A Briton may have won the Tour de France for the first time but here in the UK, cyclists continue to risk life and limb on the roads. And for all the support that sport cycling has attracted, the more prosaic matter of ensuring cyclists are safe while riding on the busy streets of our cities continues to be sidelined. It simply isn’t glamorous and while many councils offer free or subsidized cycle training, many don’t promote it very well and some (like Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham) have even cut funding.
So when I read about the serious injury of yet another cyclist on the streets of this borough, I was disgusted but not surprised. The incident took place in Eel Brook Common at the junction of Wandsworth Bridge Road and New Kings Road in Fulham. It seems that the woman’s injury is “life-changing” according to Adam Courtney’s tweet. I suspect that the phrase “life-changing” is a police euphemism for “she’s had an amputation”.
The accident occurred when a skip lorry turned left and ran over the cyclist. Unfortunately this kind of accident is all too common on London’s streets and is caused largely by bad positioning on the part of the cyclist. Indeed this is how most cyclists die on the road. Even before I became a cycling instructor, I could see that it was dangerous to position myself to the left of a larger vehicle at a junction. In fact, while I’m out riding I often see people trying to squeeze in the narrow gap (often as small as 8 inches) between a lorry and the kerb – usually because there happens to be a cycle lane in the gutter (I may have to write a blog about how bad cycle lanes are). I sometimes shout to them, “Don’t do it! It’s dangerous”! What I usually get, by way of reply, is an inane grin before they scoot off. Yes, these people don’t know how to set their pedals.
This latest accident has brought into sharp relief the lack of provision for cyclists in this country. I’m okay; I know how to conduct myself on the road. I behave exactly like a driver would and this is another problem: too many cyclists think of themselves as being separate from the traffic and many don’t think that the Highway Code applies to them. If you cycle on the road, then YOU ARE PART OF THE TRAFFIC! Behaving as though you don’t belong on the road will get you no respect from other road users. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that “they try not to get in people’s way” while out cycling. This kind of timidity leads to danger. Hiding from other road users is the quickest route to hospital or the grave.
Much of what we teach people is counter-intuitive. For instance, if you want to make a right turn from a major to a minor road, you will have to position yourself in the middle of the road and not to the left hand side. For some people that suggestion seems foolhardy, even dangerous. But the fact of the matter is that motorists don’t set out with the intention of killing cyclists. Motorists and motorcyclists position themselves in the middle of the road for a left turn and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you!
Remember if you get to the stop line before the rest of the traffic, you have every right to take the lane. That is to say, position yourself in the middle of the lane and not to the left. If someone beeps their horn at you, it means they’ve seen you. Don’t panic!
Here is a useful site that tells you where to ride on the road.
Here is another. Safe cycling!
UPDATE: 25/7/12 @ 1458
The full story is here in the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle.