Here are three simple rules that should be etched into your mind to help you stay safe whilst out cycling in London.
1# Thou shall never undertake a moving vehicle
There’s a reason they put this on all Boris Bikes! When you pass a vehicle on the inside (left) that’s considered undertaking. A driver most expects someone to overtake on the right. Therefore, they often check their right mirror. Unfortunately, the left mirror is under used. This is a particularly dangerous scenario when a truck is turning left. They may fail to see the cyclist as they have a very large blind spot.
Stay back, give it a couple of extra seconds, an overtake the same as a motorbike or car would.
2# Glance at the vehicle behind every 8-10 seconds
Three important principles are at work here. The first is psychological. The eye contact makes the driver feel they are being watched and so are likely to act with more courtesy. The second is that your glance backwards draws the drivers attention to you. Finally, it gives you an awareness of the road behind so you don’t get any nasty surprises. As my cycling instructor said to me with a very serious look – he doesn’t like surprises.
That glance behind also means that if you suddenly have to swerve to avoid something you know the position of the car behind.
3# Fight the fear to be shouted at
Picture a narrow street, lined with parked cars, with barely enough room for a car to overtake you on the left. Of course, knowing your luck, a taxi is revving up behind rushing to get to the next traffic light to wait.
Out of wanting to avoid any confrontation you squeeze to the left, the taxi sees the opportunity, and takes the risk to overtake narrowly on the right with their mirror barely missing your shoulder.
You sir, have just put yourself and the taxi in danger!
This is because you could have been hit by a parked car opening the door, you could have been hit by the taxi and you have absolutely no room to swerve to avoid anything that appears on the road suddenly. The taxi is in danger because if you swerve they’ll either hit you or ram into a parked car.
In this situation fight the urge to avoid a few angry revs and a look of disgust from the driver by realising you’ve done both you and the driver a favour by staying in the middle of the lane completely preventing them from overtaking.
As they angrily get by you at the next opening, only for you to catch up with them at the next traffic light, flash them a smile and a thank you wave.
Are you some kind of saint?
No, I break these rules often too, especially when I’m tired and just want to get home. But I am aware of it as I do it and try to remind myself why what I’m doing is dangerous.