As you may well have gathered, I make my way around London by bike most of the time, sometimes I use my moped and occasionally a car, but most of the time I’m on two wheels.
I reckon that by owning a bike as well as a car I’m not in a minority in the part of London where I live. It has certainly become less rare in the last 5 years and more common again after the magnificent Olympics!
But does this mean attitudes have changed? By attitudes I refer to the animosity that there is between various parties – ‘bloody cyclists’, ‘idiot moped riders’, ‘lunatic bus drivers’, rabid taxi drivers’ – these are all phrases that we’ve heard or overheard in conversations about London traffic.
Obviously I haven’t done any particularly scientific research, the only evidence I can produce is entirely anecdotal (and indeed mainly personal!). I wouldn’t go as far as to say that attitudes have changed completely, but they are certainly changing, for the better. The ‘big’ test of this was this week just gone by, as now all of the schools have gone back – there is more traffic on the roads and therefore by definition tempers tend to be more frayed.
Riding to and from places in London on my single speed I have occasions when I have to cross multiple lanes, either on dual carriage ways or left or right filters. The cycling law of survival is to signal early, be proactive, give as many indications as possible as to where you want to go – gesture, point, shout, nod, whatever gets you seen – being noticed is the primary objective. Then be decisive. If you hesitate traffic will carry on as if you don’t exist (which isn’t a great place to be!) and you’ll be stuck in the wrong lane… when you’re sure traffic is aware of what you’re doing , then go! And don’t dither!
Usually traffic lets you go because it’s quicker for them than to not let you go. However, over the last couple of weeks I have had a couple of instances where unexpected people have gone out of their way to let me through/over.
First up, a white van man almost came to a complete halt in Wandsworth to let me move over from the left hand lane to the right – and he gestured with a nod and a smile!
Secondly, a mum on the phone in her 4×4 let me through a mini roundabout when it was completely her right of way, but she could see me struggling with shoe clips and brakes and signalling (multi-tasking for men!) and she let me go first!
Lastly, a bus driver on Trinity Road let me turn right across the traffic, despite his way being clear, so that I wouldn’t be exposed to the charging traffic behind me.
So may be things are changing.
My theory is that whatever form of transport you chose then there will be users less considerate or responsible than yourself. Unfortunately it’s these ‘idiots’ (I use the word generically) that stand out. Whether its bikes, buses, black cabs, mini cabs, scooters, cars or even pedestrians there will always be a (small) percentage that thinks they are stuntmen, or don’t think at all.
I saw that there was a bit of brouhaha recently about the comments made in the editorial of the rather hi-brow The Richmond Magazine – in which the editor stated that ‘the only good cyclist is a dead one’. Apparently this was said in jest but it does rather emphasise that there is a way to go…
So, ride safe out there – we can’t all be Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish… imagine the guy you see at the next junction in a car, bus, van etc – will he see you..?