How to…

…Stay safe in the door zone.

The easy answer to this ‘How To’ is that you cannot be safe in the door zone. I have previously written about this subject [here], and it important to reiterate that being ‘doored’ is one of the great unmentioned cycle risks as this rather graphic video shows:

cyclesafeI came across the image above today, and after getting my head around the differences in road layout (driving on the right!) and trying to imaging the traffic chugging along to my left instead of my right, was reminded of the two images below. These should be relatively familiar to you: on the left is the poster publicised by TFL to discourage cyclists from ‘undertaking’ HGVs, and the image on the right is the same poster but with the addition of the very recognisable Cycle Superhighway blue road markings.

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Generally people assume that the cycle lane is the safest place, but as you can see, between blind spots, the door zone and the simple fact that not all motorists indicate their intentions when they plan to turn left, it is sometimes far safer to take prime position in the centre of the lane. What happens if there is a pothole in the cycle lane and you lose control? You should always allow yourself enough space to manouevre, and although curb hugging may feel comforting, it’s an illusion of safety. Unless there is enough space to allow for a vehicle to safely overtake you, you should discourage them from doing so for your own welfare. This is particularly true at traffic lights, where motorists will often creep into the Advanced Stop Zone, forcing you aside as they zoom off ahead of you.

Remember, it’s better to take abuse for blocking the lane than a wheel across your skull if something goes wrong.

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Blue skies

April showers have turned into a chilly May, and I’d be lying if I said that I cycled my way through last month’s torrential rains. When the heavens open a bus is dryer and much more comfortable, but if you’re braving the elements, make sure you stay safe by keeping an eye on your bike maintenance, especially the brakes – remember that wet brakes are less responsive!

For tips on how to stay dry, here’s my How To guide.
And if you want to keep your head in clear skies, check out these beautiful bespoke helmets by New York designer Belle Helmets.

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Sky helmet, @Etsy or @bellehelmets.com. £95.35 or as agreed with seller.

Addison Lee

I’m sure you are aware of the recent uproar caused by Addison Lee boss John Griffin when he declared that his drivers should break the law by driving in London’s bus lanes (see video here), promising to reimburse any fines that they might incur for doing so, whilst encouraging an attitude of SMIDSY (“sorry mate, I didn’t see you”) as being something that cyclists just have to get used to.

The courts are currently in the process of blocking AdLee cabs from entering bus lanes, but do your part by raising awareness amongst your friends: this article from The Evening Standard might help towards making your blood boil.

If you haven’t read the inflammatory article from Addison Lee’s ‘Chairman’s Column’ of their free Spring 2012 Add Lib magazine, see what you make of this:

“Green party candidates and others are up in arms about what they see as the murder of Cyclists on London Roads. There has, as we all know, been a tremendous upsurge in cycling and cycling shops.

This summer the roads will be thick with bicycles, These cyclists are throwing themselves onto some of the most congested spaces in the world. They leap onto a vehicle which offers them no protection except a padded plastic hat.

Should a motorist fail to observe a granny wobbling to avoid a pothole or a rain drain, then he is guilty of failing to anticipate that this was somebody on her maiden voyage into the abyss. The fact is he just didn’t see her and however cautious, caring or alert he is, the influx of beginner cyclists is going to lead to an overall increase in accidents involving cyclists.

The rest of us occupying this roadspace have had to undego extensive training. We are sitting inside a protected space with impact bars and air bags and paying extortionate amounts of taxes on our vehicle purchase, parking, servicing, insurance and road tax. It is time for us to say to cyclists ‘You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up’.

John Griffin Chairman”

If you want to make a stand, you can sign a petition to have Addison Lee’s license revoked: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33116

Now, as a passenger, I cannot deny that AddLee provide a great service, but as a cyclist I have been in many situations where Addison Lee cabs have overtaken only to quickly turn left into me, overtaken without giving sufficient space to ensure my safety, turned left without indicating thus not giving me time to manouevre and all those inconsiderate faults that make cycling dangerous in cities.
The danger is not because I am ‘throwing myself onto one of the most congested spaces in the world’, it’s because these drivers aren’t just being permitted to disregard vulnerable cyclists, they are being encouraged to do so through the ignorant spiels of those who are too comfortable armoured within their vehicles where even if they do happen to get a little blood under their wheels it will only take a drive through the car wash to cleanse their consciences.

Signing the petition isn’t really about killing off Addison Lee, it’s about killing off the disgusting attitude that makes people think that if cyclists die then maybe they should have been more careful.

Hi-Vis and fabulous

Thanks to thrillingletters for putting me on the track of Vespertine, a New York company that makes fashion-forward HI-VIS vests out of sustainable materials, including polyester that is 100% recycled. Although in the UK only front and rear lights are required by law, additional precautions such as wearing a reflective vest can help to keep you visible – and thus safer – in the dark winter months.

The prices start at $92 (that’s £58.15 to you and me) for the tweed Sash-ay Scarf which can be worn as both a sash and a scarf. But why do something by half-measures? The Vespert vest comes in four colours which vary from £73.32 to £87.23, and it is undeniably fabulous. I don’t know about you, but I think I might start saving up for one….

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Left: Vespert Sequins, $138.
Right:Rear view of Vespert Quick Silver Reversible, $138 ON SALE $86.

360 degree visibility

As the days grow shorter it’s important to make adjustments to ensure that your cycle journey remains a safe one. This primarily means making sure that you are visible on the roads and the best way to do that is to invest in a decent set of lights. It is of course illegal to ride at night without both a white front light and a red rear light but it is doubly important to use them on cold dark nights when a vulnerable bicycle can blend into the night.

With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to try out the Bike Glow safety light, a light tube that is simply attached to your bike frame using cable ties and makes your humble bicycle look like it should be one of the vehicles in Disney’s Tron movies. There are eight colours to choose from, each of which has three light settings that allow you to choose between two flashing speeds and fixed on. I opted for a white light and had it all set up within five minutes – it’s always a plus when things don’t take too long to fix on!

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Bike Lights are priced at $24.95 on the official website, but you can buy one at goinggoingbike for £19.99 or simply do a quick Google search for your nearest retailer.

For more tips on how to stay visible, dry and chic, check out my Manifesto.