Ten Rules to stay safer on a bicycle in London.

With yet another cyclist killed this morning you may be thinking that cycling is London is too dangerous. Not so. Cycling pits your short term risk of falling off/being injured against your long term cardiovascular health as well as your wealth. By cycling you incorporate into your everyday routine low impact aerobic exercise that will be very much to your advantage by the time you get to my age. Yes, there are lots of things that TfL can or should do for us, but it’s critical that we follow these ten rules to stay safer on the roads.

1. Get out there and cycle. The more cyclists we have, the more others aware are of us. Think of it as herd immunity. I’ve cycled in London for 25 years and it’s a totally different, safer world out there.
2. Obey the rules of the road. This isn’t an issue of safety. It’s a question of respect. You cannot expect people to be treat you with respect if you behave like an idiot. Rules work both ways. If we transgress, we can expect to be treated accordingly. Upbraid (!) cyclists who ride on the pavement and go through red lights. It’s your reputation they’re ruining.
3. Make sure your bike is fit. Get it checked out at UCLU’s wonderful Pop Up Bike Workshop in the Quad on a Tuesday. Both your brakes should work and your gears should shift smoothly. Pump up your tyres properly. There’s a great bike pump behind the reception desk.
4. Give large vehicles a wide berth. 4 of the 6 people killed in the last few days were crushed by trucks or buses turning left. It’s the fashionable way to die. Just assume they can’t see you when you’re near them. Stay away. There monsters be!
5. Be seen. Wear bright colours and get lights and reflectors. We cyclists should look like the Christmas version of Dunsinane Wood.
6. It’s not a race. Remember that cycling at a normal pace you will get from A to B in London faster than by almost any other mode of transport. And a lot cheaper too. So don’t sneak through narrow gaps unless you’re dead sure (!) that the vehicles won’t move.
7. Plan ahead. Learn to look behind without wobbling. Watch other road users’ body language. Make eye contact with pedestrians, drivers and other cyclists. Position yourself so you don’t need to cut across lanes when turning.
8. Signal early and clearly. Be theatrical. Your arms should be stretched perpendicular to your body for several seconds. Don’t wobble.
9. Be assertive. You have as much right to be in the middle of a lane as a truck does. Don’t let them squeeze you. But equally, be courteous, and let vehicles past when there’s more space.
10. Ring your bell and smile. Cycling is fun and takes us back to the happy freedom of our childhood. Chill out, pedal, and spread the love.


About Andrea Sella

My name is Andrea Sella. I teach and do research in chemistry at UCL in central London in the UK. I also spend a lot time doing public science, cycling with ballast in my panniers, and worrying about how to keep my family's energy consumption down.
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2 Responses to Ten Rules to stay safer on a bicycle in London.

  1. Ian says:

    Excepting a slight reservation about 8 – I’d rather keep both my hands covering brakes as much as possible – it’s hard to fault this as a reasoned reaction to tragic events.
    The art (sixth sense almost) of knowing where to look for danger is what ultimately keeps experienced riders safer, I reckon, but that’s not a rule to follow and not a skill to expect novices instantly to acquire.
    And experienced riders still get wiped out by motorists on occasions.

    • Andrea Sella says:

      We need to make it clear what we’re about to do and telepathy won’t cut it. I full agree with you about hands on brakes but when turning you need to be able to look without a big wobble, signal with minimal wobble, and then move across.

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