I have mentioned before on these pages that I was planning to have a session of cycle training and the particular concern, that I voiced when I booked, was over the aggression I was attracting from some motorists.
I met my instructor, Colin, at the Imperial War Museum and it was immediately apparent (and I do not blame cycle training organisations for this) that there were hoops to be gone through before we could take to the roads to deal with bikeability level 2 and 3. First the bike check which resulted in a rotating downwards of my brake levers to make it easier to cover the brakes the whole time (I commute on a flat bar bike). Then on an unused tennis court I demonstrated the ability to look behind without falling off and to do an emergency stop.
Finally on the roads Colin followed behind and had the following suggestions:
- Cover the brakes the whole time. I think this makes sense in heavy traffic and I do it instinctively if I am unsure about surrounding traffic. Novel idea for me to do it all the time.
- Road positioning. Was essentially good though I unconsciously come out before turning left (an HGV turn). I suppose I am trying to widen the turn and will think in future about slowing more and maintaining my position in the road until I can see into the left road before making the turn. Also left and right turns into a major road from a side road are made from the same position in the centre of the lane. This was news to me I have been taking the centre of the road before turning right and letting left turning traffic past to my left but this is apparently frowned upon.
-Signalling. I should not have signaled when in a left hand only lane. Apparently signalling with thumb at the top of the hand rather than at the bottom appears more assertive and is therefore recommended.
-Speed. My speed was appropriate, but when slowing when I had priority over a vehicle just in case he pulled out, it is better to carry on soft pedaling otherwise some motorists might think I was stopping.
-Right turn into minor road. My instructor would have liked me to take position in the centre of the road even earlier than I did (which I felt was quite a long way in advance of the junction).
It was not possible in Southwark to replicate my dual carriageway riding but we discussed it at length at the end of the two hour lesson. Colin at least affirmed that my road positioning was appropriate and his suggestion was 1.2 metres out from the kerb. I am generally in that region (the lanes are 3 metres wide). There was some discussion about slowing and letting traffic past but I think we agreed this was not a practical solution. The advice I got was that I am attracting hostility from bad motorists, not good ones, and I was firmly encouraged to report abusive behavior to the police. I have, of course, tried that and got nowhere (I will keep you posted on the correspondence I intend to have soon with the unsuspecting Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Chief Constable of Surrey on that topic.)
Overall, a useful session with some interesting observations and some reaffirmation that the hostility I am encountering is not due to inappropriate riding on my part. I left with a piece of paper confirming that I have achieved bikeability level 3.