London bike maker James Kennedy shares words of wisdom for keeping safe on two wheels in the urban jungle.
It sounds cheesy, but the thing that will keep you most safe out on the roads is a clear, confident head. However, since they don't sell this in a tin, here's some advice on how to stay safe out there, which will eventually lead to that clarity and confidence.
First and foremost, safe cycling is all about being deliberate. You are not operating in pitch black. The city streets are well lit 24 hours a day and you're not as inconspicuous as you might think. Act with purpose and other road users will see you a mile off. Humans are good at seeing each other coming, as long as you are predictable then you are safe. Assertive cyclists are unlikely to let themselves be put in dangerous positions.
Make eye contact
It worked at the school disco and it works on your bike. It sounds weird, but eye contact is a deceptively powerful tool out on the road. Humans are amazing at spotting when someone else is looking at them. If you're not sure if the pedestrian is going to step out, look at them, if you can't work out if that car has seen you, stare in to his eyes. Some of them may think you’re a bit intense, but I assure you, they will notice you.
Remember, people are idiots
It is said that a person is an astonishingly intelligent, capable thing, while people, on the other hand, are idiots. This applies when out on the roads. The safest thing to do is simply to assume that everyone on the road is a complete moron. Imagine the stupidest thing they could do, then assume that will probably be the case and account for it. Then be pleasantly surprised if they don't.
I mean this in terms of being secure in your own decisions, rather than securely fastened to your bicycle. Drivers beep at one another for unjustifiable reasons all the time and they are even more likely to do so towards you as a cyclist. Don’t assume that every time another road user gets annoyed with you you’ve done something wrong. Be happy with your own decisions and run your own race. The most important thing is to get where you’re going safely. If someone wants you to go faster or to take up less of their lane, frankly that’s just not your problem, nor should you let it be.
Pedestrians will step out in front of you, cars will be inconsiderate, buses will try and boss everyone around, and occasionally a fold-up bike will overtake you. Drivers will beep their horns, van drivers will yell terrible jokes and boy racers will over-rev their big plastic toys. These unfortunately are just facts of life. Don't let them wind you up, and focus on enjoying the majesty of riding a bike through the city streets. A relaxed and clear headed cyclist is a good cyclist.