14 Feb 2007

Ride safely

Share the road white, originally uploaded by MTB photolog.

Bike lanes are generally a good thing, but local experience shows that they take a long time to appear, and even longer to coalesce into a connected network which takes you where you want to go. Roads, on the other hand, take you from your front door to your destination..

Cyclists have have the right in law to ride on the roads (other vehicles have to pay for the privilige), but riding on the road means using common sense and following the rules, which are there for cyclists' safety too. Many adult cyclists are also car drivers, and it amazes me to see how many people forget the basics of road positioning- and the highway code- as soon as they get out of their car.

Here's a few pointers for safe cycling, and some links for more background on vehicular cycling.

Don't ride in the gutter. Riding two to three feet away from the kerb puts bikes in a position where they can be seen by other road users and have space to move into if needs be. Riding here keeps you away from broken glass and other debris which traffic sweeps into the gutter and causes punctures.

Always leave a gap when overtaking parked cars - riding into an open car door will hurt.

Stop at red traffic lights, just like other road users. A bike rider is soft and fleshy, other vehicles are hard and heavy. You will come off worse in any collision and you'll have only yourself to blame.

Stay off the pavement unless there are signs indicating you're allowed to use it. Pavements are for pedestrians, unless you're young enough to be riding with stabilisers or accompanied by mum or dad. Even if the pavement is clear, you will be more vulnerable to being hit by a car simply because you will be crossing driveways and roads in places where drivers are not expecting to see you.(Inlcude a link here)

Be aware of other road users - making eye contact with drivers at junctions and glancing over your right shoulder to check what's behind you makes you more aware of what's going on and reduces some motorists' tendency to see you as an impersonal moving speed bump.

Signal when you're turning or moving out - just like everyone else on the road. Doing this helps drivers predict what you're going to do.

Use lights at night and on dark mornings and wear something brightly-coloured or reflective. The warm glow you feel at using eco-friendly transport does not make you visible to pedestrians or other road users.

Don't pass lorries and busses on the inside. You may not be visible to the driver and you can be hit and seriously injured. HGVs are the second highest killers of cyclists on Britain's roads. Many of these deaths are preventable

Don't mistake the red-painted strips on Sandpit Lane and Hatfield Road for cycle lanes - they're (barely-effective) traffic-calming measures.

Don't feel forced to use badly designed bike lanes.
Many cycle lanes are so badly designed that they are more dangerous than the road. There's no legal requirement to use them and little or no advantage- vote with your tyres!

The highway code for cyclists- worth a look for a refresher
Cyclecraft- the government-approved manual for safe cycling. A bit of a dry read, but contains some excellent practical information.
Vehicular cycling- an excellent article from John Franklin.


STACC memsec Tom said...

Of course we have our own share-the-road symbols in St Peter's Street St Albans - these are somewhat better than the ones used in London.
We would like to see more of them used throughout the district (and beyond) at other appropriate locations. Specifically we are continually asking for them at the double bend on Harpenden Road, by 'The Cricketers'.

Mike1727 said...

The St Peter's St Share the road symbols are ok, they did meet with some local bewilderment as to their meaning when they first went in. Are the Harpenden Rd signs you mention road markings or triangular hazard signs?

I think the 'share the road' tagline is stronger and less ambiguous than either of the alternatives above alone. It could be added to the bike icon road markigns or as a sign, though I would expect signs to be more difficult since it would be non-standard and may have an increased visual impact.

Adding a share the road sign to the marker signs at the city boundary would be interesting...'Welcome to St Albans, a cycle friendly city'.