Wednesday 10 November 2010

Why I Avoid the Edge

Over the last week or so I have had a few drivers behind me, tailgating me, gesticulating at me and occasionally swearing at me. I've not posted the videos as I don't always have time to post these low grade muppet videos. Also as they are often behind me, I don't catch much on video.

Why do they hate me so? Because I don't cycle right at the edge and hold them up for a few seconds here or there. So, I thought I'd put down in writing the many reasons that I don't conform to these 'drivers' wishes.

If I am not cycling over to the left of the lane it is because of:

Drains - They are slippery, and they have slots that wheels can catch in, leading to crashes.

Debris - Yes I can and do cycle through muck and debris, but at the edge of the road, it can hide potholes, be slippy, and can force a wheel off at a different angle leading to crashes and collisions.

Potholes - They tend to congregate at the edge of the road. Hit a deep one and your are off, even shallow ones can change a wheels direction leading to a collision with a car.

Wind - If it is windy, I can wobble due to crosswinds that can hit unexpectedly. Therefore, I sometimes need more room to deal with this.

Narrow Road - If the road is narrow then there is not enough space for a car to overtake safely without crossing the central line, even if I am over to the left (3ft is a minimal distance from cyclist to car as due to above issues I might wobble). If i do cycle over to the left, some motorists see this as an invitation to squeeze past far to close. Therefore, I take a central position to encourage you only to overtake when it is safe to cross the white line and give me room.

Parked cars - I'm cycling along at 20mph close to a parked car, it's door opens, boom, next thing I know I am knocked onto the road and into the middle of the lane. As you were too close behind me, you ran straight over me and my bike. I am dead. This is not hypothetical, it has and does happen. A colleague of mine had a friend who died in exactly this manner. 3 door cars have doors that open surprisingly wide.

Junctions - At junctions, people do stupid things. They pull out when they shouldn't. If I am cycling at the left, I am less likely to be seen, and so these 'pull outs' are more likely. Also if I am at the side of the road, I am closer to the junction (coming from the left) and thus when the car does decide to pull out, I have less time to react than if I was more central.

Pedestrians - They have a habit of stepping out onto the side of the road.

Left hooks - On approach to a junction on the left, cars behind me see me as a challenge. 'I can get past that cyclist and turn into that junction no problem'. No you can't. Often the cyclist has to brake hard to avoid the car turning right in front of them. To prevent this, I will cycle in a position that discourages this type of overtake, i.e. not on the left.

Railings - Where there are railings at the side of the road the worst thing that could happen is for a car to pass close forcing the cyclist into the railings. So I will cycle away from the left to avoid that situation.

Light controlled junctions - Many drivers like to think of these as a racing grid, and to speed away. Who cares about the cyclist, I can squeeze past. Not if I am away from the edge you can't.

Fast moving dual-carriageway - If I am over on the left cars will pass close and fast. Very dangerous. So I ride out from the left. Anyway there is a second lane to move over into and overtake safely.

Combination of all of the above - Imagine I am on a fast moving dual carriageway with a junction on the left, with railings on the pavement, a few potholes and debris at the edge of the road, some drains and it is windy. Where do you think I should be?

So there are plenty of reasons for not being on the left. So please do not drive 20cm from my back tyre, shout or swear. I am not trying to hold you up, and I am just trying to get to work/ get home safely. You'll find your BP will be lower and that you will still join the queue up ahead before it moves past the lights onto the next queue beyond.

Thank you.