Bike to Work Book sampler

Page 19

Chapter 2 NO EXCUSES, BIKE TO WORK

19

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

kids in the back seat. Often simultaneously. Give every fellow vehicle the rapt attention it deserves. Marcus Such an attitude quickly becomes second-nature but it fuels the perception that city cycling is a Aelius Aurelius high risk activity. With your wits about you, it’s not. Actual risk is a lot lower than you might have imagined. In the UK, it amounts to one cyclist death per 33 million kilometres of cycling. It would take the average cyclist 21,000 years to cycle this distance, or, put another way, 21,000 average cyclists would have to cycle for a year before one of them was killed. However, it’s inescapable that cycling involves some risk. After all, you’re travelling fast, balanced on two spinning wheels, and you’re not carrying a two-ton exoskeleton to protect you from bumps and prangs. But what you lose in armoured protection, you make up for in manoeuvrability and superior field of vision. Stay focussed and you can avoid smashing into things, or having things smashing into you. Wear a helmet if you like (or if your locality has a lid law) but don’t assume it will save your head in an impact with a car. It’s far better to not hit the car in the first place, and that’s down to good road sense. Once you’ve overcome your fear of motorised traffic, you quickly learn how to use the surge of adrenalin to your advantage. Your senses will be heightened. You’re in charge of the swiftest vehicle around. But be quick on the brakes if you think a motorist hasn’t seen you. You’re invisible, remember. In the UK, cyclists have an acronym for this: SMIDSY (’Sorry, mate I didn’t see you’). Making eye contact with a driver is a good protective technique but it’s not infallible. Some drivers (and pedestrians) will see a cyclist and their brains will, wrongly, compute ‘very slow thing’. Take extra care near buses, taxis and trucks. Many are driven by homicidal maniacs, and even those driven by angels have critical blindspots. If you can’t see the driver, the driver can’t see you. When you think it’s necessary, use arm and hand signals to warn others of your turning intentions. But don’t make the classic mistake of signalling and then turning without looking behind you first. Don’t think you’re totally safe if your route is all on bike paths. There are obstacles to avoid, other cyclists to miss,


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