Motorcycling and Cycling

ridesafeThe more popular cycling gets the more people realise the dangers of riding on our roads. When you start riding a motorbike you do so accepting a few truths: Everyone knows someone who has had a motorbike accident, sometimes a fatal one; Your Mum doesn’t want you to do it; and the statistics are stacked against you.

I was going to call this “Motorcycling versus Cycling” as a comparison but that’s the wrong message, what I wanted to do is list a couple of things I’ve taken from riding motorcycles and I apply to cycling everyday, hopefully you can take something from it too, ride safe.

  • Life savers – yes they save lives! Every turn, every lane change, look behind you! This is especially important on a bicycle as a) you don’t have mirrors, and b) as a slower vehicle you are more likely to be passed on either side by someone else.
  • Lights on, always.  Personally I don’t go in for all the Hi-Vis gear, but I always have bright lights front and back, day and night. It’s a standard thing to do on a motor bike (some models don’t have an off switch).
  • Horn, I now have an AirZound on my road bike and have even had positive comments from motorcyclists when I’ve had to use it. Shouting “Oi!” or “Watcha!” unfortunately can anger other road users even if you say thank you or wave afterwards. Only use in short blasts to make others aware of your presence though. Emptying it out of annoyance just makes you look like a tit, even if you were in the right to start with.
  • Cover brake, one or two fingers covering your front brake increases reaction time  and can prevent grabbing
  • Red Mist,  be aware of the adrenaline in your system, on a motorbike you could end up over cooking it on a bend or just going too fast for the environment. Similarly when cycling the exertion does the same, the flight or flight invoked can lead to over confidence and potentially uncharacteristically angry reactions.
  • Communicate with other road users, a wave can attract a driver’s attention. Show gratitude for others not pulling out on you, for holding back at pinch points, anything where someone has had to change speed or direction. A wave, a nod or a thumbs up doesn’t cost anything and shows you appreciate sharing the road.
  • You are the vulnerable road user, get over it, having right of way is no use if you are dead so ride defensively.
    • Position in road to see and be seen, if safe to do so this may even be the “wrong”/other side if for instance you are passing standing traffic at a safe distance, for example
    • Assume cars cannot see you. Doubly so for vans & HGVs
    • Assume indicators are broken, especially if car slowing for no apparent reason near a junction. If a filter lane has a possible left turn assume people in it are turning and position accordingly
    • Buses stop a lot, never under take and watch for people standing up inside before a stop. Taxi’s also, if stationary watch for opening doors, or the driver making a quick U-turn after a drop off (even with near side indicator on)
    • Be aware of junctions and gaps in queuing traffic, someone could let out across your path
    • Dog leg junctions have high probability that car joining from one side will swing across to the opposite exit
    • Where vehicle has damage to wing or door, or missing a wing mirror, chances are the driver is not very aware, and potentially not insured. Do not be the next victim
    • Be vigilant, use reflections in shop windows, look through car windows to see ahead, look for turning wheels on cars waiting to pull out, no brake lights means foot is covering accelerator
    • Make eye contact with drivers, in wing mirrors too

Personally I contravene red lights before they change when safe to do so and give way to anyone with priority to safely position myself ahead of traffic. I’m not advocating dangerously tearing through junctions, merely applying the green cross code as a pedestrian astride 12kg of aluminium.  I will continue do so until the infrastructure is changed or two phase lights introduced.

Some thinking on this symptom of cycling infrastructure is put forward very well in this article and this comparison with speeding cars puts the “offence” into perspective.

Unfortunately this can sometimes put you at odds with the police or community support officers, and waving an understanding “thank you” as you do it probably winds them up even more.

Most police, and all traffic cops, have done advanced driving courses so use their language when you talk to them to show you aren’t an idiot, respect and understand the road.  Say “I contravened that light” when asked. Say you were wrong and there is no excuse. Then mention how you were making progress you proceeded only when it was safe to do so. You gave way to everyone with priority. It might well save you £30.

Better yet, do a Life Saver before contravening the light in the first place and it becomes a money and time saver too! 🙂 Unfortunately the car behind you in the ASL will have to hold back while you clip in your pedals and take the lane after setting off. If you get a chance get her to sign the government e-Petition too!

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