Keep cycling deaths in perspective

Recent tragedies in London shouldn’t force us off our bikes. Here are some tips to help cyclists stay safe on the roads

Share
Related Topics

No sooner had Londoners absorbed the awful news of the fourth cyclist death in eight days - reported on the front page of the capital’s free Evening Standard under a large photo of a sickeningly mangled bicycle (it was impossible not to imagine what its rider looked like) - than a fifth rider fell under the wheels of a bus late last night.

Five deaths in almost as many days surely represents an unprecedented sequence of horror, and has rightly lead to soul-searching in London and beyond. Huge amounts of work still needs to be done to improve safety, not least at known danger areas. In the meantime, as five families grieve, those who cycle or would cycle have a choice: panic and flee to the buses; or step back, take stock, and ride on.

Firstly - and this will come as no consolation to anyone directly affected by these deaths - perspective is important. Last year, there were 14 cyclist deaths in London, and 16 the year before. So far this year there have been 13. The past eight days have been dreadful, but there remains a good chance that, with six weeks of the year to run, 2013 will not be the capital’s deadliest.

This would be in spite of ongoing increases in the number of people riding. In 2011, there were 180 million cycle journeys in London, or half a million, on average, every day. That number will be higher now but in 2011, just 16 journeys out of 180 million ended in death, or one in every 11.25 million journeys. Each death is one too many, and each death represents carnage to the rider and those around him or her, but the stats don’t lie: cycling is safe.

It can be safer, of course, and must be. And it is no insult to those who have died this week for each cyclist to do the only thing he or she can - and ride as safely as possible while the campaign continues for roads to become safer. This applies particularly to new cyclists and/or cyclists who do not drive (an understanding of how traffic works is useful for any cyclist, I believe).

These, for what they’re worth, are my tips:

1 Avoid lorries

Never wait between the kerb and a lorry at a junction. If it turns left, the driver may not see you. Stay well behind or, preferably, in front, where you can be seen.

2 Don’t kerb-crawl

The kerb is not your friend. Keep a line towards the middle of the lane so that drivers have to steer around you. Hugging the pavement only invites them to scrape past.

3 Show your face

Eyeballing drivers at junctions helps them to view you as a fellow road user they would rather not run over. Do the same to vehicles on your tail. Smiling helps, too.

4 Use your neck

Learn how to look over your shoulder without wobbling and do so regularly – and always before making a manoeuvre, when you should also stick out an arm.

5 Obey the code

It can be safer, say, to jump a red light than wait in the shadow of a lorry but egregious violation of the Highway Code can damage you – and the image of cyclists.

6 Overtake buses

If you’re approaching a bus at a stop, look over your shoulder, eyeball drivers, and move to overtake. If you can’t, wait a good distance behind the bus. Never undertake.

7 Be bright

It’s more important to show your face and position yourself well, but bright clothing, strong lights and reflectors, while rarely cool, will also help you get noticed.

8 Wear a helmet

You may look like a dork and it’s totally your choice but, on balance, you’re better off with a helmet. Just don’t think it will protect anything else – or do anything to resist a 40-tonne truck.

9 Don’t get cross

Sure, drivers can be infuriating but banging on windows or cursing across junctions will only reinforce the view held by a dangerous minority that cyclists are enemies.

10 Plan your route

It stands to reason that you’re probably more vulnerable in three lanes of traffic doing 40mph than on a residential side street, or on junctions known to be dangerous.

Bonus: Find a friend

If you’re a new or lapsed cyclist, venture out first with a more experienced friend. Keep a good distance behind and watch what he or she does. Then let them follow you and take their advice.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Noddy Holder must be glad he wrote 'Merry Xmas Everybody' as he'll earn £800,000 this year from royalties.  

Noddy Holder: A true rock ’n’ roll hero, and a role model for sensible people everywhere

Rosie Millard
Ian Paisley used to pick out journalists in his congregation  

The Only Way is Ethics: Ian Paisley is rightly remembered for his intransigence

Will Gore
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam