24 Nov 2008

Cycling Tips (Letter to Review Newspaper 19th Nov)

I feel I must reply to your correspondent S Turner (ST) (Review November 5) as I am concerned for ST's welfare.

Complaining - as we all are - about the poor state of our roads, ST states that "cyclists spend most of our time close to the kerb and . endure the bump down on to (sunken) drains every few metres" and that it is necessary to come out into the road to avoid them.

I am pleased to see that ST is a keen commuting and leisure cyclist so I am surprised that she/he takes up such an inappropriate position on the road.

The following may be helpful to other readers, perhaps also to ST.

Cycling close to the kerb is often an indication of the inexperienced or untrained beginner cyclist, who assumes that he/she must keep out of the way of those much more important motorists. They almost apologise for being on the road and do not see themselves as having a right to be there as a legitimate part of the traffic.

However they are putting themselves at a severe disadvantage or even at greater risk than adopting and maintaining the correct position some way from the side of the road.

They will not register in the consciousness of many drivers who, as a result, will not allow any space at all when overtaking.

Assert your right to be on the road, see yourself as being part of the traffic behaving responsibly, cooperatively and consistently.

As a general guide you should be cycling about one metre from the kerb (i.e. measured from kerb to wheel centre line), this will give you a bit of space to move left if you encounter a pothole, manhole or oily patch in your path, or if a vehicle passes you a bit too closely. You may think that if you are further from the kerb, then vehicles will pass you more closely. In fact you will find that as you increase your distance from the kerb, so will vehicles tend to increase their passing clearance.

But keep a good lookout ahead for hazards (including pedestrians stepping off the pavement without looking) that involve you moving to the right - don't make sudden deviations - plan ahead and move out early and gradually.

When passing parked cars move further out than normal - a suddenly opened car door can spoil your day. Maintain your position, don't swerve in and out of the gaps in a row of parked cars.

Be aware of what is happening behind you with an occasional glance and constant listening (don't use an iPod or phone)

Do all you can to be visible - lights at night are essential and bright clothing is always advisable.

Cycle training is available for children and adults. It complies with the modern National Standard, addressing today's traffic conditions - visit the Herts CC web page at http://tinyurl.com/6fzpxj or the CTC training pages at http://tinyurl.com/5mrofm for more information, or contact us via www.stacc.org.uk.

Happy Cycling.

Tom S
St Albans Cycle Campaign

The above was published in the local Review Newspaper on 19th November. I am including it as a post as it may be a useful reference when replying to enquiries which STACC receives from time to time.
Space prevented me from putting more tips in the letter, please feel free to add your own tips as comments to this post. Comments on aspects with which you disagree are also welcome. Do continue to write to the local press about cycling issues - your own views. Afterwards add them to the Blog as posts, or email the content to us in order to post them for you. If you see an article or a letter related to cycling from someone else, try to keep the theme going by replying. Newspaper editors like a continuing story.

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