7 things you should give up to be a happy cyclist

Cyclist at Oxford Circus

Riding around London is the source of a lot of joy along with a lot of anger at many things that are largely outside of our control. Whilst taking part in protest rides, writing to your MP and supporting cycling organisations are all a good idea, sometimes you just need to let go of the things that cause you stress in order to remember the real joys of cycling.

1. Give up on being angry at pedestrians: It’s as inevitable as a puncture on a rainy day. Pedestrians will randomly walk in to your path. You have two options. You can either get annoyed that people don’t look before crossing or you can slow down and pedal around them. One of those two will cause a lot less road rage.

2. Give up on being angry about cars not giving you enough room: Yesterday a taxi overtook me in the bus lane within such a small distance that I could have reached inside the window. I caught myself shouting at the driver. In the end this didn’t serve a much larger purpose than making my blood boil. I’d be better off putting my energy in to pushing for cycling being made a bigger part of the driving test or for more cycle lanes to be installed in London.

3. Give up on the helmet debate: One thing I avoid doing at all costs is getting in to an angry debate about whether you should wear a helmet or not. I find that most people have fairly embedded views on this and arguing with them mostly seems to just further embed them in to their own opinions. As humans we are not wired to prove ourselves wrong. Instead, I give up on the need to always be right.

4. Give up on getting frustrated by cyclists going through red lights: Whilst you are stood patiently waiting for a traffic light you notice two or three cyclists ignore the light and pedal straight through. It’s an easy one to complain about but it just seems to stress you out.

5. Give up on worrying about cyclists drafting you: Riding across Waterloo Bridge I caught a cyclist nearing my rear wheel. They were obviously in full Tour de France mode and wanting to save some energy whilst riding across the bridge. Some people get quite annoyed about that as it can be dangerous if you come to a sudden halt. I could have given evil stares but it’s far simpler to just get on with my cycling.

6. Give up on worrying about shoaling: Being shoaled is when another, slower cyclist overtakes you as you wait at the traffic light and you know that when the lights turn green you are going to have to manoeuvre around them. This happens surprisingly frequently and it’s one that for some strange reason seems to really bug me. However, I know I’d arrive at my destination a lot more relaxed if I just ignore it.

7. Give up on being annoyed when a Brompton overtakes you: Something that always puts a smile on my face is when a Brompton overtakes me. For some reason it always seems like an insult to be overtaken by something with such small wheels. Yet, as I find myself here writing about it, I can’t help thinking how silly that is! What does it matter if someone on a Brompton has overtaken me?

My favourite example of taking the approach of not letting it bother me came from a recent ride around Oxford Circus. As I waited at the traffic light, a car pulled up next to me and the passenger lowered his window. I prepared myself to be amused. The passenger shouted out: “Oy! Gay!”.

I’d spent a good part of my life in an English school playground so I knew how this worked but I couldn’t help but feel the urge to play along. I turned round, smiled and said “yeah?” The passenger and driver burst out in fits of laughter. Sensing that I had reached the limit of their creative plan to keep themselves entertained at the traffic light I pushed for clarification: “So, because I’m riding a bike I’m a homosexual?” The reply summed up the intelligence of the argument: “Yeah, innit”.

As cyclists we are faced with hundreds of little decisions like this every day. We can either choose to be rattled or worry about more important things.

What approach do you most often take?

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132 Responses to 7 things you should give up to be a happy cyclist

  1. Mars 17/04/2012 at 11:50 am #

    Shoaling – love it. Could also be called Scootering. I’ve always put it down to slower vehicles having rubbish brakes and riders/drivers who don’t know how to use them and therefore push ahead – or they just have “small talent/strength/bike/car/mind” syndrome. The only real problem with cycling in London is everyone else. Me? I’m perfect and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise, as long as they can catch me through the red lights, filter with me through the traffic, bunny hop past pedestrians and shout louder at van drivers… or something. Stay safe, y’all and thanks for the site Andreas. Always a good read.

    • Andreas 17/04/2012 at 12:10 pm #

      😉 Sounds like the perfect cyclist in every way! Thanks Mars, glad you are enjoying the blog!

  2. Vladimir 17/04/2012 at 11:55 am #

    Decided a long time ago to not worry about much of these. The only two I am finding really hard to “give up” are 1 (pedestrians not looking) and 2 (cars not giving enough room). All the others bothered me at first but I found it too draining!

    • Andreas 17/04/2012 at 12:08 pm #

      Yep number 2 is a real pet hate of mine probably because it causes my heart rate to rocket!

  3. nilling 17/04/2012 at 11:58 am #

    #7 being overtaken by an electric bike, cos that’s just cheating!! 😉

    • Andreas 17/04/2012 at 12:07 pm #

      That’s a good addition! Though I’ve yet to spot more than a couple of these in London.

      • Anna 17/04/2012 at 1:12 pm #

        I’m often overtaken on my journey to work up a long old hill to Hampstead by a woman on an electric bike – the first time it happened I thought, you cheat – now I just think about how much more satisfaction I get than she does when I get to the top!

  4. peanut gallery 17/04/2012 at 12:03 pm #

    Excellent list, Andreas. Personally, I’m most guilty of getting angry at “shoaling”!

    An eights item could be salmoning (that is, a cyclist going the wrong way against traffic or in a bike lane).

    • Andreas 17/04/2012 at 12:08 pm #

      True – I’m ashamed to admit I’m guilty of the occasional salmon especially around Covent Garden when I think “why on earth is this not two way traffic for cyclists?”

  5. Andrew 17/04/2012 at 12:17 pm #

    I am the guy on a *Dahon* who overtakes you. Surprisingly nippy compared to those expensive Bromptons 🙂

  6. Sweetman 17/04/2012 at 12:39 pm #

    Thanks Andreas, I love this article.
    The longer I ride, the less I want to rage, fume and PC thugginess of the other cyclists–it just sucks the joy out of life on two wheels.
    Brilliant reply to the car-boys. Pee Wee Herman would have said, “I know you are but what am I?”

    • Andreas 19/04/2012 at 6:33 pm #

      Thanks Sweetman – thought I’d play along with their game for a while!

  7. Jason 17/04/2012 at 12:40 pm #

    This is a great article – it’s so stressful and draining getting worked up about things on the road it’s easy to lose concentration and end up riding like one of the **bleep** that put you in that mood in the first place. Experienced it many times on my Vespa and now on my cycle I’m determined not to let it ruin my ride.

    Forget about getting there 2 seconds earlier, ride defensively and happily for a better life!!

  8. Corin 17/04/2012 at 12:47 pm #

    This is a wonderful reminder to not stress the little things and fully enjoy cycling!

    • Andreas 19/04/2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Thanks Corin – something I have to keep reminding myself of!

  9. Hackneyed 17/04/2012 at 12:49 pm #

    I’m going to go against the current here and suggest that a flash of rage will do wonders for your stress levels! All of the above happens to me on a regular basis, and I shout, bang hoods or sides of cars, snarl (ok, not so much, just not my style) and it gives me a fuzzy feeling of satisfaction.

    OK, so the above might not be strictly true, but it’s happened on more than one occasion (14 years on the #streetsoflondon).

    One thing that the mellow approach is failing to achieve though is the aspect of educating the public. Yesterday f. example, I was riding along a street in the city where the opposite lane was obstructed by a line of cars. A van was heading right towards me, slowed down as if to stop and let me pass (after all, I had the right of way!), but then decided to go for it with the result that I had about 1 inch between my wheels and the curb and about 3 inches between the van and me when it passed me.

    Naturally I banged the side of it as hard as I could (I considered kicking it but was clipped in so would have been a bit difficult, but sooo satisfying and well deserved!).

    But to the point: had I not done anything at all, the van driver presumably would have driven away from there thinking that he’d done nothing wrong, that he still owned the road and that cyclists could just be pushed aside, whatever the consequences. Now at least he was made aware that maybe there hadn’t been enough room for him to pass, and hopefully that will help in keeping roads safer.

    The same thing goes for the pedestrian who steps out in from of you (ride through the city every day) – if you just cycle around him / her they will remain completely oblivious to the fact that they could potentially be hit, hurt and maybe even killed by a cyclist and they would be completely at fault (the pedestrian, that is). If they are saved by a warning shout at some point, again, hopefully they might take that away with them and look before they step out into the road.

    Now, you don’t have to let things get to you to the point of making your blood boil, it’s perfectly fine to shout and bang anyway (using it as a means of communication!). Who knows, it might end up saving someone’s life at some point!

    • John Rawlins 17/04/2012 at 1:30 pm #

      Yes, I feel exactly the same way. If we all reward the mindless aggressions of white van man with a saintly smile, then we will forever be seen as ignorable but irritating obstacles on the road. We must defend ourselves and make an effort to educate other road users – even if our blood pressure levels rise a little as a result.

  10. Ana 17/04/2012 at 12:59 pm #

    I’ve tried to do that but sometimes it’s quite difficult. It’s true that at the end you are the only one thinking about it two minutes later so what’s the point?!

  11. Liz 17/04/2012 at 1:15 pm #

    All good advice – it’s easier said than done, but I think it’s very true that the more you let it bother you, the more it’ll stress you out. I suspect that if you go out wearing a helmet cam, getting worked up by every close pass, you’ll find your journey a lot less enjoyable than if you just try and focus on riding safely and having fun.

    Pedestrians stepping into my path still gets me, though. I’ve found that there are some roads on my commute where it’s highly likely that you’ll get a flood of people trying to cross the road against the lights, which is why a bell comes in handy. It’s much less agressive than yelling at people like the roadies who are “too cool” to use a bell, and still gets the point across. As Hackneyed mentions, if you just swerve, they might not even realise that you’re there!

  12. UK Cyclists 17/04/2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Great post! Love the idea of finding getting overtaken by a Brompton insulting haha!

  13. Steph 17/04/2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Re RLJs: I have been thinking about a way to let RLJs my annoyance at ruining all cyclists’ reputation, and thought a t-shirt with ‘BOO RLJs!’ on the back could be a communal approach: riders coming up from behind who are thinking about RLJ are being ‘informed’ that this particular fellow cyclist is not happy about their practice, but also should encourage other cyclists around me to actually boo those jumping the lights. So, I I shout ‘boo!’ when they are jumping, hopefully others will be encouraged to follow my example, a) hopefully making the RLJ ashamed of him/herself and b) showing other traffic users that most cyclists condemn this practice!
    Re shoaling: tricky, that one! Whilst I am slower than most people (but not the slowest), I am surprisingly quick when it comes to getting away at lights, I’m just being overtaken a few (100) metres later by the supposedly faster ones – once they are done clicking themselves in. Staying behind them would make me even slower! It is also sometimes quite hard to tell, arriving at lights, who will be faster and who will be slower than myself. And I’m all for using the whole of the ASZ, and not just the bike lane on the left.

    • SM 17/04/2012 at 7:51 pm #

      No need for the t-shirt but I’m with you on RLJs getting stick from other cyclists.

      • Andreas 19/04/2012 at 6:37 pm #

        Find the t-shirt idea hilarious! Wonder how many people would still RLJ after seeing it!

  14. cityeyrie 17/04/2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Great piece – after nearly 30 years of cycling around London (helmetless, one accident) I’ve come to many of the same conclusions. Rather than have a go at everyone who makes a mistake, whether on foot, cycle or motor, I try to encourage good behaviour by smiling and giving a thumbs up to the many who do the right thing and respect my place in the road, as well as being careful not to cut in front of pedestrians when they have a green light/zebra, or similar for cars.

    I do bellow at pedestrians who step out at random points in the road without looking, for the safety of both of us. But most often I find myself ringing my bell and shouting at cyclists foolishly adjusting their ipod or texting while still on the move. In fact I’m more often annoyed with other cyclists doing foolish and/or inconsiderate things these days than peds and cars…

    • Andreas 19/04/2012 at 6:37 pm #

      I find myself using the thumbs up thing more and more, especially when I want to move across lanes of traffic and I know it’s a bit of a pain for drivers. I tend to go for arm out, then when they let me pass, give them a quick thank you with the thumbs up!

  15. Youth in Asia 17/04/2012 at 2:12 pm #

    I agree with the guys who said you need to respond to irregular motoring and pedestrian behaviour. If we let these pondlifes get away with it, it will be worse for the rest of us. Most people tend to avoid confrontations, or situations which could lead to violence. Therefore, if they realise they are going to get an earful of abuse for driving discourteously at least some of them will think twice before cutting you up; using their horn; swearing at you etc. However, if there is no reaction from the cyclist, they tend to think that their bad driving is acceptable, and, anyway, we don’t pay road tax (sic) so why should they alter their attitude?

    Given how many thousands of us there are out there, if we all showed solidarity on this, the incidents of disgraceful driving would soon reduce. Then we could all have a nice relaxing ride to/from work etc.

  16. StewartP 17/04/2012 at 3:40 pm #

    I’m in my 30s and not a slow cyclist, but regulary get overtaken by the same pensioner who must be in his 70s…this annoys me, but I shall give it up now 🙂

    • Shay 17/04/2012 at 9:52 pm #

      No, don’t get annoyed. Next time you see him, congratulate the fella and be inspired. The thought of him will keep you going when you get older yourself.

      • Andreas 19/04/2012 at 6:38 pm #

        He’s had way more practise than you!

  17. pnagle 17/04/2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Cycling in London or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Loved My Bike Ride

    I tend to laugh rather than get angry at people. Like cityeyrie I like to use the Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down with a bit of sarcasm in my body language to get my point across rather than hitting their car or yelling at them. And if I can get their plate numbers of people who are driving very badly I report them.

  18. George 17/04/2012 at 5:04 pm #

    I find 2 raises my blood pressure, and then I spend the rest of my ride trying to remember the number plate so I can file a report with CTC’s Smidsy site. Usually, by the time I get home I have forgotten, so the report never gets filed. But Bharat Mega Bus (BC10NBC) on the Chelsea Embankment last night was sufficiently memorable to have stayed with me.

    Some of the abuse is so illogical you have to laugh. While dutifully stopped at a red light a couple of weeks ago I got an earful from a taxi driver (who had himself run a light by deliberately driving into an advanced stop box on red) about how “you lot” always go through red lights. Clearly logic doesn’t necessarily go with the knowledge.

  19. Benjamin 17/04/2012 at 6:05 pm #

    I’ve been most annoyed by 2 (other bikers running lights) and 4 (cars getting too close).

    To overcome irritation #4 I’ve simply had a look a look at the map and selected a route that is longer, but more safe on my way to work. I guess the key is to acknowledge that it’s not necessarily my right to bike in a straight line, even though I’m on a bike…

  20. Raymond Parker 17/04/2012 at 7:03 pm #

    I dunno, I think it’s unnatural not to feel some amount of anger at dangerous moves, such as getting squeezed by motorists and “tailgated” by other uninvited cyclists.

    Anger is a natural part of the “fight or flight” response that’s part of our survival mechanism. Certainly, it should be channeled through intelligence–I agree that a short fuse is unhelpful–but assuming a “la, la, la” attitude is going too far.

    For instance, having someone on your wheel whose skills are unknown is a recipe for disaster. In that case I’d slow down and firmly invite the wheel suck to pass.

  21. Lep Recorn 17/04/2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Take issue with number 2. Some, and I emphasise some, black cab taxi drivers are almost homicidally anti bike. I had one tonight who was doing a three point turn and (deliberately?) reversed into my path causing me to have to brake hard to stop before I hit him. I gave a fairly neutral open hand gesture – i.e. what’s all that about. His reply was ‘you got f***ing eyes and f***ing brakes haven’t you!’.

    I have just complained about him on the tfl web site black cab taxi complaints page – if enough people were to do that he would either have his licence revoked or change his behaviour. I had a long conversation with a black cab driver once about cyclists. His attitude was there are good and bad, polite and impolite cyclists; but most are good and polite. However there should only ever be good and polite cab drivers and we do drivers like him a favour by reporting the bad and impolite ones.

  22. Hackneyed 17/04/2012 at 7:13 pm #

    The amount I seriously skill-light people on bikes at the moment is at an all time high! About two weeks ago I was rear-ended by some numpty by old street. I can’t be bothered going into details but suffice to say that had I not stopped him (with my £2k bike that also got damaged) there may well have been an accident in which he would have come out the worst.

    Spring is atrocious for ‘new bikers’, but I guess the attitude we need to take is a welcoming one, just wish they would be a little bit less aggressive until they actually know what they’re doing!

    • SM 17/04/2012 at 7:55 pm #

      2k bike? In London? You’re exaggerating there aren’t you? Please tell me you are.

      In addition to new riders causing anger you might as well add riders who think they’re in the TdF and not the morning commute.

  23. Viv 17/04/2012 at 7:27 pm #

    LOL!! Number 7 is sooooo me! I once was overtaken by something even smaller than a Brompton, it had tiny wheels. I ride a Specialized TriCross. I swear I could hear all the drivers around me laughing!

    This is briliant stuff, I really enjoyed it!

  24. Marcus K 17/04/2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I swear, curse etc… but now I have my face mask on nobody can hear me 🙁

  25. Tom 17/04/2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Can we add people who insist on cycling through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the list? Usually arrogant lycra clad team replica £3000 bike riding bankers, naturally..

  26. Tom 17/04/2012 at 8:54 pm #

    Oh, and I couldn’t agree more about ‘shoaling’..

  27. Pete 17/04/2012 at 10:26 pm #

    How true, I am still working on 5 & 6 but the others have definitely made my journeys a lot more enjoyable.

  28. Gav 18/04/2012 at 3:16 am #

    “Oi! Gay!”
    “I’m sorry mate, I’m not but if you’re looking for some then try {gay area in your city}?”
    “I’m not actually, but thanks for the offer”
    “If I was, you wouldn’t be my type, good luck finding someone!”
    I’d add #8 Ride a bit slower. Almost no matter what speed you ride at, you’ll be faster than walking, getting the tube or driving, and you’ll enjoy it more. You don’t need to push every light to the limit, squeeze through every gap or overtake every car. Arrive feeling a bit more relaxed, less in hospital and a lot less sweaty, with almost no discernible difference to your journey time.

  29. Pete 18/04/2012 at 8:42 am #

    Overtaken by a Brompton: Ha, ha! Seriously, a good article and quite right on all the points. Other than the potential for danger with being drafted it’s actually a kind of compliment; perhaps the Brompton slip-streamed you for a bit before making its move.

    • Ed 19/04/2012 at 4:27 pm #

      Nah, I ride a Brompton. I’m always offended when I get overtaken by people wearing Lycra ion big-wheeled bikes.

  30. Alyson 18/04/2012 at 4:15 pm #

    It always makes a stronger case for cycling when we respond to road annoyances with grace.

    Also, we should remember that some of the bikers we encounter are new to cycling as transport and may already be self-conscious about not knowing the norms, rules, rights, and etiquette. Seasoned riders should lead by example.

  31. Chris Bolton 18/04/2012 at 7:05 pm #

    A great list! My only addition would be: Give up on the helmet cam and posting clips of near misses on YouTube!

  32. Al Camino 18/04/2012 at 8:12 pm #

    For all of you London bicycle lovers, donate a World Bicycle Relief bike today for children in Africa. They walk for hours every day to be able to go to school, get access to healthcare or find water and food for their family. Donate a bicycle today! Change a life today!. Donate here: http://www.donateToWBR.org. Follow us on Facebook.com/donateToWorldBicycleRelief… and Twitter @donateToWBR. Thanks!

  33. Har Davids 19/04/2012 at 9:28 am #

    For me, a bike is a means to get from A to B as smoothly as possible. Everything I encounter, animate or not, is an obstacle I have to avoid colliding with. Getting my knickers in a twist every time would distract me too much from my goal, so it’s giving thumbs up if appropriate or ignoring and continuing. But to be honest, I have never tried riding a bike in London.

  34. Dermot 19/04/2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Pedestrians stepping out into the street without looking I can live with: I can ping at them, slow down, cycle around them.

    It’s the ones who step out into the street without looking, hear you coming, look startled then stop dead in the street gawping at you, forcing you to brake harder and swerve harder who are the real problem!

    Oh and obviously all the taxis, minicabs, buses, cars and other cyclists. :o)

  35. Stephane 19/04/2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Great post!

    My own pet hate is when there is another cyclist riding more or less at the same speed. you keep overtaking each other for 10 miles because of the traffic lights.

    Apart from that, that’s true, keep cool and NEVER reply to an angry road user. If it turns nasty, people will have heard you shouting but nobody will have heard the other guy in his car, van, etc…

    …and when I am upset, I just overtake a specialised or a cannondale on my brompton, then I slow down.

  36. reuben 20/04/2012 at 10:07 am #

    phew! that means give up cycling in London 🙂

    • Nicole 20/04/2012 at 12:18 pm #

      Um, I moved away from London to Reading and trust me, cycling here is worse! Stay! At least you get to see so much random on the way everyday, it is awesome!

      • Danny 25/04/2012 at 11:36 pm #

        I pity you. I’m from those parts and Reading is a deeply unpleasant place to cycle. London is a dream in comparison.

  37. One Loose Nut 20/04/2012 at 10:41 am #

    I like the post and it’s ideals, I often put them into practise, but sometimes the red mist descends, like it or not. I will never be a Zen master.

  38. Andrew Thrift 20/04/2012 at 10:44 am #

    I have found that, as I age, I no longer get bothered by such things which would have made me blood boilingly angry say ten, or twenty years ago.

    • Dave Krentz 25/04/2012 at 2:16 pm #

      Hear that. But I still dread the day when a cruiser passes me with a Pomeranian in the carry basket!

      • Tony M 05/05/2012 at 12:19 am #

        I have invented a cycling device which creates a natural protective barrier between the rider and the vehicles and pedestrians.

        It is a seven foot diameter balloon that i have inflated and attached to the top of my cycle-helmet with bungee cord, …it works !!

        PS:- after more extensive testing i have found 1 or 2 minor drawbacks to the invention as follows:-

        1) After a 17.3 mile test cycle run through London i have developed a strange neck condition, which is quite uncomfortable, i will have to try and work out the cause of this and report back later.

        2) Observant, and highly trained, Local Metropolitan police PCSO’s stopped me on a number of occasions and asked if i had a licence for the aforementioned device, i told them i was sponsored by “hiddenberg” and they said that was ok and let me go.

        3) People kept stopping me and asking if i was their local “member of Parliament” and could i help them, i found this was too disruptive to my journey.

        Oh well back to the drawing board.

        PPS;- Health & Safety warning from the ministry of doing stuff:-

        Please do not attach a seven foot diameter balloon to the top of your cycle-helmet with bungee cord it may be hazardous to your health.

        now where did i put that tin-foil hat of mine?

  39. Goonz 20/04/2012 at 12:47 pm #

    I dont have the same view as you on Pedestrians I am afraid. I simply don’t stop if I hit them so be it. They stepped into my path and i’ll be damned if I risk my neck swerving into the road to be hit by following traffic.

    I am also one of those guys that rides through traffic lights and take my position in the middle of the bus lane so no taxi can ever pass me.

    I don’t mind guys tailing me so long as they repay the favour but if not I will purposefully slow down till they get the message and pass me.

    Personally I have more important things to be wary of like cars, trucks and buses that are trying their hardest to knock me off the road.

    • sm 20/04/2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Thanks for giving the rest of us a bad name. Most of us manage to look out for trucks and buses without being nasty to pedestrians and without jumping red lights or as it’s known to most people, breaking the law.

      • Ed 20/04/2012 at 1:21 pm #

        Agreed, sm.
        I signed up to the Stop at Red campaign some years ago for this very reason. It doesn’t matter that motorists break the law and that we shouldn’t have to act like Gandhi; what does matter is that motorists include some stupid, irrational people who will see rule-breaking by cyclists as an affront to their ‘rights’ and will endanger cyclists as a result.
        No one says it’s fair or logical, but I stop at red because I think it keeps all cyclists safer that way.

        • Nona 02/05/2012 at 1:59 am #

          Goonz made a pretty important point within that post though. When a Pedestrian steps out in front of you with no notice it does endanger you, putting you in line to be hit by traffic as you are forced to swerve to avoid them.

          I can see the point about keeping your own blood pressure down but it’s damn useful for pedestrians to get some feedback because if they’ve never cycled themselves they probably have no idea how their behaviour affects cyclists. I’ve been known to scream involuntarily at them out of fear of a collision because sometimes they don’t even give you time to swerve.

      • El Kapitan 05/05/2012 at 2:59 pm #

        “Looking out for” and “not sacrificing oneself for a dozy pedestrian when personal responsibility is just that – a responsibility” is vastly different to “being nasty to pedestrians”. Don’t conflate the two. I nearly had a potentially-fatal accident due to pedestrians blatantly walking out in front of me at a green light (for traffic) pedestrian crossing, at the bottom of a hill, at a very busy junction. I might have been going fast, but I assumed when the light wasn’t green that pedestrians would be looking for traffic. I guess only cars – another example of how drivers get more respect by default. I had to bang on the brakes, nearly went over the bars (should have done, and landed on the pedestrian for cushioning!) – ended up at a 45 degree angle before crashing back down my rear wheel and dislodging it from the rear drop-outs in the process. I suspect that cars / the moped behind was following too closely and might have pranged my back wheel, as the normally-sympathetic moped driver wouldn’t look me in the eye after the incident… The pedestrian who walked out on me just gave a little smile, like that made it alright, and walked-off.

        I was in actual medical shock, as I found out five minutes later having an overblown altercation with an illegally-parked van hiding its numberplate (police called, sided with the illegal van driver just because parking enforcement isn’t their remit and they don’t see the bigger picture, the tossers). Weird how shock works, but what did I do wrong, go too fast near a pedestrian crossing? Glad my brakes worked…

        Pedestrians have dedicated street-space and traffic lights. Cars force their own space and waste plenty of that. Most pavements are roughly 80% empty at any time of day, (congestion areas like stations and crossings excluded).
        Whilst bicycles have no facilities worth talking about.
        If people are going to be ignorant, let them suffer for it rather than anyone else doing so.

  40. Dermot 20/04/2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Jumping red lights is possibly the worst PR you could do for cyclists in London aside from riding on the pavement, so thanks for that! (Although your bus lane strategy is spot on.)

    I take a red light as an opportunity to have a bit of a breather. I often see guys (and it’s usually guys) zipping past me a red lights. I’ll usually catch them up and overtake them and arrive at the next lights well ahead of them. They’ll eventually catch up and jump the red light again (repeat to fade…).

    • Robbie 08/05/2012 at 5:29 pm #

      I make sure I get to my destination ahead of any light jumpers as well. Well, I give it my best shot.

      I also make a Roadrunner style “Beep-Beep” noise to warn pedestrians and smile. They usually react more positively to this than a list of expletives.

      I also find trying to make at least one person smile or laugh on your cycle commute can improve your own sense of well-being. I’m no hippy and I do love to run head first into a punch bag every now and again whilst weeping about my wasted youth, but if you stop at the odd bus stop and offer a lift when someone sticks their arm out (especially a pretty girl) I think it makes London a slightly nicer place to live. That or you confuse the hell out of people.

      • Scottie 04/01/2013 at 9:22 pm #


  41. Chaos 20/04/2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Acceptance is a tough one to master, but essential for cyclists because we are below pigeons in the pecking order (pun intended!).

    Only recently I was hit by a car which made an illegal lane change without indicating. He left the scene when I said I was calling the police. Despite giving the police the car registration and filling in their 19-page Road Traffic Collision / Accident report, they have since informed me that they do not intend to do anything! Their letter has the the strap-line at the top of “Working together for a safer London!

  42. Gary 20/04/2012 at 2:09 pm #

    I’ve see a few cyclists get disproportionally upset by another cyclist undertaking them…

    • Nona 02/05/2012 at 1:48 am #

      I can’t comment on proportionate response or not but undertaking is quite dangerous. It cuts both ways – slower cyclists should take the available space closer to the pavement so that a faster cyclist can overtake sensibly too.

      Anger is often the first response to someone endangering our safety which is why cyclists often get angry … it’s not necessarily a useful response but it’s pretty natural.

  43. Goonz 20/04/2012 at 2:22 pm #

    I have seen my fair share of ‘sensible’ looking cyclists jumping lights and not just the stereotype of the courier guys.

    I take my stance because of what has already nearly happened to me. Taxi running me off the road, white van man barging past me and his left side mirror actually folding due to it hitting my rucksack.

    There have been countless other times when drivers manouvere or change lanes without indicating or looking in their mirrors and I have had to stop in front of them to get their attention. Personally I think you need to ride aggressively on the roads otherwise the other road users will not give you a chance.

    Me jumping lights has nothing to do with other drivers, if I get caught by the police I will accept the fine.

    • sm 20/04/2012 at 2:27 pm #

      Confidently yes, aggressively no. RLJ encourages drivers to think, “Why are they breaking the law… I’ll show them”. Some drivers don’t need the excuse but I’d prefer it if we didn’t give them any reason to act aggressively.

      • Goonz 20/04/2012 at 2:39 pm #

        Sorry confidently was the word I was meaning to write there!

        • Nona 02/05/2012 at 1:49 am #

          I’d say defensively is the appropriate word, defensively and confidently.

          And sorry but you have to be aggressive in some situations or be run off the road.

  44. Barton 20/04/2012 at 2:30 pm #

    By Andreas – it is SO HARD to give these things up!!!

    I am over most of them, especially the shoaling. Sort of. I now find some serious joy in the re-overtaking the doofus’ who I have already passed before the lights. I get quite smug about it (“yeah, this fat chick passed you before and she’s doing it again – with no effort on her part!”). Which is, of course, exactly what you are asking us to change.

    On the way home yesterday, a taxi pulled in front of me and parked in the bike lane, leaving me no where to go (heavy traffic at speed didn’t leave much safe opportunity to merge into traffic to go around him). So I got off my bike and walked it between his vehicle and the taxi driver he was talking to. I then didn’t yell at him, but reminded him he was parked in an actual lane of traffic and it was against the law, before I proceeded. I’m a Midwest American girl, we are pretty passive-agressive. So. Got angry. Calmly made my point. Moved on. Felt good about my position.

    Not sure I will ever be accepting of someone drafting w/o saying/asking about it. I am fine with it when they acknowledge what they are doing (which quite a few people do here, “can I ride your slipstream for a bit?” or “can I tuck in behind until the next light?”), but just b/c I can block twice as much wind as you (being fat) doesn’t mean I am going to be happy about it.

    I will try your other “let it go” ideas out over the windy, wet weekend rides and see if they can keep my blood pressure down.

  45. Rajinald 20/04/2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Today I signalled to turn right and a van overtook me, nearly scraping my right hand side.

    I shouted something like oiiiiii and the passenger sat up on the edge of the door/window and shouted f*ck off you p*ki c*nt.

    I replied I hope you fall out and it knocks some sense into you, you balding, fat pr*ck.

    The adrenaline rush was something else but the oddest thing was that the driver looked like an Asian brother!

  46. Steve 20/04/2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Shoaling does my head in last year i was badly injured from being hit by a car whilst i was re-overtaking another cyclist who thought they had the right to be at the front of the lights although they had turn up last. why can’t these people just show a bit of respect to other cyclists

  47. eric 21/04/2012 at 9:33 am #

    In London, I ride a Brompton. I will try my best not to overtake big wheeled bikes from now on 😉

  48. Nigel 23/04/2012 at 8:59 pm #

    >Give up on being annoyed when a Brompton overtakes you: Something that always puts a smile on my face is when a Brompton overtakes me

    Ha Ha!! I love overtaking upstarts on my Brompton!! 🙂

    Some people react with such indigence when I pass them.

    Seriously though, the only advantage is the swifter acceleration, due to the smaller mass of the wheels. Out on the open road they’re no match for a light road bike. I rarely average more than 12 mph on longer trips. Far easier on a light road bike to average higher.

    I’m taking it to Malta again in May. That’s the real advantage of the Brompton – it goes wherever you do, with the minimum of fuss.

    • Dave 15/05/2012 at 11:43 am #

      Nigel, I also get a rush passing big 27 gear road bikes on my little M3L.In fact I generally try to, especially if I was just pootling along when they passed me. See! I can not only catch you I can beat you too!

      Seriuosly though, I will be riding to Brighton on it June 1st 2012 for the Capital to Coast Charity run. See who’s laughing then? I am packing pump puncture kit and plasters, think that will do?

  49. Julie 24/04/2012 at 11:55 am #

    I drive as well as cycle in London and in other cities in the UK. London does feel safest as a cyclist as drivers are generally more “bike aware”.

    When cycling I always stop at red lights but try to edge forward a bit so that at least I am visible to any cars thinking of running me down to turn left without indicating. When I am driving the van however, I am MUCH more comfortable with cyclists who DO go through the red light, as I feel that they are making sure they are visible and making their intentions (eg turning right or whatever) crystal clear and are presumably are keen to make the effort to get peddling as soon as it is safe to do so.

    I know why we as cyclists need to be seen to obey normal road rules so as not to wind up other road users as well as for safety, but I do think that the rules should be reviewed.

  50. Jono Kenyon 24/04/2012 at 1:16 pm #

    To be really happy, I leave the house 10 minutes before I need to. Gives me the time to always stop at signals, let others out, give a friendly wave to the postman. I know it sounds a bit soft, but it actually makes for a brilliant ride, and makes Andreas list really simple. Try it!

    • Dave Krentz 25/04/2012 at 2:07 pm #

      I’ve tried the “10 minutes early” advice and I agree completely. Now if only we could get drivers to do it …

      • Elisabeth 06/06/2012 at 9:16 am #

        I don’t exactly agree with this. Remaining satitc is OK if that is what you have to do. Years ago I read a quote by a famous Life photographer (I cannot remember his/her name) to this effect:If you want better pictures, you have to get out of the car.I have never forgotten that, and I hardly ever get great shots by staying in one place. On the other hand, I get what you are saying if there is no choice then make the best of it.

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