Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Taking a line

There will be a lot of people who are thinking about using a bike for local journeys but haven't quite got the confidence to start. This is partly what the UK government's £140m cycling program is about, persuading the marginal cyclists out onto the road again or for the first time. A lot of the people considering taking up cycling on public roads will be nervous about the traffic and rightly have concerns for how safe it is.

Over on Jeff's Bike Blog, Jeff highlights a concern on the traffic side of the bike, that is, how close vehicles are as they pass a cyclist. Jeff, impressively, has taken on the local law enforcers and educated them in their state laws regarding a minimum 3 foot clearance applicable where he rides. He has presented evidence gathered using a video camera mounted on his bike. It makes for some interesting reading and is another way that active cyclists can raise awareness of cycling. A number of times I've wished I had a video camera running when someone passing in vehicle has come too close. Luckily motorists in the main stay well clear of cyclists. Just occasionally I wonder if they have seen me, perhaps lazily cutting a corner or rushing to make a right turn. (Don't forget US and continental readers we drive on the left - Ed)

On the other side of the bike, the kerb side, the concern runs to parked cars, opening doors, pedestrians and animals stepping into the road and traffic emerging from side roads. A cyclist has to decide what line to ride in all these circumstances to maximise his own safety. These two pictures here clearly illustrate a good approach to this. When there is no danger kerb side, the cyclist is keeping well in to the left. When approaching a car waiting to enter the road from the left, the cyclist has moved out into the main carriageway to increase his safety margin for this new hazard to allow for problems such as the driver's foot slipping off the clutch. (Yes, most cars are manual in the UK - Ed). The cyclist made this move gently, without swerving, so that traffic approaching from behind had plenty of time to react and slow down, because now the cyclist is dominating his part of the road. This is what differentiates a confident cyclist from one that isn't.

The government funding for local authorities to spend on cycling resources includes scope for provision of local cycle training so those that aren't confident cycling on roads can become confident riders.

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