Wizzo for bikes!

I went out on the bike today and it was great! I cycled round some of my normal walking routes, through the woods and visiting Henrietta’s pond, then over the golf course and down past the substation onto Totteridge Common, round by the rugby club, through the allotmints and back along the brook. The bike stood up very well to the stony, rutted, hard-baked mud trails and a lot of shaking and bumping. I think it is likely that I will break before the bike does.

The only annoying bit, predictably, is having to ride on the road and being hassled by car drivers. You have two choices as a cyclist:

  1. Ride practically in the gutter so that cars can pass you, while you’re bumping over drain covers and colliding with incautious pedestrians, being squeezed and scraped by huge vans and lorries. This is dangerous as you are invisible, both to people overtaking you and to people waiting at side junctions. While riding past parked cars there is a constant risk that someone will blindly open their door and put you in hospital.
  2. Take a commanding position just to the left of the centre of the lane. This forces motorists to consider you as something to be overtaken, rather than simply squeezed past. They have to wait until there is actually room to overtake, which is much safer, but clearly infuriating to drivers as they roar past at one million revs, honking and gesticulating.

I’ll take a few honks, to be honest. I’m rather baffled at the fury that cyclists seem to engender in the average driver, but it’s better than being invisible. The curious thing is that when I’m driving I have absolutely no problem dealing with cyclists. I keep well back until I’m sure that I can pass them safely leaving plenty of room, and then I overtake smoothly and efficiently. What I don’t do is edge closer and closer to the cyclist’s back wheel, hoping to intimidate them into moving over, or falling off. I’ve never found myself delayed by being behind a bike - in fact, they’re usually strolling past me while I fume impotently in a long traffic jam. Perhaps that’s what some drivers find irritating.

I was curious about what the Highway Code says about road positioning for cyclists. Apparently, nothing at all - other than such helpful advice as not to carry things which might affect your balance, such as grandfather clocks, or fridges.

Wikipedia says “In the 1960s and 1970s it was common for novice cyclists to be instructed to ride as close to the nearside kerb as possible. It is now understood that this encourages dangerous overtaking, by acting as a tacit invitation to overtake and by giving a false impression of the amount of space a cyclist needs. Modern practice places the cyclist much further into the traffic stream.”

I do not remember what they told us when I did my Cycling Proficiency but it is probably irrelevant as that was in 1868. Keithlard’s cycling advice is to ride where you need to for safety, and tough luck for any cars behind.

I do not know what you think.

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