David from Cycle Training UK, a not for profit organisation

The vast majority of cyclists are frequently making these errors on the roads. Anyone who recognises and corrects their errors can cycle more safely, confidently and efficiently. Up until last week I was regularly making these mistakes too. However, a 2 hour course I completed last Thursday, by the highly recommended Cycle Training UK, completely changed my cycling technique. Here are the mistakes commonly made and how they can be corrected.

1. Riding where cars can’t see you

Perhaps the most frequent error made by new cyclists is riding in the gutter or too near the pavement. This often feels safer as you believe you are out of the way of cars. However, it is actually far more dangerous. For a start it encourages drivers to attempt risky manoeuvres when there is clearly not enough space to overtake you. You are also less visible not only to cars but also to pedestrians who step out onto the road. If there is an obstacle ahead it also means you have less room to avoid it.

This is one of the tips I have heard before for safe cycling but I was definitely ignoring it far too often. Now, when I’m in a position where I can travel at the speed of the traffic or I believe that a car is not safe to overtake me I travel in the centre of the lane. In-fact, cycling in the centre of the lane is my default position. I only move to the side when I comfortably feel a car can overtake me.

2. Not having an awareness of the road users behind you

Frequent glancing over the shoulder every 8-10 seconds gives you a good awareness of the road users behind. This means you don’t get any nasty surprises. The huge side benefit of this is that cars will feel like they are being watched and therefore will behave with more courtesy towards you. Also, by glancing, you draw their attention towards you so they recognise your position on the road. Eye contact has a huge role to play in keeping safe on the roads therefore don’t stop glancing behind you.

3. Allowing a car to pull up next to you at a junction

If a car manages to pull up next to you at a junction, then when it comes to move off you are going to be in a dangerous, narrow position. Instead, when you see a junction up ahead, you should move into the centre of the lane you are in. This prevents cars from forcing you into a horrible position and allows you to move off safely. I made this error during the training course and the instructor was less than impressed!

4. Moving off from the kerb with no clear view of where the cars are

This is an area I was far too casual with and it was putting me in a dangerous position and causing problems for drivers. What I was doing is flinging my bike onto the road where I can’t be seen and then cycling into traffic. Instead, I should position myself where I can very safely be seen from a distance and then hop on and start cycling.

5. Overtaking on the left where vehicles don’t expect a cyclist

During this part of the lesson I really started to question how appropriate cycle lanes are. It is also when I realised that rather than act like a cyclist I should be thinking more like a motorbike.

If, for example, you are approaching a set of lights and there are a few cars already there waiting for the green light. Instinctively, I would overtake on the left, often in a narrow cycle lane, to get to the front of the queue. However, if the lights turn green during this, then I have not put myself in a good position. Also, a car driver is trained to look to the right for people overtaking. This is a safer place to be. In general when overtaking traffic you should always do it on the right. You never know when a car is going to turn left into your path without looking.

6. Riding without fingers on brake levers

Hands should permanently be positioned on the brake levers so that if there is suddenly a need to brake sharply you are ready to do so. If this doesn’t feel comfortable then you should have your brake levers adjusted so they come closer to the handlebars.

7. Using hand gestures incorrectly

By the way, this doesn’t mean lifting the middle finger to bad drivers! You see a lot of cyclists on the road half heartedly using their arms to point the direction they are going in. Cars will rarely see this. Instead, your arm should be far out which shows authority on the road and is a clear indication of your intentions. If you feel scared to do this as your steering goes wobbly then you need to practise riding with one hand. A mistake I often make is to gesture my direction before I have glanced behind me. The glance always comes first.

Warning: Using these techniques will cause confidence!

Whilst it is fantastic to have me describe these techniques, as I am such a brilliant and talented writer, there is really no substitute for taking one of these courses yourself. These are often subsidised by the council so can cost as little as £7 per 2 hours of one on one tuition. Take a look on the Cycle Training UK website or the CTC website to find out more about taking a course.

If you only take two techniques away from this then the ones I have found most make the difference are the glancing and the centre of the lane position. These keep me travelling safely and quickly.

I’m glad this post is finally written as people may stop emailing me and telling me how great these courses are and how I should definitely mention them!

A special thanks goes out to David Dansky from Cycle Training UK who helped me vastly improve my cycling technique.

See also:

Join 9,241 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

73 Responses to 7 mistakes you are making with your cycling and how you can correct them

  1. Joby 28/04/2010 at 9:46 am #

    Your first one should really be “Ride where ‘drivers’ can’t see you” as, last time I checked, cars didn’t have the brain capacity for vision – but I could be wrong :O)

    Some good tips there though.

    I may just contact my local council and see if they do the training. Would be a great confidence booster.

  2. Greg Collins 28/04/2010 at 9:54 am #

    Excellent little posting with plenty of tidy advice. I’d add my 2p as follows….

    As the good book might say “Put not all your trust in eye contact”. Lights may be on but it don’t mean anyone is actually home. People look without seeing and even lock eyes whilst pulling out on you. I find mirrors are good secondary tools to help keep you aware of what is around/behind you but never ever as replacements for looking back especially the critical ‘life saver’.

    Develop thick skin or wear virtual ear plugs taking a ‘strong primary’ in the middle of the road will antagonise some car drivers beyond the limits of their almost non existent patience. Ignore their protests; stay in the middle lest in thier haste they kill or injure you.

  3. Dan 28/04/2010 at 9:59 am #

    Great post as always Andreas.

    I am reassured that I do most if not all of these.

    I think 5 is a very important one, I would add to that * be patient *. Last night riding home down the small but gentle Stoke Newington Church Street. I got caught in a traffic jam and was sat behind a small bus. I could see the traffic was going to resolve itself quickly so I just sat and waited there. I watched as a cyclist went down the inside and as the bus went forward slowly got squashed against the curb. No doubt now slightly scared she once again ended up sitting with me behind the bus.

    As we moved off I then watched another cyclist do the same thing, this time at 25kph, this time he was forced onto the pavement and then round and once again rejoined me behind the bus, which had now accelerated to a perfectly reasonable speed.

    The bus then pulled in at the bus stop and I was able to launch off from it and carry about my commute. The lesson being just be patient. We save so much time from cycling that we can afford to be a little more patient in what we do.

    • Greg Collins 28/04/2010 at 11:51 am #

      I don’t ride in Landan much anymore. My son lives off Church Street. What some of the cyclists do around there terrifies me. When I ride in traffic my guidelines are

      a) never ever ever ever EVER undertake any vehicle bigger than yours, even in a cycle lane leading to an ASL. Wait. You will be a long time dead.

      b) treat vehicles travelling in same direction as you with the utmost suspicion especially if they are indicating right; they may change their minds, and go ahead, or even turn left across you with no regard for you and still with that little orange light flashing on the offside. “But you indicated right” is no consolation when on the floor with buses driving around you.

      c) assume that if a left turn is possible, including a left turn onto the pavement, a vehicle will attempt it without regard for you and with no mirror check or signal.

      d) ignore indicators, they are an indication not a legally binding contract, wait til you see the steering wheel and front wheels turn and even then be prepared for the vehicle to continue straight on.

      and when I say vehicle I include bicycles in the definition.

      • Andreas 28/04/2010 at 2:10 pm #

        Greg, agreed on the big problems with undertaking. It is very unsafe. We should never undertake fellow cyclists either. Also your point on the not assuming is exactly right. I always wait until a vehicle has actually started their turn left.

    • Andreas 28/04/2010 at 2:08 pm #

      Dan, I greatly agree on the patience thing. I’ve found myself doing that more and more. I’m now happier to just sit behind a bus rather than squeeze in an insanely small gap. Also pleased to hear you don’t make these 7 mistakes!

    • Heather 29/04/2010 at 4:47 pm #

      I wish the internet (and this blog) was a part of my life when I first started cycling – this is a really good post!

      Dan – during my first month of commuting cycling (11 years ago) I did exactly what that girl did (on the grisly Commercial Street, no less and it was a great big lorry!) The HGV drove on and one of the bars on the back hit my handle bar and I went head over heals. How I didn’t end up under the truck is a flipping mystery because i was nicely wedged between it and a parked car. Deadly business that it. Every time I see someone doing that, I shout out a warning.

      Cyclist need to look out for the other; there are lots of newbies on the road and a friendly, but assertive ‘talking to’ is necessary to keep the body count down.

      • Sean 18/06/2010 at 10:55 am #

        Great advice thanks Heather.

        As a new cyclist (at the grand age of 40), I would appreciate guidance from experienced cyclists).

        Sean

  4. Joby 28/04/2010 at 10:02 am #

    Be patient is a great piece of advice and in Mcr I witness what your describing every day.

    I’d rather sit behind a bus in traffic than risk getting squashed at the side of it.

    I also wish I could develop virtual earplugs as Greg suggests – would probably make my rides so much more enjoyable :)

  5. MarkA 28/04/2010 at 10:19 am #

    This is great advice, so often I see cyclists weaving in and out of the gaps between parked cars, as if this is where they belonged, and I want to tell them how dangerous their cycling behaviour is.

    My only advice that I would add to this is to reward drivers; if someone sees you and waits before pulling out of a side road, give them a smile and a nod. If someone waits patiently behind you at the lights and doesn’t try to overtake you on the actual junction (one of my absolute pet hates) then give them waive and a thumbs up as they pass.

    It’s amazing A.) how good this feels and B.) how much good will about cyclists in general this spreads. And let’s face it, we need some good PR in the eyes of other road users :o)

  6. Filippo Negroni 28/04/2010 at 11:07 am #

    Nice post.

    May I suggest though that the expression ‘middle of the road’ with ‘centre of the lane of traffic’, or as the excellent book Cyclecraft calls it, ‘primary position’.

    I think this is important because on a dual carriageway the middle of the road is not really where one should ride.

    I think Cyclecraft should also be mentioned as the source of those and many more tips of riding safely.

    • Andreas 28/04/2010 at 2:12 pm #

      Agreed, will alter the post with your better phrasing. Also if anyone is interested in Cyclecraft (the book in which much of this training comes from) then you can grab a copy over on Amazon. Personally I would prefer to take the course however rather than attempt to learn from the book – that’s just my personal preference.

  7. Charlie 28/04/2010 at 11:11 am #

    Some very good advice here.

    RE: point 5, I would also advise the thorough application of common sense on behalf of the rider. For example…

    “Also, a car driver is trained to look to the right for people overtaking. This is a safer place to be.” – On a single lane road I find that very few drivers expect to be passed at all, right or left, and hence don’t necessarily look out for it. If they are obstructed on the left hand side, many will just pull out, assuming nothing is in the oncoming lane.

    The road layout plays a part too. If there is a right turn and no left turn, the right hand side of traffic may not be the safest place. Equally, people may try and squeeze through gaps left by turning cars, so the left won’t be very safe either!

    “You never know when a car is going to turn left into your path without looking.” – assume the worst!

  8. Corin 28/04/2010 at 11:23 am #

    Brilliant! Great article, and I hope it encourages many more people to do some training.

    Also, I totally agree with Dan about patience on the roads. Almost everyday I see cyclists trying to get round situations like HGVs reversing in the road and I am just amazed that they don’t simply wait. I suspect the root of it is lack of confidence. Once you’re confident on your bike you can stake your claim as a road-user with all the rights and responsibilities of any other, rather than acting like you just need to get away from everything else on the roads all the time.

    MarkA – another good tip. I will try to apply that more often.

  9. Tim 28/04/2010 at 11:24 am #

    Good helpful advice in 4 do you mean moving away from the kerb rather than curve?

    I would reinforce the need to reward good and courteous drivers with a smile,wave or thumbs up. I always do this to bus drivers who wait patiently behind me nearing a bus stop instead of overtaking then cutting in.

    • Andreas 28/04/2010 at 2:27 pm #

      Oooops, I put this article together too quickly in the morning!
      I’ve starting doing the whole “reward good drivers” thing a bit more too and give the thumbs up. Good karma!

  10. Higgs 28/04/2010 at 11:35 am #

    I would add any other road user to number 4. I’ve seen it a number of times where people launch into the middle of the lane from the curb without paying attention (including motorbikes it has to be said).

    5 is reminiscent of the lesson for car drivers. Look, signal, move.

  11. Tim 28/04/2010 at 12:42 pm #

    I think you are right about cycle lanes too – in some places I think they make the cyclists less confident and twitchy. The lanes by Torrington Place though to Tavistock place are a nightmare some evenigs, adn its easier to use the road. To be fair the road works arent helping.

  12. Olivia 28/04/2010 at 1:05 pm #

    Discussion of your tips here

    http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=12697825&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

    that you might like.

    • Andreas 28/04/2010 at 2:26 pm #

      Hey Olivia, good to see this shared on the Bike Radar forums, I’m happy for it to spread far and wide as hopefully people may pickup a few tips :)

  13. Jim 28/04/2010 at 8:30 pm #

    Good seven points – all relevant of course!!!!

  14. Chris aka Karmacycle 29/04/2010 at 10:17 am #

    Great post Andreas – all good tips – loving the reference to karma! I’d add that a couple of good maxims to hold in your head as you cycle are:
    - always expect the unexpected
    - always assume you’re invisible to everyone else

    Probably my most scary London experience was cycling down a smallish road – it was intersected by a road perpendicular to it, both one way. The traffic coming on to my road was supposed to give way. As I cycled, a motorbike came within a couple of inches of me at top speed – he had been zooming down his one-way street, not noticed that he had to give way, and thought he could carry on directly across my street onto his next one. I think I can confidently say that if he had been one second later he would have killed me. Now, even if traffic technically should be giving way to my road, I’ll expect that they’re not going to. At least if you expect the worst, you’re pleasantly surprised if people do behave!

    The invisibility thing comes in handy as many of your posters have observed – don’t assume anyone’s seen you until they prove it by their behaviour. I do like the idea of the course.

  15. Amanda 29/04/2010 at 11:21 am #

    Please don’t think more like a motorbike! I find these the most aggressive and least safe drivers in London. They zoom up behind me in CYCLE lanes, swerve in front of me into CYCLE boxes and generally cut me up wherever possible.

    My other pet hate is that they seem to be manufacturing cars without those useful little orange lights on the side these days ;-) Which I guess gives extra weight to the point about looking for physical evidence of cars turning before making any kind of assumption. (And I speak as one who was nearly hit by a minicab this morning which turned into me off the main road onto a minor road).

    • Smee 30/04/2010 at 3:42 pm #

      Amanda – you may not be aware that since Jan 2009 TfL have been running an 18mth trial allowing motorbikes to use the bus lanes that they manage. So in general, they are in the right place. More information can be found here…
      http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/finesandregulations/10151.aspx

      • Amanda 30/04/2010 at 4:00 pm #

        I knew that motorbikes are now allowed in bus lanes but these are specifically cycle lanes – are they allowed in those too? Seems very dangerous to me (and in my experience)

  16. Tina 29/04/2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Great tips, thank you! I think I am especially guilty of staying to close to the curb sometimes. It might be safe for a car to overtake you, but the big white vans will do it whether safe or not. Just yesterday a white van almost knocked off my elbow when starting from a red light. At the next light I tapped at his window and had a pleasant conversation with him, he said he wasn’t aware he was that close, but that he’s been driving his van for so long and nothing has ever happened, and that it’s the choice of coming too close to a cyclist or too close to the car on the other side.. Not sure what to make of that, but I hope he’ll be more careful in the future.

  17. Joby 29/04/2010 at 3:59 pm #

    Tina… He chooses to potentially kill you over hitting a car and surviving… I know what I’d have made of that.

  18. cafewanda 29/04/2010 at 4:02 pm #

    +1 for the points and for cycle training.

    I’ve got my 2 hour course this Saturday morning, so it’ll be interesting to see what my trainer thinks of my skills.

    • Tina 29/04/2010 at 4:24 pm #

      Well yeah, but at that part in the conversation the light turned green, so off I was ;) You are right obviously!

  19. Frances Chaloner 30/04/2010 at 2:54 pm #

    Cars don’t see car drivers do!

    According motor vehicles conscious abilities such as eyesight helps to subtly absolve responsibility from those in charge of drivng them of any consequences caused by their sloppy or dangerous driving!

    Sorry to be a pedant as this is a very welcome article, but just try subsituting

    Riding where cars can’t see you

    with

    Riding where car drivers can’t see you

    to see what I mean.

    • darren 14/01/2014 at 4:03 pm #

      Surely you mean other road users not drivers as anyone moving down the road can not be paying attention and be involved in a collision with you ?

  20. David 30/04/2010 at 9:29 pm #

    Fantastic post.

    I had cycle training when I started riding as an adult about 5 years back – invaluable. I’ve got the 2nd edition of Cyclecraft – there’s a lot of content in there, and John Franklin has some interesting views on cycle lanes and riding back streets.

    Re riding in the primary position – I’m doing this more and more, but still find vehicles trying to overtake me, squeezing past, somehow.

  21. Knit Nurse 30/04/2010 at 9:45 pm #

    I smugly realise that I already do all of these!

  22. Cafewanda 01/05/2010 at 11:44 am #

    Just back from my cycle training and it was invaluable. I learnt a technique for looking behind me which I found improved my range of viewing substantially. Reminders to ‘shoulder check’ little and often proved useful on the journey home and I’ve got some ‘homework’ to do before my next lesson in a month’s time.

    An interesting sideline to this was I discovered a shorter stem for my bike may be a good idea!

    For anyone wondering if cycle training would be of any use even though they’ve been cycling for years, I’d say give it a go and see. You might be surprised.

    For relative newbies like myself – definitely have a lesson or two. You can’t lose.

  23. Jeremy Parker 02/05/2010 at 4:08 pm #

    While I thoroughly agree with the general principles, I would suggest a couple of modifications. I haven’t discussed these with the gurus yet, but they have worked for me for many years.

    1. The concept of “primary position” is certainly important. When the road is wide enough for overtaking, courtesy requires that you let motorists do so. However, when the road is not wide enough, self preservation requires that you prevent overtaking.

    This is where the primary postion comes in.

    However, I would suggest NOT getting into the exact centre of the lane for the primary postion. What you want is for the motorist to avoid overtaking because he thinks the road is too narrow, You do not want him to avoid overtaking only because he sees a cycling dog-in-the manger.

    If you adopt a further left postion that position is just as primary, and just as effective in blocking, but creates a situation much more obviously caused by the road designer, rather than being caused by you. Don’t irritate motorists unless you have to.

    In the left hand tyre track of the cars is generally reckoned to be a good place to ride in “narrow” lanes .

    Any advice that defines riding postion by distance from the kerb is guaranteed wrong. Kerbs wiggle. You should keep a straight line.

    2. I tend tend to avoid looking back except when I have to, and usually the only time I have to is when moving to the right. Looking back, for some reason gets taken by the motorist as a signal for them to overtake. If you actually want them to overtake, rather than hanging on your tail, looking back is a good technique, but if you want the motorists to hang back, don’t look at them

    Jeremy Parker

    • Usget 14/01/2014 at 3:46 pm #

      Jeremy Parker, I agree wholeheartedly with #1 and think that yours is a far more sensible proposition than what is written in the blog.

      I would also add a point – “Look ahead and anticipate hazards”. Too many cyclists don’t seem to look beyond the next pothole. On choke-points such as Putney Bridge, you see plenty of people riding right up to the back of a bus which is obviously about to pull out, and then having to swerve around it at the last moment, often without checking over their shoulders (becoming a second hazard also to be anticipated).

    • Don 14/01/2014 at 4:17 pm #

      I disagree with number 2. The amount of times I’ve given drivers the eyeballs and watched them slow down as a result is evidence of this. Even to the extent where I don’t have to signal, because I’m happy that they have sufficiently interpreted my intentions

      Maybe you’re not looking for long enough, or not smiling at them :)

  24. Ed Cave 03/05/2010 at 11:01 pm #

    I signed up to the training back in February when I took up cycling again and 100% agree it is worthwhile attending for minimum cost. My confidence levels rose dramatically and now I enjoy cycling on the roads of london!!

    Cycle Training UK also do a fantastic bike maintenance course which I thoroughly recommend as well. Its fairly pricey at £65 and not many Councils subsidise it but the money saved in bike shop services make it fully worthwhile.

    Great post Andreas, reminded me of a few the things I had forgotten!!

  25. Phil 04/05/2010 at 2:38 pm #

    I did a lot of cycling between Rochdale and Manchester as a callow youth, along the main road and round Manchester city centre, which was then a lot more dangerous. I quickly learnt to ride in the anticipation that anyone around me was going to make things difficult at any moment without indicating or looking. I ride in the left hand wheel section of the road rather than the gutter, keep an eye on what is happening at upcoming junctions and always check behind when changing direction. I will not run red lights, I take the centre of the lane in bike priority boxes, and if the motorist is trying to creep up behind me I wait until the light is green before pulling away. That may not be applicable in London, but I wouldn’t cycle there- far too dangerous.

  26. Amy 05/05/2010 at 9:14 am #

    Nice post Andreas. I agree with Phil: anticipation. Anticipating the movements and flow of the traffic: it is the first brake, often meaning you don’t need to use the real ones.

    But also when looking over the shoulder to check what is behind – so many riders deviate off their line. I always encourage others to consciously “disconnect” there head from their shoulders in doing this, as to avoid pulling the shoulders with the head movement (and therefore the handlebars). So really ensuring the shoulders stay pointing forwards.

    There is nothing worse (as a driver) than following someone who is looking over their shoulder and swerving left or right as they do so.

  27. Phil 06/05/2010 at 4:52 pm #

    I find keeping the bike in a straight line whilst checking behind is a lot easier when I am sat upright: there isn’t the pre-existing stress placed on shoulders, neck and wrists by the crouched forward position necessary on sport-oriented bikes. It also makes surveying traffic flows and junctions easier, because I have a line of sight over the top of most cars. For me ‘sit up’ doesn’t automatically tie with ‘and beg’, although I am considering stencilling NO ENGINE on the back of my high-vis vest to remind the impatient driver 50cm behind my back wheel that I have a limited power output *grin*

  28. michael 06/05/2010 at 6:19 pm #

    I stay alive by treating every motorist I meet as a hostile, psychopathic moron.
    Sometimes I am wrong, but at least I’m typing this comment myself; not through a medium.

  29. Stephen 24/05/2010 at 11:46 pm #

    I would also add that that you should learn too excellerate and get up hills while staying in the saddle. My Brompton has takien on Gypsy Hill and not once did my arse leave my saddle. So I dont see why someone on a racing bike has to wobble side to side on a busy road,to get up steam only to see me come pass in 2nd gear, just to get up that little slope called Parkhurst Road/Camden Road.
    All those years cycling to Southend and back up and down Bread and Cheese Hill must have paid of.

  30. Kevin Steinhardt 01/07/2010 at 6:19 pm #

    I’ve got used to using the Copenhagen signal to accompany the traditional turn signals; kind of hand straight up, palm forward, …the old cubit. I think it officially means “I’m about to stop” but I’ve started using it for “I’m going to turn in a moment but no immediately”. Swear I read about it on this blog; might have been on Hembrow’s blog. Can’t find a cite; meh—oh well.

  31. John 05/07/2010 at 4:36 pm #

    Very good points, one thing I hate is where the bike lane is situated alongside parking spaces down the road
    The cyclist that uses these lanes is just waiting for a car door to be opened infront of them,
    I always keep at least a a metre outside the cycle lane when cars are parked inside of it and agree entirely with getting out in the road in general as this also keeps you clear of doors opening and the car that just pulls out on you.

  32. Dan K 20/07/2010 at 1:40 pm #

    Seems we’re preaching to the converted on this page of comments. So how are we going to get tips like these over to the 1000′s of young people riding around areas like E1 with NONE of the 7 tips/skills in their arsenal.

    I’ll add one to the 7 though.
    Get yourself seen (primary posistioning helps of course).
    Wear something bright in the day and something with Scotchlite or similar after dark.

    D
    Walthamstow to Wapping

  33. Nicki 28/07/2010 at 9:35 pm #

    I’m suffering at the moment with 10 stitches in my lip and chin, a suspicion that I’m going to lose a couple of teeth and bruises: a massive one on my right knee, bruises on the backs of both hands and on both thighs. This came from a collision with a car that was reversing out of a parking space – and nearly carried on reversing over me. I was cycling towards Penge from Crystal Palace, at about 18mph when the car suddenly pulled out, backwards, in front of me – I had no chance of stopping or swerving, and was lucky that the driver’s girlfriend spotted me and stopped him reversing over me. I had done nothing wrong – as was corroborated by a witness to the accident last Saturday – according to the rules above. I think it just goes to show how vulnerable we all are, no matter how experienced (I am quite). Following on from the sorry tale, which saw me pouring blood out on to the road until rescued by an ambulance man, I was starting the slow process to recovery when I received a phone call from the driver on Monday morning. (He had my number as I had borrowed his phone to call my partner.) He suggested that I should be paying for the dent in his car – even though he was the one completely in the wrong! At the time I wasn’t attaching blame – I was suffering too much from the injuries – but after that appalling reaction I am considering taking the matter further and have completed a police accident report. Unfortunately I don’t have his car registration number so he may get away with it. I don’t want this accident to put me off cycling, although I’m physically unable for the next couple of weeks at least.

    • Andreas 28/07/2010 at 9:48 pm #

      Nicki sounds like a horrible experience and unbelievable behaviour by the driver rather than showing remorse. Definitely chase it up and perhaps get a lawyer on your case if you know you are in the right.

      • Richard Masoner 30/08/2010 at 6:49 pm #

        In the handful of crashes I’ve been involved with, drivers universally blame the cyclist in even the most egregious instances after they’ve reflected and invented justifications for their crash.

        Good list here Andreas. My only real commentary: I once agreed wholeheartedly with Point 2 (rear awareness), to the point where I couldn’t understand why anyone would ride without a mirror. I live in California now, where constant awareness of my backside is impractical because of heavy congestion and a constant stream of traffic. I’ll check back for turns and overtaking, but that’s it.

  34. Heather 29/07/2010 at 5:26 pm #

    Bah! That sounds like a truly nasty accident – bad, bad luck. You know that the driver has been warned to behave in this way, don’t you? They say that you should never accept responsibility when in an accident, which is why you probably do need to get yourself legal advice. Horrible stuff, but true.

    My friend got knocked off her bike by car driver who was very clearly in the wrong and because she was so dazed (and later passed out) when she apparently agreed that it was possible that her front light wasn’t working properly – although it was knocked off the bike and found on the pavement, she lost her personal injury claim which would have been particularly helpful as she’s a self employed furniture maker and due to her injuries wasn’t able to work for 2 months. In both (yours and her) cases, it seems that there was nothing the cyclist could have done.

  35. jonny 27/08/2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Excellent point Michael – i tend to get in the mindset that everything else on the road is less experienced and out to mince me into pieces at the first opportunity – therefore I ride safer, a little more defensively and consider my actions some distance before deciding on manouvers.

    This was borne from undertaking a long and slow moving traffic jam at a medium speed – a passenger obviously decided she could walk to her destination rather than sit in the traffic and opened a door on me – had to hop onto the kerb to avoid a nasty accident. On reflection I shouldnt have been scooting up the inside in the first place, Hi-vis or not.

  36. Bruise Collector 31/08/2010 at 9:24 pm #

    At first #5 confused me. Then I remembered that I live in the States and you in the UK! XD

  37. Dawn S 10/09/2010 at 10:24 am #

    Excellent advice, Andreas!

    I try and avoid cycling too close to the kerb not because of the cars but because that is where the majority of drains, potholes and rubbish are located. Don’t get me started on the state of the surface of the cycle lanes down the Great West Road either! “ooh, ouch, oomph, oof …..” Poor bike!

    Could I also add “Don’t forget to use lights on your bike!” to the list? The number of cyclists out there wearing dark colours with no lights on their bikes at night (or early mornings) are not giving themselves or other drivers a fair chance of being seen.

  38. Amoeba 10/11/2010 at 7:28 am #

    I recommend ‘Cyclecraft’ by John Franklin, the Bikeability ‘manual’ for the UK’s National Cycle Training Standard, published by TSO. It’s full of good advice. So far, I haven’t come across anything that was less than excellent.

    IIRC, there’s a version for the US. Cyclecraft’s almost certainly the basis of all UK cycle training.

    Please remember the door zone!
    I see lots of cyclists riding dangerously close to parked vehicles. You need to keep a long way out, some car doors are very long. Being doored is a good way to be run over by a following vehicle.
    Avoiding the Door Zone – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TQ7aID1jHs

  39. Amoeba 03/01/2011 at 11:05 am #

    Look at this post:
    http://croydoncyclist.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/hi-viz-the-new-helmet-debate/

    and read the science.

    Fluorescent jackets and tabards aren’t much use at night.

    Please read the science linked to.

    Biomotion and fluorescent-reflective knee & ankle bands are very important!

  40. Riley 26/05/2011 at 5:58 pm #

    ALSO, your sense of hearing is one of your best cycling “weapons”.

    That is, one can often hear cars approaching from behind or approaching intersections before one can see them.

    Not incidentally, this is why I think bicyclists who wear headphones are foolish in the extreme. They are in effect “disarming” themselves by neutralizing one of the their best weapons…

    • Kevin Steinhardt 26/05/2011 at 8:57 pm #

      When buying earphones for cycling, I always make sure I buy …basically the worst ones; the ones that leak the most sound in but don’t necessarily let everyone around you hear what you’re listening to. Also, I enjoy cycling at night far more since I’ve realised that on my recumbent, being able to see the headlights of a car behind you in one’s 100° vision is really quite convenient. Cool nights in the moonlight are just bliss.

      • JK 27/02/2013 at 7:09 pm #

        Earphones, headphones or ear buds of any kind on a bike are putting one foot in a coffin. You hearing is also your balance — suicide mate!

        • Mark 06/08/2013 at 6:11 pm #

          i think using a headphone in the left ear is perfectly acceptable, but only to experienced riders who know all the common mistakes drivers make. i dont let the headphone drown out traffic noise either. it it “background music” only

        • london cyclist 19/01/2014 at 1:18 pm #

          holy shit, headphone while riding a recumbent at night. mate, please stop that.

  41. Archie 05/10/2011 at 9:38 pm #

    #5 also means that most of the ‘advance stop lines’ for cyclists at traffic lights are useless most of the time. You can’t get into the advance stop zone (unless you happen to arrive first in the queue) without overtaking the line of waiting traffic, and doing this on either the left or the right exposes you to danger if the lights change during your move.

  42. SteveP 16/10/2012 at 11:42 pm #

    One thing I have learned driving, motorcycling and cycling in and around London and in many different countries is that you should always expect the unexpected. You are probably most vulnerable on a bicycle, so it may be worthwhile to assume (as I do when on two wheels) that car drivers are actually trying to hurt you. It’s probably not true, but it helps to focus your mind. Do not assume they will see you and/or “do the right thing”. If you are wrong, you could be dead.

  43. TimP 22/04/2013 at 11:56 am #

    My best advice is use cycle routes not cycle lanes. You’re going to be faster on your bike than in a car so use some of that time by taking a longer but safer route. Avoid big roundabouts and take a long route through parks and commons whenever you can. Sometimes you can quite forget you’re in London

  44. Nigel Cunningham 24/11/2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Regarding “Frequent glancing over the shoulder every 8-10 seconds gives you a good awareness of the road users behind.”: All other road vehicles have essential rear-view mirrors – enforced by law! When driving a car or motorbike, you would never dream of “glancing over the shoulder every 8-10 seconds” – it would be suicide! So how is it that this is okay while riding a bike – as, by far, the most vulnerable road user. All bikes should have rear-view mirrors fitted, enforced by law (however non-macho)!

    • Mark 24/11/2013 at 5:31 pm #

      Ummm, u.do know that motorcyclists need to glance over their shoulder too right? And actually, motorists should do it too! Do you drive a car, if so you should be moving your head too.
      id guess from your comments tht you don’t regulary ride a bike on th road as you clearly don’t understand it

      • DJB 16/01/2014 at 12:24 pm #

        Ummm, have you ever driven a car or motorcycle?

        If you changing direction every 8-10 seconds is very unusual.

        By the way if I do want to change direction on my bike, I check in my mirror, then shoulder check :). IIRC correctly this is what motorcyclists are taught.

  45. Dan 14/01/2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Wing mirrors on push bikes enforced by law. I cannot understand why someone with that sort of attitude would even be looking at this web page. Personally I rely on my hearing as well as my vision when riding in London. Can’t understand how you can feel safe with headphones on whilst riding.

  46. Ian W 14/01/2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Agree with everything apart from
    “6. Riding without fingers on brake levers

    Hands should permanently be positioned on the brake levers so that if there is suddenly a need to brake sharply you are ready to do so. If this doesn’t feel comfortable then you should have your brake levers adjusted so they come closer to the handlebars.”

    NO NO NO. You should have a proper grip on the handlebars so that you are in proper control of the bike. If you have to brake so sharply that you don’t have the 0.x seconds it takes to move your fingers to the lever then you’re potentially not planning or observing properly.

    By all means, covering the brake levers if you are in a situation where something unexpected is likely to happen is a good suggestion (i.e. filtering carefully/slowly through traffic or along a busy town centre road where pedestrians are likely to step out) However it is certainly not something to be permanently doing!

  47. Cyclist 15/01/2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Great article, though number 6 is bad advice: if you’re constantly hovering over the brake levers, you’ll panic break and go over the handle bars

  48. Petra 15/01/2014 at 9:06 pm #

    I find that when I’m ‘indicating’ when going right,( i.e. putting my arm out) that it helps to have the palm of my hand facing backwards as if I’m pushing back the traffic.

    Works better during daytime, obv, but I’ve still found it very effective

  49. alliwant 16/01/2014 at 4:52 am #

    In order to comply with #2, don’t waste your time rubbernecking, get a mirror. Nothing gives you a more complete picture of the traffic around you. That’s why they are mandatory on cars here (and probably in the UK).

  50. london cyclist 19/01/2014 at 1:12 pm #

    some good points.

    But I must argue with point number 1. Riding in the middle of the lane, in London is just not practical or reasonable. As a cyclist and part time motorist, nothing is more frustrating than being stuck behind a cyclist using this technique. Yes every one can see you, but you will slow traffic as it waits to overtake, this in turn causes frustration and a frustrated driver will take risks.
    Point 2 is also a bit wrong. Looking behind, every 8-10 seconds is verging on paranoia, and that time spent not looking forward will cause a bigger problem sooner or later.
    My number 1 rule on the bike, is to ride as though you are invisible, take nothing for granted. (Lights and Hi-viz help a lot to)

    • T 30/01/2014 at 6:44 pm #

      Nothing wrong with slowing down motorists London cyclist (I drive too). Everyone can afford to wait (unless it’s an ambulance etc.). If they or you get frustrated that is unreasonable and a poor show.

Leave a Reply