Monday 26 July 2010

My cycle training session

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.


  1. I've been following your blog for some time now but have never commented.
    To me you have always seemed quite a serious roadie, especially given your racing performance.

    In my limited experience, serious roadies often behave in a manner that suggests they feel themselves to be above other cyclists. This observation is based on my personal experiences in and around Plymouth, where serious roadies more often than not would not even return my greeting.

    However, for somebody who is well above me in terms of cycling skills to go and receive the training you refer to in your post takes guts, and I seriously respect your decision.

    I suspect most cyclists (myself included) would be more inclined to feel that we are above needing any Bikeability training. Of course we'd be deluding ourselves.

    You've set quite an example to follow - well done!

  2. And I've just signed up for a Bikeability level 3 session myself, thanks to prompting from this blog and the Croydon Cyclist (

    Just hoping I pass ...

  3. Why should you not signal in a left hand only lane? Pedestrians and other road users at the juction you're approaching may not know it's a left hand only lane. Or have I misunderstood?

  4. William - thanks very much for the comment. I hope I am friendly to all cyclists. 'Roadies' are often making journeys that would not otherwise be made; whereas utility cyclists are often making journeys that would otherwise be made using a less sustainable form of transport.

    Tim - I am glad to have prompted you; I think everybody can gain something from training.

    Sven - at times I felt like arguing the point with my instructor but this would probably have wasted a large part of my lesson. I did suggest that for the avoidance of doubt an indication could do no harm but the answer was 'why take a hand off the handlebars (and covering the brake remember) for no good purpose'. As someone who occasionally (though not in traffic) takes both hands off the handlebars for no good purpose, I was a bit sceptical but can see his point. It is perhaps worth adding that I could not have done anything other than turn left without first changing lane due to a physical barrier.

  5. I was curious about the not signalling a left turn from the left lane, so I consulted the source (Cyclecraft) and found the answer is:

    "... alas, signalling can impair rather than enhance your safety. For example, due to the behaviour of a significant minority of divers, signalling a left turn is not always as desirable for a cyclist as it should be. Some drivers, themselves turning left, take any indication that a cyclist ahead of themis doing likewise as an invitation to overtake at the junction. In so doing it is common for them to cut across the cyclist's path in an unsafe manner".

    So there we having it, there is a good reason for recommending it and there is always something more to learn.

  6. I'm going to have to disagree. The argument that you may encourage a driver to turn left in front of you is pretty weak. In an urban situation there simply won't be the room or the time for even the most dull-witted driver to try it. You're occupying the centre of the lane, and only sticking your arm out for the 6-7 seconds. Ther's simply no justification for transferring the risk from yourself to the pedestrian.
    Using a shared road space is all about communication, whether it's looking and listening or conveying your intentions to other road users. Don't overthink it, just stick your arm out.

  7. This morning on my way to a club run, I indicated left to turn into a side road. An oncoming car turning right into the same road took that as a cue to turn into the same roadspace I was heading for, forcing me to the very edge of the road. Perhaps it is worth thinking about to whom you need to communicate your intentions (nearby pedestrians certainly) and from whom (sad reflection on some motorists) it is best to conceal them.

  8. Hi Steve
    I'm also a cycle trainer and I frowned a bit when reading your blog. Turning right into a side road - where you wait depends how wide the road you are turning from is! Sometimes you may stop the traffic, sometimes not. No hard and fast rules. Also the 1.5 metres out. This seems too rigid to me. You need to be either in the stream of traffic or next to it, -road position has little to do with the kerb! So sometimes you will be in the middle of the lane and other times, when it's a wide road you may be next to the traffic, but still visible to drivers. Also the left turn in, Cyclecraft definitely suggests coming out a bit before you turn, to discourage following left turning drivers from overtaking you as you turn.

  9. I can understand the need to ensure that a trainee's bike is safe to ride, but not too happy with the idea of someone else dictating your brake lever position. Within reason, you're safest when the controls are where you expect them to be. Not too long ago a major online retailer (yes, that one) refused to supply me with a bike I wanted 'for safety reasons' because I asked for the brakes to be set up continental fashion (i.e. front brake on the left lever). I have had this on all of my bikes since the early 1980's, so I'm used to it and it's definitely the safest way for me. It was common practice amongst club riders in the days of down-tube shifters and non-indexed gears, because it keeps the front brake available whilst changing gear with the right hand. Those days are gone of course, but I still think it's the safer way to do it, because your left hand is still on the front brake when you're positioning and indicating to turn right.