From Strava Art
This could have been so much more. But Boris does a good good of managing expectations (to the downside), so can’t say I’m disappointed.
The RideLondon weekend will include: RideLondon Freecycle “COME ALONG FOR THE RIDE” - An 8 mile central London route on closed roads for up to 70,000 people.
RideLondon Grand Prix “EXPERIENCE CRITERIUM RACING” - Also known as Criterium Racing, this invitational city centre loop will provide a focus for the Women’s Elite, hand-cycles and youth groups.
RideLondon 100 “RISE TO THE CHALLENGE” - A 100 mile challenge ride including charitable fundraising through London and Surrey via Richmond Park - expected to attract 20,000 riders in Year 1.
RideLondon Classic “SEE THE GREATS” - Starting in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and following part of the Olympic Road Race route this race will see the international men’s elite take to the roads of London & Surrey on what is expected to become part of the UCI’s official race calendar (announcement in September).
Registration for RideLondon is open. Go to www.RideLondon.co.uk and sign up to what promises to be one of the most exciting events to hit the streets of London next year
This is a post I’ve avoided writing for quite a long while. I’m not a superstitious person, but writing about cycle safety has always, to some extent, seemed to me to be tempting fate to send me to the big velodrome in the sky.
I’ve been riding in London pretty much my whole life. From bombing around on a BMX with my mates as a 10 year old, to commuting to work now as a thirtysomething, and almost everything inbetween; road racing, mountain biking, and pottering home from the pub half-cut.
Touch wood I’ve never had an accident on my bike on London’s roads. I’ve not even really fallen over in recent memory. The last fall I took was pulling wheelies on my mountain bike earlier this year (hopefully I’ll never grow up). Sure, there’s been a couple of close calls - one nasty pothole nearly sent me into oncoming traffic and a set of defective traffic lights nearly sent me into cross traffic - but that’s all.
I don’t know whether that makes me an expert on safety, or just incredibly lucky. But given I’ve put in tens of thousands of miles on the bike, it’s probably a safety record better than most.
What has finally compelled me to write this post is a couple of things. Firstly I was devastated by the death of Dan Harris, which tragically happened at the Olympic Park on the same day as Bradley Wiggins’ Road Race win. I never knew Dan, but I have a friend who did, and his accident was a bit too close to home for me. Secondly, in the wake of the recent success of Team GB at the Olympics, there will inevitably be a lot of inexperienced cyclists hitting the road at the moment.
This is purely my opinion on safety. As always YMMV. I hope this doesn’t tempt fate.
1) CHOOSE A SAFE ROUTE. You can dress like a hivis-Robocop, ride with the dexterity of Wiggins and the power of Hoy, but if you’re doing laps of Elephant & Castle you’ll end up eating tarmac sooner rather than later.
10 of the 16 deaths in London last year involved a lorry (9) or bus (1). Finding a route that is unpopular with lorries will dramatically improve your safety. In London this is possible almost everywhere. My 8 mile commute is 90% backroads (NO CYCLE SUPERFICIAL highways, thank you Boris). I can even cycle all the way to my parents (13 miles) pretty much solely on backroads. Even in the City there are mazes of narrow streets you’ll rarely find a lorry on.
The best resource I’ve found for route planning is cyclestreets.net, which also has an Android and iPhone app.
2) NOW CHOOSE AN EVEN SAFER ROUTE. The route you initially chose is highly unlikely to be the safest. Optimise! Wherever you feel unsafe on the route, change it up until you do feel safe. I rode dozens of variations of my commute until I settled on the current route.
3) RIDE IN PRIMARY, as close to the middle of the road as possible. Riding on backroads means I feel comfortable constantly riding in primary position, most of the time right in the middle of the road. I’ll pull in to secondary to let cars past when I feel it’s safe, but 99% of my riding is primary.
This avoids several problems. Doorings are the obvious one, which can be a problem on backroads. Then there’s random pedestrians, kids, dogs, errant cyclists etc jumping out from between parked cars. Lastly by riding in primary you are more visible and appear to be moving faster and more aggressively, so it avoids SMIDSYs and SMIDGAFs (Sorry mate I don’t give a fuck) where cars see you coming but pull out on you anyway.
When I’m not on backroads, I’ll mostly be in bus lanes or slower moving inner-city roads where I’ll also ride in primary.
4) SIT RIGHT INFRONT OF TRAFFIC & GET AWAY FROM JUNCTIONS QUICKLY. Either sit in primary behind a queue of traffic, or push to the front and make sure whatever vehicle is there can definitely see you. For HGVs this is too f*cking far. Never wait to the sides. The sides are a death zone.
This might sound bad, but also push infront of any cyclists you don’t know to be fast. Basically everyone. I’ve had too many situations where a banker on a £5k pinarello fucks about trying to clip in infront of me and pulls away so slowly that they put me in danger. Nowadays I make sure I’m in position to be first away (or equal first) from the lights at any junction that is remotely dangerous.
If you find yourself unable to get infront safely, for instance when a lorry has pulled into (the criminally unenforced..) ASL, then either jump the lights or get onto the pavement. Don’t wait on the sides. One tip for jumping lights is to look at the parallel pedestrian crossings. Often the parallel ped crossings will be green whilst your lights are red, which means you can jump the lights without worrying about cars crossing your path. I’d like to live in a world where ASLs are enforced, and I don’t have to jump lights to be safe, but I’m not holding my breath.
5) OVERTAKE DON’T UNDERTAKE. It’s nearly always safer to overtake. Motorists are far more used to looking in their right mirror than left. This means you are visible both to traffic heading in your direction, and to traffic heading towards you.
Undertaking you are likely visible to neither, because motorists don’t tend to look in their left mirror, and the traffic heading towards you can’t see you because you are down the side of a car/bus/lorry. This leaves you open to both left-hooking (where are car heading in your direction turns left over you) and right turning cars (where a car heading towards you turns right over you).
Furthermore when overtaking you can often ride in the middle of the opposite lane, which gives you more visibility and room to move.
NEVER UNDERTAKE LORRIES OR BUSES. NEVER.
6) RIDE IN STRAIGHT LINES / SWEEPING ARCS & POSITION EARLY. Take a line that minimizes the amount you enter / leave a different flow of traffic. For instance there’s a section of my commute where I have to turn right through constant fast moving traffic, except I don’t because 100m before it there are a set of traffic lights which are almost always red. So at the lights I position myself in the middle of the road and ride the 100m on the right whilst cars pass me on the left.
Whenever you change line ALWAYS look behind you. I have this so ingrained that I even look behind when walking on the pavement.
7) GET FIT. You make more mistakes when you are tired. Don’t ride at an exhaustive pace. If you are fit you will feel confident holding primary and be able to get away from junctions quickly.
8) HELMETS & HI VIS / LIGHTS. Disclaimer; I ride with lights and a helmet. However I think the majority of cases of SMIDSY are actually cases of SMIDGAF (Sorry mate I don’t give a fuck), SMIWTMGY (Sorry mate I was texting my girlfriend) or SMISNBATMO (Sorry mate I’m still not banned after ten motoring offences). The best thing you can do to be safe is hope that you never need to rely on your helmet and lights to save you. No amount of lights of helmets is going to save you from CRIMINAL SCUM like Joao Lopes.
9) RIDE A SENSIBLE BIKE. London’s roads are shit. There is no benefit from riding with razor thin tyres at 120 PSI. Sooner or later you will bounce out of a pothole hard. I ride a tourer with 28c tyres, and that’s as narrow as I feel comfortable going.
I hope this helps someone. As mentioned before this is purely my opinion, feel free to agree or disagree as you see fit!
Love the guerilla DIY bike lanes. Might get some paint out and do the same in London.
The Times Cycle campaign is a laudable effort. It’s fantastic that a national newspaper is raising the issue of cyclist safety. However there is only one point on the Times’ list (out of eight) that I feel strongly about; the 20mph limit on residential roads. The other caveat is that I don’t think these campaigns work well without one pithy, resonating, focus. Think “We are the 99%” not “Here’s my 8-point manifesto which totals almost 200 words”.
One of the major influences behind the change in Dutch transport policy was the “Stop de Kindermoord" ("Stop the Child Murder") campaign. This has a very clear focus. In four words it makes a statement that is emotional, tangible, resonant, and focused. Child deaths on the road are unacceptable, bad transport policy is to blame, and we need to do something about it. That’s the kind of statement a politician can - or can be forced to - wrap their head around. My hope is that the Times campaign garners this kind of focus, and that the focus is a 20mph limit.
Why 20mph? Speed is exponentially linked to both accident rates¹ AND accident severity². I.E. the faster you drive the more accidents you will have (exponentially so), and the more people you will kill or seriously injure (again exponentially so). Not only that, but speed affects everyone; cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
Lowering the speed limit would make our residential areas safer for everyone (including motorists), and more pleasurable to live in through lower noise and air pollution. It’s also worth noting that it would have a negligible effect on motorist journey times. Again this isn’t much of a surprise - anyone living in London should realise that driving fast only gets you to the next traffic jam sooner.
(note the x-axis is in km/h here)
At 30mph a pedestrian hit by a vehicle travelling at 50kmh (31mph) has an 85% chance of being killed. At 30 kmh (18mph) the likelihood of being killed decreases to 5%.
¹ Aarts, L. & van Schagen, I. (2006). Driving speed and the risk of road crashes: a review. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2, 215-224.
² Kloeden, C. N., McLean, A. J., Moore, V. M. & Ponte, G. (1997) Travelling speed and the rate of crash involvement. Volume 1: findings. Report No. CR 172. Federal Office of Road Safety FORS, Canberra