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Road riding traffic advice

Hi,

I am pretty new to road riding - nothing serious, I just try to go out for an hour or two each day. I have to go on some pretty busy routes (Snake Pass and Woodhead for those of you in the UK).

Pretty much every day I have a close call with a car or a wagon. How do people ride? I tend to hug the pavement / verge as closely as possible but I don't know if making myself as small as possible is the best approach.

Should I ride like this or should I put myself a bit further into the road? I thikn some of the problems I have are caused by people not having to make too much effort to get past me and misjudging it because they do not have to pull out very much.

As mentioned, I am pretty inexperienced at road riding!

Mark
 
Jun 18, 2009
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mark@graphicalss.co.uk said:
Hi,

I am pretty new to road riding - nothing serious, I just try to go out for an hour or two each day. I have to go on some pretty busy routes (Snake Pass and Woodhead for those of you in the UK).

Pretty much every day I have a close call with a car or a wagon. How do people ride? I tend to hug the pavement / verge as closely as possible but I don't know if making myself as small as possible is the best approach.

Should I ride like this or should I put myself a bit further into the road? I thikn some of the problems I have are caused by people not having to make too much effort to get past me and misjudging it because they do not have to pull out very much.

As mentioned, I am pretty inexperienced at road riding!

Mark

As a rule.. try to put yourself where the wheels on the left side of a car (in the UK - right side in US) would be on the road. The idea is you don't want to give carsenough room that they can fly by as if you aren't there, but you don't want to completely block them either.

Edit: also check out this thread http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?t=2596. There are some good suggestions there. Good luck!
 
Mar 10, 2009
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More ideas on making your ride safer

Howdy:

One thing I recommend, for riding in difficult traffic areas, is to wear the brightest clothing you can. Research shows drivers give you more room on the road because your "Bubble" of space looks bigger with bright (loud) clothing.
 
mark@graphicalss.co.uk said:
Hi,

I am pretty new to road riding - nothing serious, I just try to go out for an hour or two each day. I have to go on some pretty busy routes (Snake Pass and Woodhead for those of you in the UK).

Pretty much every day I have a close call with a car or a wagon. How do people ride? I tend to hug the pavement / verge as closely as possible but I don't know if making myself as small as possible is the best approach.

Should I ride like this or should I put myself a bit further into the road? I thikn some of the problems I have are caused by people not having to make too much effort to get past me and misjudging it because they do not have to pull out very much.

As mentioned, I am pretty inexperienced at road riding!

Mark

Hey Mark, welcome to the forum, you will find lots of good advice around here if you stick around. Also for you being a UK man agood site to check out would be the cyclingnews sister site BikeRadar.com. Their forums would probably be better equiped to help you as their site is more UKish where as Cyclingnews is definetely more Aus and USish with a hint of Ukness (posters such as MeloVelo and BanProCycling)

Cobber said:
As a rule.. try to put yourself where the wheels on the left side of a car (in the UK - right side in US) would be on the road. The idea is you don't want to give carsenough room that they can fly by as if you aren't there, but you don't want to completely block them either.

Edit: also check out this thread http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?t=2596. There are some good suggestions there. Good luck!

That is good advice if the road doesn't have a decent shoulder. Here in Aus, Major highways always have good shoulders but in other places it is a bit hit & miss where you are sometimes riding along all well and good with a nice shoulder then all of a sudden cars zip so close past you, you are like WTF and almost crap yourself. Most of all just be aware.... Cant stress that enough. I have sort of a saying (motto if you want to call it that) "Don't assume motorists will take precautions, you take precautions"

Mac&Mac said:
Howdy:

One thing I recommend, for riding in difficult traffic areas, is to wear the brightest clothing you can. Research shows drivers give you more room on the road because your "Bubble" of space looks bigger with bright (loud) clothing.

Also good advice, i also tend to use my rear light alot. It also seems to expand the bubble further, so to speak. I'm not talking about right in the middle of the day but if im say, riding home in the afternoon when it is still good decent light, i'll still probably have it on. Just helps. Maybe it's just me
 
Great. Thanks for the welcome and the great advice. I will get myself a brighter top! I will also pull out a bit.

I just get fed up with cars and wagons passing so close. I feel a bit vunerable being new to all this. I have the pedals where you are actually "clipped onto" the bike and it has been my first few months using them and the new bike so I guess I am still adjusting to it all. I can get my feet out pretty quick now but if I was getting knocked off (which I am sure will happen) then obviously I am not going to have time.

Just trying to stop myself getting damaged or worse out there.

I will certainly look around the other more UK centric sites. People will certainly know the roads I am talking about if they are from the UK.
 
One thing I will add is it will take some time to learn the best roads in your area. For example in the USA it is legal to ride on pretty much all roads that aren't classifed as "highways"; however there are some roads that are far more dangerous than others in terms of car traffic and should be avoided (IMHO).

For example, I live in a hilly area and most of the hills/mountains have a number of paved passes over them. Some are more modern and wide open and attract most of the car traffic that travels at high speed. The older routes are more twisty and narrow and residential and this is where the cyclists go. The motorists expect cyclists to be on the back roads (for the most part) and also because of the roads themselves they drive a lot slower.

So long story short there are better/safer roads than others for cycling and you want to find those and stick to them.
 
Jul 23, 2009
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Hi Mark. I am one of the lucky ones who rides on roads that have either very little traffic or wide shoulders. Can't really help you with tyre placement on UK roads. I will echo the advice to have a flashing rear light, this is especially important as you begin the dark and wet season. Clothing with strips of reflective material will also catch headlights/streetlights and announce your presence well in advance. Be very aware of traffic as you enter intersections/roundabouts, you often find someone will underestimate your speed and cut the corner, leaving you nowhere to go. Motorists are like toddlers, they learn only through repeat exposure and positive reinforcement. Any insulting language or gestures will only make things harder for the next cyclist. I hope that you are wearing a helmet, at some point a bump, animal, car, piece of debris, or patch of oil is bound to bring you to the ground. Stick with it, the confidence soon increases. Best of luck!
 
mark@graphicalss.co.uk said:
Hi,

I am pretty new to road riding - nothing serious, I just try to go out for an hour or two each day. I have to go on some pretty busy routes (Snake Pass and Woodhead for those of you in the UK).

Pretty much every day I have a close call with a car or a wagon. How do people ride? I tend to hug the pavement / verge as closely as possible but I don't know if making myself as small as possible is the best approach.

Should I ride like this or should I put myself a bit further into the road? I thikn some of the problems I have are caused by people not having to make too much effort to get past me and misjudging it because they do not have to pull out very much.

As mentioned, I am pretty inexperienced at road riding!

Mark
1. If you value your life and safety, go out and buy Cyclecraft by John Franklin. Franklin does the best job of explaining how to ride in traffic I've seen. There is a new North American edition, but the original was written for the UK.

2. There is no one appropriate place to ride; the best place to ride varies based on all kinds of conditions and factors, both static (like lane width) and dynamic (e.g., the presence and speed of other traffic). It's not rocket science, but it's more complex to be able to put all those factors together and produce the appropriate place to ride in real time while you're out there on the road than even most experienced cyclists realize and appreciate. You have to build up to it, by practicing the skills and methods on quieter roads, developing habits, and then moving on to busier and faster roads. Having said all that, riding right up against the curb is rarely if ever the answer.

3. Simple answers like "ride in the right (left in UK) tire track" are too simplistic to be very useful. It's a very rough rule of thumb, better than riding close to the curb, but not much. See (2), then (1).

4. One of the biggest considerations to make at any given time is whether you should be trying to share or control the lane you're in. Many factors go into that decision, but at any given time it should definitely be clear to you whether you're controlling or sharing. If it's not clear to you, then it's surely not going to be clear to the motorists. Then, depending on whether you're sharing or controlling the lane, do so clearly. If you're sharing, then riding about a meter to the side of overtaking traffic (if there is insufficient room to do that, then you should not be sharing that lane). If you're controlling, then don't ride in a wishy-washy position - take clear control of the lane - out in the center of the lane - about where motorcyclists would be positioned.

5. An exception to (4) is when you're controlling, but want to move aside temporarily to be courteous and accommodating to those who want to pass. The key there is to get them to slow down and notice you before you move aside. I strongly disagree with the advice above that you want to allow them to pass you as if you're not even there.

6.. Yes, see the Crazy Motorists thread.
 
El Imbatido said:
Cant stress that enough. I have sort of a saying (motto if you want to call it that) "Don't assume motorists will take precautions, you take precautions"
+1

Another way to put that is the advice Robert Hurst gives in his book, Urban Cycling:

The urban cyclist's best chance is to gather all the responsibility that can be gathered. Hoard it from those around you. Have faith that you will do a better job with than they will, and make it so. Don't trust your fate to the police, the planners, the pedestrians, or the paramedics. Don't leave your fate to the stars, or to luck. Definitely don't leave your fate to the drivers.

Hint: if you're getting angry at the "Crazy Motorists", I suggest you're expecting too much from them, and you're not hoarding responsibility for your safety.
 
Sep 11, 2009
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I still ride as far to the right as posible. I know what your saying about staying in range of their right wheel but the way I see it is if they are paying attention they most likely wont hit me regardless of the speed they go. If they are not paying attention I hav a much greater chance of being hit the further in the road I am.
 
I found Foresters book “Effective Cycling” very helpful when I started riding. Ninety5rpm’s post is pretty much straight up, except that I would add-

that in urban areas oncoming traffic rather than over taking traffic is the larger threat, specifically at intersections. Therefore, your lane placement should always be somewhat dependent on what you want to do at the next intersection.
 
Andrichuk said:
I still ride as far to the right as posible. I know what your saying about staying in range of their right wheel but the way I see it is if they are paying attention they most likely wont hit me regardless of the speed they go. If they are not paying attention I hav a much greater chance of being hit the further in the road I am.
At any given second, and for the following few seconds, a motorist might not be paying attention. But motorists MUST pay attention, for at least a bit, every few seconds, or they will simply drive off course. So, the trick is to make sure you grab their attention during one of those inevitable "course checks", and you should have several chances to do that long before they reach you.

However, if you are riding "as far to the right as possible", you're making yourself cognitively irrelevant to them, and therefore effectively invisible , during one of those quick "course checks". So they are likely to not notice you even when they are paying attention. That's why it's so important to ride in a clearly visible and relevant lane position: so that you are able to grab their attention, long before it's too late.

But the much more likely conflicts are in front of you, not coming from behind, and there is no better way to avoid those conflicts than to improve your conspicuousness and vantage by, against, moving out into a clearly visible lane-controlling position.

To do it right and effectively, you really should have a rear view mirror, and know how to use it. :cool:
 
Major Taylor said:
I found Foresters book “Effective Cycling” very helpful when I started riding. Ninety5rpm’s post is pretty much straight up, except that I would add-

that in urban areas oncoming traffic rather than over taking traffic is the larger threat, specifically at intersections. Therefore, your lane placement should always be somewhat dependent on what you want to do at the next intersection.
Absolutely. Knowing how to safely and comfortably alternate between speed positioning (slower traffic keeps to the outside of the road) between intersections to destination positioning (choose your position based on destination) at intersections and their approaches is absolutely essential to comfortable and safe traffic cycling.
 
mark@graphicalss.co.uk said:
I feel a bit vunerable being new to all this. I have the pedals where you are actually "clipped onto" the bike and it has been my first few months using them and the new bike so I guess I am still adjusting to it all. I can get my feet out pretty quick now but if I was getting knocked off (which I am sure will happen) then obviously I am not going to have time.

In my experience, getting your feet out is usually the least of your problems when you get hit or take a spill. Pulling them out on the way down and trying to use your feet to balance/brace yourself is unlikely to achieve much unless it is really low speed. If you have time to think, you are better off spending it concentrating on minimising the damage (eg controlling the fall/slide, landing "softly", avoiding sliding into kerbs and signposts and other objects much harder than you, and trying not to bring down others). Unless you have the clips super tight, they usually pop out more or less as soon as you hit the ground. Some time after the event, you'll think to yourself "hey, when did I unclip?".
 
Apr 21, 2009
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Mirror!!!

Ninety5rpm said:
you really should have a rear view mirror, and know how to use it. :cool:

Definitely use a mirror. While I disagree with 95rpm on what should happen to motorists who hurt/kill cyclists, his thoughts on defensive riding are spot on. Where to position yourself depends on the conditions and there's no "always right" answer. Be careful out there and be proactive!!! If you can pick a safer route, do so. I changed my commuting route to a longer but safer one and I enjoy the ride a lot more. If you can't modify the route, do everthing you can to maximize your chances and be alert. Lots of good ideas on the Crazy Motorists thread, like everybody else said.
 
Jul 22, 2009
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I always use a mirror outside of the city; in urban areas I alaways assume there is traffic behind me and keep my attention focused on the possible hazards ahead. I use a 3rd eye eyeglass mirror and I leave it behind at home if I am just going into the downtown core- it creates a blind spot right where oncoming traffic might be waiting to turn in front of me.

Ride without fear- getting hit is more likely to cause damage perhaps minor injury.

You are safer if you can ride with speed nearer that of the traffic- you remain in sight of the driver longer and the speed difference smaller; when you have too much traffic flying by you are more likely to get clipped by someone unaware of your prescence or how far over their car is- it is also why not hugging the curb is best, it tends to cause drivers to slow down as they have to go around you ( they are watching that the side of their car doesn't smash into the car beside them ) the drivers following become more aware there is a reason to slow down and move over.

Watch for clues as to what a diver might do, a car will then to go out of line if the driver intends to pull over and turn/ stop in front of you.

Watch for unexplained breaks in traffic ahead- there will come a time when you'll be passing a few cars- that's when you have to extra extra careful because there might be someone trying to dart across in front of you. A traffic jam is most hazardous in my experience.

Don't tempt fate- if you are passed by a truck or other large vehicle- don't go in front of him again at the next light - and don't sit beside any large vehicle either- because when they turn the side can knock you off and then the rear wheels can run over you.