Three close calls and three lessons learned about urban cycling

I have to be honest, I much prefer cycling in the countryside and avoiding traffic but everyone has to negotiate heavily congested streets every now and then. We all have our own experiences and near-misses (and some non-misses) and I found this great collection of examples in my inbox today, courtesy of London Cyclist. Andreas seems to have had a hard time from motorists in the capital but refuses to blame them for all of the near-misses, instead looking at what he can do as an urban cyclist to make them less likely to happen in the future:

White van vs. me trying to rejoin lane

This one happened to me while I was in the cycle lane. I noticed up ahead a car was parked in the lane and I would need to rejoin the main traffic on my right.

As I edged my way towards the main traffic I assumed the white van driver would give me space. The driver decided I wasn’t worthy of the main road so didn’t let me in. Luckily I glanced just in time and realised I would have to slam on my brakes. I stopped just a few centimetres away from the parked car.

The first thing to take away from this and also perhaps the best advice anyone can give you is: don’t assume. Just because it seems logical to you the driver should let you in it isn’t necessarily the case.

The second bit of advice is try to spot obstacles up ahead and start working your way towards main traffic early on. Use your hand to make it clear you need to join the main lane. Keep glancing over your shoulder to establish eye contact.

Vehicle cutting in too soon

We all experience this one from time to time. One instance I can remember was late at night and cycling near Marble Arch. I was cycling in the lane on the left and the driver overtook me and then cut back in way too soon. I had to again use my brakes to prevent a collision with the rear of the car and my wheel.

You have to always keep your eye out for this one. Drivers sometimes misjudge the speed in which you are travelling and how much space they should give you. I like to keep my hands near the brakes in the event they are urgently needed.

Crushed by a lorry when undertaking

Sadly this is similar to the tragic story you often hear in news reports about cyclist deaths. One day it very nearly happened to me.

I was on the busy Euston Road. Traffic was at a standstill so I decided to undertake (overtaking on the wrong side) a huge truck. As I was about half way past the vehicle traffic started to move and the truck wheels started rolling. The wheels were up to my shoulders in height and the roar of movement was deafening. I was stuck between these mammoth wheels and the pavement. At some point I clipped the vehicle on the inside of the wheel cage and wobbled. At that moment I could have ended up beneath the wheels.

Luckily, I managed to steady myself and the truck pulled forward. My first thought was relief and then anger at the driver.

However, this wasn’t really the drivers fault. It was my stupidity. I shouldn’t have attempted to undertake the vehicle on the left when there was that little space and I was clearly in a blind spot. These days when I see a truck like that I overtake on the right or just wait patiently behind.