Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Commuting, Day rides, Audax, Incidents, etc.
SEsycul
Posts: 6
Joined: 10 Jun 2020, 2:32pm

Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby SEsycul » 10 Jun 2020, 2:41pm

Hi there.

I'm new to this forum.

I'm getting back into road cycling and love it. I used to cycle in the Peak District and moved to London and now have a very different cycling experience of cycling in south east London. It's definitely, um, different!

I've only just got back on my bike and got it back to a good and safe condition. I've been out on two short rides.

However, I'm a bit of a nervous wreck with how vulnerable I feel. I have three young kids and a wife, and feel as though an accident is inevitable, maybe soon, maybe in years to come. I haven't done anything untoward, but even yesterday a van pulled out in front of me leaving me with just seconds to brake to a complete stop.My legs went to jelly and my heart was racing. And that's a fairly near miss just two rides in.

So I guess I'm looking for reassurance and advice - how do you tackle that anxiety of worrying about being swept off the road? Or is Britain just not safe for road cyclists? Or is London just not the place to be? (Should say, I'm in the Greenwich borough, so not exactly in the most urban areas, but still, it's not the Peaks!). I really want to commit to this and feel the benefits, but I also don't want to be a nervous wreck!

Thanks!

Jdsk
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Jdsk » 10 Jun 2020, 2:49pm

Welcome.

You're not alone.

Any chance of getting an experienced cyclist to follow you for a bit and make some comments?

Jonathan

PS: It might not help at the moment but remember that the health gains from the exercise are greater than the risk from an "accident". Just less publicised.

SEsycul
Posts: 6
Joined: 10 Jun 2020, 2:32pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby SEsycul » 10 Jun 2020, 3:00pm

Thanks Jonathan.

Yes, I'd happy try anything. What would you suggest, find local clubs/Facebook groups, and see if someone will come for a ride with me?

Cheers.

Jdsk
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Joined: 5 Mar 2019, 5:42pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Jdsk » 10 Jun 2020, 3:02pm

Exactly. All of those + ask in local bike shop... and here?

Jonathan

teamonster
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Joined: 21 Feb 2010, 9:04pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby teamonster » 10 Jun 2020, 3:20pm

If you're in London, see if your borough offers free cycle training, most do. Its not just for beginners, they will normally also do riding on roads with you to improve riding position/habits and confidence. Lessons are suspended in most places at the moment because of Covid, but will no doubt kick off again soon.

SEsycul
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Joined: 10 Jun 2020, 2:32pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby SEsycul » 10 Jun 2020, 3:26pm

Jdsk wrote:Exactly. All of those + ask in local bike shop... and here?

Jonathan


Thanks - is there a specific sub-forum to post on for local groups, or just use this thread?

If so, if anyone's around the Greenwich/Welling area - please do shout!

teamonster wrote:If you're in London, see if your borough offers free cycle training, most do. Its not just for beginners, they will normally also do riding on roads with you to improve riding position/habits and confidence. Lessons are suspended in most places at the moment because of Covid, but will no doubt kick off again soon.


Thanks. As in the boroughs' councils offer free cycle training? Never knew that! And will check it out, thanks.

Vorpal
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Vorpal » 10 Jun 2020, 3:34pm

Normally, I would recommend Bikeability lessons. I don't think many of those are available currently, so I will instead recommend, Cyclecraft, the book Bikeability is based on.

It isn't perfect, in that it is biased towards cycling on the road, using vehicular cycling methods, however, it does have very good advice about how to do so as safely as possible.

That sort of incident happens to everyone, sometimes. It is good that you were aware, and able to brake in time. Awareness is one of the best tools to help prevent crashes. Cycling is a basically safe activity, but we are, of course, vulnerable out there.

Junctions in general are the riskiest areas for cyclists. I recommend 'taking the lane', that is, riding in the middle of the lane, or at least well away form the kerb. That makes us more visible to drivers, and puts us where they look for other vehicles. Slowing down and covering the brakes will reduce the reaction time, and make emergency type braking less likely. Lastly, I basically assume that every driver is careless and clueless. They aren't, of course, but if I assume so, when I do encounter people doing stupid crap, it's less likely to be me that comes to harm as a result.

Finally, even if someone else is wholly the cause of a near miss, I try to learn from it to prevent future incidents. I think about if I could have done something differently to be aware of the risk earlier, make myself more easily seen, etc.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Jdsk
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Jdsk » 10 Jun 2020, 3:37pm

Vorpal wrote:I recommend 'taking the lane', that is, riding in the middle of the lane, or at least well away form the kerb. That makes us more visible to drivers, and puts us where they look for other vehicles. Slowing down and covering the brakes will reduce the reaction time, and make emergency type braking less likely. Lastly, I basically assume that every driver is careless and clueless. They aren't, of course, but if I assume so, when I do encounter people doing stupid crap, it's less likely to be me that comes to harm as a result.

Agreed x3.

Jonathan

teamonster
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby teamonster » 10 Jun 2020, 4:07pm

Vorpal wrote:Normally, I would recommend Bikeability lessons. I don't think many of those are available currently, so I will instead recommend, Cyclecraft, .


I think the adult 1-1 Bikeability lessons will kick off again soon, they are already happening in Tower Hamlets and Hounslow I think. Totally agree on the use of the primary position (aka "taking the lane") when appropriate, you control the traffic behind then. In many cases it also improves your visibility, both to see and be seen especially at junctions.

teamonster
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby teamonster » 10 Jun 2020, 4:14pm

SEsycul wrote:
Jdsk wrote:Exactly. All of those + ask in local bike shop... and here?

Jonathan


Thanks - is there a specific sub-forum to post on for local groups, or just use this thread?

If so, if anyone's around the Greenwich/Welling area - please do shout!

teamonster wrote:If you're in London, see if your borough offers free cycle training, most do. Its not just for beginners, they will normally also do riding on roads with you to improve riding position/habits and confidence. Lessons are suspended in most places at the moment because of Covid, but will no doubt kick off again soon.


Thanks. As in the boroughs' councils offer free cycle training? Never knew that! And will check it out, thanks.


Yep funded by TFL (well by our taxes really !) just check the council website

SEsycul
Posts: 6
Joined: 10 Jun 2020, 2:32pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby SEsycul » 10 Jun 2020, 4:21pm

Vorpal wrote:Junctions in general are the riskiest areas for cyclists. I recommend 'taking the lane', that is, riding in the middle of the lane, or at least well away form the kerb. That makes us more visible to drivers, and puts us where they look for other vehicles. Slowing down and covering the brakes will reduce the reaction time, and make emergency type braking less likely. Lastly, I basically assume that every driver is careless and clueless. They aren't, of course, but if I assume so, when I do encounter people doing stupid crap, it's less likely to be me that comes to harm as a result.


That's very helpful, thank you. So far, my instinct has definitely been more defensive and hovering over the brakes and expecting not to be seen, so glad that's the case.

Also, what's the best advice for going past parked cars and avoiding being hit by an opening door? THat's another fear which has added to the stress of it!

Jdsk
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Joined: 5 Mar 2019, 5:42pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Jdsk » 10 Jun 2020, 4:29pm

SEsycul wrote:Also, what's the best advice for going past parked cars and avoiding being hit by an opening door? THat's another fear which has added to the stress of it!

Again you're not alone.

You can look for clues like what drivers and passengers are doing, lights being turned on and off, the front wheels turning, exhaust emissions...

But you're still left with the choice of leaving a full door's clearance, or may be a bit more for some bodily protuberance (and there's lots of advice to do that), and feeling that you're being pushed very high (right in the UK). In lanes that choice is similar to the general advice of taking the lane. But there's also the situation without lanes when there are vehicles coming the other way, or perhaps are about to...

Jonathan

PS: The Dutch Reach. Please consider passing it on.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dooring#Dutch_Reach

Marcus Aurelius
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Marcus Aurelius » 10 Jun 2020, 4:43pm

The sort of urban riding ( especially in London ) you’re describing is quite unlike anything else you’ll likely experience. The key is to be assertive, and concentrate. Don’t worry too much about most of the motorists you’ll encounter, they no more want to hit you, than you want to be hit. The exception is Black Cabs, they have the turning circle of a house fly, tend to stop suddenly ( reacting to being hailed normally ) and are pretty unpredictable at the best of times ( in my experience). Regarding avoiding being doored, look at the inside of the car, if it’s unoccupied, you’re not going to get doored, if you see anyone in the car, assume they haven’t seen you, and give them a wide berth. There will be a click, before a door swings open, if you hear the click, assume the door is going to be flung open, without looking. You need to keep all your wits about you, and listening is as important as looking ( which is why I despair of cyclist with headphones in / on ). Be assertive with your movements, don’t just drift about, use your hands to indicate, and try to make eye contact with the drivers of any vehicles with which you are likely to come into possible conflict positions. You can often tell what a motorist is going to do by listening to what the car is doing. Don’t be bullied, keep out of the gutter, keep your eyes peeled, listen, and you’ll be fine.

Vorpal
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Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby Vorpal » 10 Jun 2020, 4:54pm

SEsycul wrote:
Vorpal wrote:Junctions in general are the riskiest areas for cyclists. I recommend 'taking the lane', that is, riding in the middle of the lane, or at least well away form the kerb. That makes us more visible to drivers, and puts us where they look for other vehicles. Slowing down and covering the brakes will reduce the reaction time, and make emergency type braking less likely. Lastly, I basically assume that every driver is careless and clueless. They aren't, of course, but if I assume so, when I do encounter people doing stupid crap, it's less likely to be me that comes to harm as a result.


That's very helpful, thank you. So far, my instinct has definitely been more defensive and hovering over the brakes and expecting not to be seen, so glad that's the case.

Also, what's the best advice for going past parked cars and avoiding being hit by an opening door? THat's another fear which has added to the stress of it!

When I taught Bikeability in schools, I told the kids, 'the width of a door and a little bit more', meaning ride far enough out, that if a door opens, it won't hit you. But part of that is moving out in plenty of time. If the road is very narrow, and there is oncoming traffic, pull up and wait where you can be seen. If there is a van, truck, or lorry, stay far enough from it, that others can see still see you, whether it is parked or moving. If the narrowed part of the street is long, stay in a prominent position and force the drivers of motor vehicles to slow right down and wait for you. Then, either pull in when you can, or let them past when it safe to do so. If there are cars parked on both sides, and only a single vehicle width available, that probably means riding right down the middle.

I wouldn't rely on being able to see someone in a vehicle. You can't see through all vehicles, especially business vehicles and small vans. Furthermore, chidren can open doors, even when they are too small be be obvious. If you just ride well away from the cars, there's no worry about the doors.

If you can, use other motor vehicles to sort of shield you going through roads narrowed by parked cars or pinch points, but again, stay where you are still visible, as much as possible.

Basically, it should be handled on a bike, as if you were driving a car, but keeping in mind that many drivers think of bicycles as taking up almost no space (and will try to pass/overtake when there isn't really enough space). The book I recommended above http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/book.html has considerably more detail and some diagrams, explaining it.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

SEsycul
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Joined: 10 Jun 2020, 2:32pm

Re: Beginner - losing confidence in safety

Postby SEsycul » 10 Jun 2020, 5:02pm

Thanks so much everyone - this is far more than I expected and really helpful.

I should say that I'm not exactly cycling in central London - and nor do I intend to! I'm in one of the more "leafy" boroughs (but still obviously encounter a fair bit of traffic).

The avoiding getting doored tips all make sense and I'll keep them in mind as I plan to go out tomorrow.

One more question - I've seen using your lights in the daytime as something that helps - is that right? And what about bells to warn pedestrians etc? Is that advised?

Will take a look at the book too - thanks.