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Near misses - John C. Kirk

Mar. 4th, 2009

10:30 pm - Near misses

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Since I got the pedal fixed on my bike, I've been cycling to work every day; in fact, I've now got a rail season ticket rather than a travelcard, since I don't need to use the bus. (That saves me about £25/month.) It's quicker than using the bus, and gives me more control over my journey, but I've had a couple of close calls recently with other traffic.

Yesterday evening it was raining quite hard when I came home; I didn't have too much trouble with the actual road surface, but my clothes were soaked through and the rain was stinging my face when it hit. Because of that, I tried to keep my head down, and I wasn't looking around as much as I usually do, so I was quite surprised when a car came out of a side road and almost hit me. In my defence, I had the right of way, and I was wearing my high-vis waistcoat with my lights on, so I can only assume that the driver didn't bother to check.

Tonight I was riding home when I saw a car in a side road, waiting to turn right. The driver had stopped half-way across my lane, and he was looking to the left waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic (in the other lane) so that he could turn. There was enough space for me to get past, but I was cautious so I watched him carefully as I approached. He then drove forward while his head was still turned to the left, without looking to see whether anyone was in front of him or approaching from his right. Fortunately I was able to stop in time, and I shouted "Woah!" He stopped, and looked at me when I shouted "Watch where you're going!", but his face was completely blank; the lights were on but nobody was home. It does worry me that I share the road with people like him.

Pedestrians can also be a bit of a problem: there were a couple of kids who dashed across the road recently, and they didn't see me coming because of the bus parked in front of them. If I'd been driving a bigger vehicle, they'd probably be dead, but I was able to swerve and brake. Sadly, they didn't seem to appreciate their lucky escape, and just danced around my bike instead. I had a bell fitted to my bike when it was repaired; it worked ok when I tested it, but unfortunately the handle bit snapped off the first time I tried to use it "in action", so I won't bother replacing that. So, I'll just rely on my voice to alert other people to my presence.

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From:totherme
Date:March 5th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Good to see you're still riding :)

In case you haven't seen it, there's a bunch of official advice up at the TFL website for stuff like that.

In particular, it's important to be aware of the difference between your rights and your safety on the road. It's your right to be able to head straight down a main road without stopping for people who're mindlessly pulling out of side roads - but that's not always the safest thing to do. Make eye contact. If you can't, then there's a problem, so you should be prepared to get out of trouble.

It's also your right to ride in the middle of your lane. Use this right. Particularly in roads with more than one lane. Forcing other drivers to acknowledge your status as a road user and overtake you properly instead of treating you like street furniture significantly reduces the chances of any of them doing anything really stupid. It also makes you more visible to anyone pulling out of a side road.

Bells are useful for letting pedestrians know you're behind them. But they're useless for communicating with motorists. I've seen Andy use his voice quite effectively where a motorist might have used a horn.

Finally, yeah, there are plenty of dangerous folk on the roads. If you want hope for the future, it's possible that the dude you shouted at was blank because he was shocked that he missed you in the first place - it's possible that when he reflected on the incident later, he learned something from it. But then, it's also possible that he totally dismissed it out of hand. Ride defensively, and give folk like him as little chance to hurt you as possible.
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