Cycling is predominantly a social skill - it's about sharing
space with other people. The hazards don't come from the roads but
from other people. Once you understand this you are halfway to
becoming a safe and more comfortable city rider.
It is easy to get infected by other road user's pushiness. One
of the best things about city cycling is that you can travel
reliably without getting in a panic. It is one of the most
reliable, healthiest and entertaining way of getting around: smile
and be courteous to other road users even when they aren't!
Craig Dortkamp, an experienced cyclist, had never encountered any problems with other road users or suffered any accidents. But that all changed when Craig cycled through a red light in the City in May 2013.
Read Craig's story and watch his video highlighting the importance of cycling safely.
Observation and assumption
The first rules of safe travel are to observe the urban horizon,
and then remain calm when a car, truck, bus or pedestrian does the
unexpected. Soon you'll be able to read the traffic confidently and
you won't be surprised if a pram suddenly appears in your
It is statistically proven that nine out of ten drivers involved
in fatal collisions with cyclist say they never saw them.
Visibility, then, is vital, even during the day: according to the
Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, far fewer accidents
occur at night. Therefore Reflective clothing is a great idea!
Position in the road
Drivers don't want to hit you, so if you make them aware of your
existence they are more likely to respect your space. Your road
position is your body language and safety margin, so ride far
enough out from the kerb to avoid drain covers and nasty cambers;
and allow at least a full door width's clearance between you and
Making eye contact with drivers as they try to shimmy in front
of you at a junction should enable you to establish whether or not
they have seen you. Often just looking into their eyes is enough to
make a pedestrian or driver hesitate in making the particular
manoeuvre that was about to cause you concern.
Smooth and assertive
This is not to say you should be jittery about the behaviour of
London traffic, just more aware of it! Cyclists who ride nervously
are more likely to be cut up or forced into compromising situations
by other road users - remember that some drivers are more likely to
bully a cyclist or pedestrian if everyone else is doing it.
The clearest example of this is creepage. Creepage is when the
driver at the head of a road junction wants to pull out onto the
street you are riding along. They're not going to ignore your
approach and end up causing an accident; but equally they are in
too much of a hurry to wait for you to pass. So the car creeps
forward, nosing further out into your path as all the cars behind
it consolidate the advantage, making reversing out of the
However, please remember there is a clear difference between
riding aggressively and assertively.
9 things to watch out for:
- Black cabs swerving to the kerb to pick up/drop off
- Pedestrians stepping out into the road without looking (and most
of us do it on occasion)
- Passengers hopping off or on Routemaster buses without
- Vehicles turning left across you - even more serious if it is a
bus or truck
- Car doors being opened into your path
- Vehicle creepage at junctions
- Delivery vehicles parked in cycle lanes
- Drivers failing to indicate properly leaving everyone
- Vehicles doing impromptu U-turns.