We all have to ride in towns from time to time. I live in inner London and have to do so every time I go for a ride. There are multiple hazards: the ‘L’ plated legions of FFDs (fast food deliverers) closing in on your left elbow; abrupt three point turns being made in inappropriate places; congestion leading to frustration and now spindly figures gliding silently on their electric scooters as they weave between traffic and pedestrians alike. So what are the deadly sins I see committed most frequently – are you ever guilty?
1. More haste, less speed
A previous Progress article has made the point that using a bike in urban areas is so implicitly advantageous in terms of ability to filter and general manoeuvrability that the few seconds saved by any sort of risk taking is simply not worth it: you’re unlikely to have a rapidly cooling pizza in your top box! The priority for any journey has to be to arrive at your destination without mishap. Why take a chance? As Niki Lauda says in the movie Rush, and I paraphrase, ‘why should I drive fast and take more risks when I’m not being paid’
2. Following too close
OK, in town you’re not going that fast but time after time I see bikes and scooters a few feet behind that offside corner of a car, van, bus or HGV. With larger vehicles they’ve lost forward vision and are invisible to the driver; in any event won’t be able to stop in time if the vehicle they’re following brakes suddenly. Pop out for an overtake and they risk colliding with a two wheeler coming the other way. If you ride too closely to the vehicle in front you’re not able to take in all necessary information and you’ve lost your safety bubble.
3. Jumping the lights
We’ve all gone through on amber and it may be excused when you’re being closely followed or when the change happens when you’re a very short distance from the stop line. However, failing to anticipate the hazard posed by a traffic light controlled junction, together with the known fact that amber follows green and means ‘stop’ must be considered an error. Going through on amber, or worse still red is due to either inattention or recklessness. It means that the rider has not been aware enough of the information phase and has consequently not controlled his or her speed and been in the appropriate gear to bring about a controlled stop.
4. Stop line
Stopping forward of the stop line particularly in cycle waiting areas. I recently witnessed a lively argument between a cyclist who was legitimately using the waiting are and an aggressive biker who accused him of ‘getting in his way’. It’s also common to see bikers pull forward of the stop line in order to get to the front of the queue but then fail to see the lights change, consequently holding everyone up. It’s in breach of the Highway Code and you risk three points on your licence.
5. Filtering at speed between lanes of traffic
This is most commonly observed on busy ‘A’ roads in and out of London particularly at rush ‘hour’, which now extends between 4 and 7 o’clock. The culprits are more often on proper mid-size and above bikes than scooters or mopeds and their determination to shave a few minutes off their previous record leads to them ‘filtering‘ both sides of the centre line at 40 or more between two opposing streams, or weaving between lanes on dual carriageways. There’s nowhere to go in the event of problems: the biker becomes ‘the meat in the sandwich’. Again they’re failing to adjust their speed to the level of hazards present and have lost their safety bubble.
6. Squeezing into excessively narrow gaps
In stationary traffic, in their determination to get a few metres ahead you see them, sometimes leaning their bikes from side to side like cowboys wrangling steers to avoid cars’ wing mirrors. They risk confrontation with aggrieved motorists in the event of touching someone’s car, while if they’re and are also distracted, sometimes missing the opportunity to progress when it arises. This phenomenon seems to arise from lack of forward vision, taking in information regarding only what’s in front of them rather than the whole picture.
7. Provocation, or responding to it
Many drivers and not very confident or competent, some are selfish or discourteous. However; any form of provocation, be it verbal, through aggressive acceleration or positioning or through crude gesticulation only adds unnecessary stress. We all slip up from time to time and need to forgive other people’s lapses in an adult manner. These are the sins that are on my mind, after filtering home just about all the way from Guildford the night before lockdown. But what about on motorways, or on country roads? Would anyone like to write about the ‘sins’ committed in these environments? If so please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
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