Monday, 1 November 2010

Cycling tip du jour, Monday: look behind you!

On my ride in this morning, I was struck by how few cyclists seem to know what's going on behind them. On a personal note it's irritating because fellow cyclists might not know that you're trying to overtake - and they're taking up half the road because of their position.

On a safety note, it's important to know how many monstrous trucks or impatient vans are revving up behind you, so you can be prepared to take the necessary action.

Cars, motorbikes, vans and trucks find it reassuring to know that you the cyclist are aware of their presence behind you.

And I've seen it argued that if a car or truck can see your face occasionally, they recognise you as a human being not just a bicycle, and may behave better.

Don't take this to extremes. Looking forwards is important too. I'm talking occasional but regular glances back, not riding with your head pointing the wrong way ...

Useful links:

Rather pompous sounding article but good tips on "Vehicular Cycling" at Wikipedia
There's a fear-inducing American site called Bicycle Safe, worth a read
Very long but decent article about bike safety by Myra VanInwegen


Pete said...

Want probably annoys me more than blatant red light running is people who listen to music while riding.

I need to be able to hear what is around me to feel safe on the road and am always looking over my shoulder for cars and cyclists

Pete said...

oops, curse me for not proof reading, should start "What probably...."

KarmaCycle said...

Ah - thanks Pete - the old music issue - seems to divide cyclists as some swear by it. Personally I think anything which blocks any of your senses is dangerous - especially in London's often mean streets.

Glad you're one of the "looking over your shoulder" riders - it's essential.

I think perhaps though if you're a new cyclist, or feeling a bit wobbly, it can be tricky to master the glancing backwards thing and can feel dangerous. Practice is clearly the key.

Mark said...

I agree, KC, that many cyclists could do with looking behind them from time to time (as indeed could many other road users!) My top tip is this; when overtaking (which in my case is not very often) if I think that the cyclist ahead hasn't noticed I'm coming and are wobbling precariously and there's a car coming up behind me I'll call "On your right" or "coming up behind you". This seems to do the job OK.

The Vehicular Cycling link on Wikipedia is an interesting one (have a look at the discussions behind the article on this one and the one about segregated cycling infrastructure - the mind boggles!) Of course, whilst I disagree with his stance on cycle lanes John Franklin's Cycle Craft has plenty of tips on how to deal with cycling on the road system we have.

Natalie said...

I have found that aggressive revving from cars and vans tends to subside if you look over your shoulder. I suspect it is the recognising mr as a human thing. As for listening to music I never do that. But this evening on the very boring slightly uphill bit home I was thinking it'd be nice to listen to an audiobook in my left ear. Don't know if I dare though...

dilys said...

I've been using a mirror for the last three years and wouldn't be without one now.
I particularly like the American 'Take a Look'. I always know the colour of the vehicle that is about to mash me.

KarmaCycle said...

Thanks Mark, Nat and Dilys (and welcome to the blog Dilys - I don't think I've seen you before here).

Mark - I like your vocal idea - I suspect we don't use our voices nearly enough, hiding a bit behind bells and quiet irritation.

Nat - the revving is terrible, I hate that almost more than anything. I wonder if it helps a bit being of the fairer sex when it comes to vans etc. I must say that looking back does seem to help, though, even for a man!

Dilys - I don't know that American thing - is it some kind of campaign? I've never tried a mirror, but suspect they might be rather useful. Anyone else use a mirror on a bike out there?