How to…

…be courteous when on four wheels. AKA. Motorists take note!

So after my journey-gone-sour into work yesterday. I’m on a mission. Simply put, it is to encourage motorists to (and indeed remind them that they must) INDICATE. Amongst other things. But seriously, cyclists need to learn to balance one handed to indicate a turn, cars only need to flick a lever so why do I so rarely see people actually doing it nowadays?

We all know that after a while driving becomes like most things, a matter of habit. The danger comes when the habits aren’t good ones, or aware ones. So next time people ask you if you find cycling dangerous, don’t smile sweetly and contradict them, respond that it would be safer if motorists would remember to ALWAYS:
– check their mirrors before turning.
– indicate their intention with plenty of noti
ce before turning so that cyclists can respond accordingly.
– check their mirrors before opening car doors, and opening carefully rather than swinging open suddenly.
– when joining traffic, ensuring that the road really IS clear. Remember, the cycle lane is the first thing you will cross.
– overtake with plenty of room between you and the cyclist as you overtake, and also after when you pull back into the lane ahead of them.

– consider WHY you are overtaking. Is it because you simply don’t like driving behind a cyclist?
– leave plenty of room for a cyclist ahead of you too: tailgating is DANGEROUS.
– DO NOT stop in the advanced sto
p zone. Motorists are required by LAW (Highway Code 178) to stop at the first line, NOT in the cycle box.
– SMIDSY (“sorry mate I didn’t see you”) is NOT an acceptable excuse.

Local Councils have been steadily increasing safety levels for cyclists by introducing new cycle lanes, repaving roads and educating HGV drivers and cyclists themselves as to how to avoid collisions with one another. London is wallpapered with posters encouraging cyclists not to filter at traffic lights, to beware of HGVs, and so on. At the other end of the spectrum bus conductors have been receiving training which includes a DVD entitled ‘Big Bus, Little Bike’.

Yet with this reportedly annual training, how do you explain the bus drivers that overtake simply to pull into a bus stop directly ahead? Or the one I encountered yesterday on Waterloo Road who coasted on the edge of the cycle lane I was in and simply stared at me as I struggled to turn the corner onto the bridge with the little space he had left me. There appeared to be no reason for him to pull up beside me in that vulnerable point of road other than to peer out at me.

A lot of cycle safety information tends to be geared towards cyclists but as the London Cycling Campaign appropriately pointed out in their response to one of TFL’s poster campaigns, emphasis needs to be brought to conscientious driving above all. After all, cyclists are far more vulnerable than cars, taxis, and of course, buses and vans.

Below is an interesting excerpt from some notes I stumbled across on The full Bill is a little long winded but this particular section caught my eye.

Excerpt from Crossrail Bill 2008, question 1567

1567. LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN: I speak as someone who has cycled throughout most of my life, including into London, not so often these days but I still come in occasionally. If you will pardon the pun, it is a bit of a two-way street, both literally and metaphorically, in as much as I agree with you about lorries, but you learn pretty soon to cycle defensively if you are an experienced cyclist. You do not go up on the inside. It does not stop accidents completely by any means and I wholeheartedly agree with you about the need to train not just lorry drivers but bendy buses are another nice little hazard that you learn to be careful to avoid. The point I want to make to you is that as the cyclist touring London, given the rise in a lot of inexperienced cyclists on the streets of London, we are not talking about what I would regard as the cyclist nirvana of Holland, do you not think also there has to be an emphasis on that as well, which is not to discount the very valid point that you make about the need for training, the need for enhanced safety standards?

(Mr Holland) I think there is very much a cultural thing to develop. We have had possibly two generations where there has not been much of a general public culture of cycling, of what you do and do not do. It is very interesting, CTC is the accreditation agency for cycle trainers and I meet up with people who are doing cycle training. Quite interestingly, you get the zeal of the convert coming through when they describe how they take an inexperienced adult cyclist and put them through cycle training and that inexperienced cyclist is convinced that riding on a footway is safer, whereas figures and studies show that you are between four and eight times more likely to have a crash if you ride on the footway than if you ride on the road. When the trainees come in they are caring and convinced that footway riding is a safe way forward. After a period of proper training they go out with a zeal of a convert saying “No, we must ride on the road, we must ride as vehicles”. You are right, there is a great deal of education to the general public that the bicycle has to be ridden as a vehicle when it is being ridden at speed and is ridden on the road. The other point I would make in terms of training is that in September 2009, you may be aware, there will be vocational training for truck drivers. In London we have had vocational training in advance of the requirement for PSV drivers, so Transport for London is doing a modular training course for bus drivers, which includes a module called Big Bus, Little Bike. There is nothing that particularly dictates which modules should be taken, but we are doing our utmost at CTC to make sure that both the truck driver training and bus driver training includes modules about the relationship between their vehicles and cyclists, to explain, perhaps, to the driver why you are cycling in the middle of the lane in front of them rather than at the side. As a personal issue, I absolutely loath the victim blame sign saying, “Don’t go down the inside” because the greater percentage of left turning truck incidents would appear to be where the truck actually forgets the cyclist is there, either when they have made an overtaking manoeuvre and decided to turn left or they set off from traffic lights and turn left and the cyclist has not deliberately ridden up the inside of the truck, they are riding along with perhaps a naive lack of awareness that there is a thirty tonne truck there. The awareness of that sort of risk needs to be trained into the drivers and into the cyclists. I am also aware that there is a very good piece of video material which was done by the father of a girl who was, again, killed by a truck in London which makes the point very adequately that a lot of the time we do not need to use the big trucks. I think that is a point we are making also in our submission, that do we need to have the muck shifted by trucks all the time? Are there ways of making sure it comes out through the tunnel? Can we shift it out in other ways, and do we need to bring in big loads as big loads? Can things be brought in in smaller quantities in vehicles more appropriate?

What more can I add? A cyclist’s greatest tool, in the words of Mad Eye Moody, is “constant vigilance!”.

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