Riding a bike in London is like being in the jungle, there are certain rules you should follow if you want to get out alive and unscathed! I have been cycling around London for a while now and consider myself a fairly competent cyclist having been down the Death Road in Bolivia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yungas_Road) and the Scar Road in Nepal (http://indicatorloops.com/scar/scar.htm).
However I have still managed to get into some close shaves in the capital which have, on post reflection been quite amusing, like slamming into the back of a taxi, narrowly missing head butting a few opening doors, sliding off a bike when rounding a corner in thick ice and generally slipping all over the place on slick tyres in the wet!
London is a great place to live and can be an ideal place to cycle don’t just stick to your work commute though there are plenty of longer routes and trails worth a look too, which will take you away from the stop start of traffic lights in the city.
30 London Cycle Routes with GPS from London Cyclist is a valuable resource when planning a cycling trip in and around London and has lots of routes for the weekends.
If you can follow most of the below rules when cycling in and around London you have a much better chance of getting where you are going without any serious injuries!
Don’t jump red lights
You might be able to see that the road is clear but a car might not see you until too late, also if you get caught jumping red lights you can get a £60 fine from the police. I’ve seen it happen to people on a couple of occasions.
Keep to the left
Where possible and advisable keep to the left of the road at all times to avoid getting pinned in by cars. Also this will make stopping at lights a lot easier as you will be closer to the curb.
Signal when turning
Use your arms to signal where you are going, basically make sure that traffic behind you knows what you are going to do before you do it. This goes for other cyclists too!
Don’t stop in front of other cyclists
When you reach the lights and make your way to the designated cycle area try not to trap other cyclists in as it’s really annoying also quite dangerous. They will have to wait for you to leave before they can by. The same can be said for stopping in front of lights because then you won’t know when the lights have changed.
Don’t cut other cyclists up
Watch out for other cyclists don’t cut people up as it’s really annoying and just leads to people making risky procedures to get past you.
Don’t go too slow
Cycling too slow can be hazardous for yourself and others as cars and other cyclists will be keen to pass you and will often drive or ride dangerously to get by. Make sure your speed is consistent and steady and that you are keeping good distance from other vehicles and cyclists.
Don’t go too fast
Cycling too fast can be dangerous as road surfaces are pretty poor in most parts of London and you will have to swerve and dodge pot holes which may mean swaying into traffic that you don’t realise is there until too late
Use the cycle areas at junctions
They have pictures of bicycles on them which means they are there for you make sure you use them to left other traffic know there is a cyclist on the road!
Wear the right gear
If you are worried about safety on the road make sure you are wearing the right gear including the right kind of clothes and shoes as well as high vis for night times.
Wear a helmet
Although helmets are annoying and cumbersome they do save lives so make sure you wear a helmet at all times and make sure that it fits properly the last thing you want is it swinging down over your face!
Don’t fight with buses
Bus are bigger chances are they will win don’t even bother, just make sure they can see you.
Watch out for mopeds
Mopeds and bikes are a bit of a liability at times make sure you stay away from them as they are known to nip past bikes in tight spaces whether or not it’s clearly a bike lane.
Don’t race people just because you have gears
This a personal pet hate, when people notice I don’t have gears they always seem to race me off lights (usually I win though) don’t bother because it usually ends up in slipped gears and that horrible clicking noise and holding other people up!
Have lights at night
Use lights at night otherwise there is a high chance cars just won’t see you and pull out across or in front of you!
Stop at zebra crossings
It’s annoying when this happens when walking around London so make sure you stop for pedestrians waiting to cross, Don’t nip through when they are on the other side of the road, no-one can see round corners.
Don’t wear headphones when cycling
As absurd as this sounds a lot of people do this when cycling in London not only is it distracting but it means you won’t hear traffic noises which could indicate that something is going down like a police car flying past you!
Admittedly I don’t follow all these tips at all times but do try to stick by most of them. London is a fun place to cycle and it definitely beats paying for the tube!