Archive | advocacy

Is it ever worth arguing with drivers?

When you have been on the receiving end of bad driving, it can leave you shaken. A cyclist has nothing to protect himself with. It really does matter if a car cuts you up or pays no attention to other road users. When this happens, there is a natural inclination to want to educate the driver – e.g. passing with 10cm to spare is actually very dangerous and could lead to a bad accident.


Is it worth it?


The problem is that the worse people’s behaviour is – the more unreasonably they are likely to be. The worse their driving – the more they are likely to irrationally blame it on someone else.

If someone cuts you up or passes far too close, only in about 10% of cases would they actually feel at fault and be willing to apologise. It does happen, but I’ve had people drive very badly and a red mist descends. It is always someone else’s fault! This is the human mind. Continue Reading →


Tips for defensive cycling

Cycling on British roads can feel like a battle between David and Goliath; in an accident between an SUV and a bike, there is only going to be one loser. There is always going to bad driving on the roads, but the only thing we can control is how we cycle and react to situations. Defensive cycling is just a term to describe the different things we can do to give ourself the best chance of cycling safely. Yes, it would be great if we all had Netherlands style cycle infrastructure. But, until cycling nirvana arrives, we have to make the best of the current situation. Some of this advice is nothing more than common sense, but hopefully will give people more confidence to cycle.

Tips for defensive cycling


  1. Look and signal before moving. Cyclists are not always great at looking over their shoulder and giving an indication where they are going. Develop the confidence to look over your shoulder; this is important for manoeuvres such as moving into an outside lane to turn right.
  2. Take a good position in the road. Don’t always hug the curb. You are more visible if you ride a 1 metre from edge of road. In the diagram below, it shows how a car can better see the bike cycling further out in the road.
    When I stop at traffic lights, if possible I move to the centre of the lane so the car has to be behind me, rather than allowing the car to squeeze past. cyclists-stay-back
  3. Be very wary of riding on the inside of large vehicles. This is a potentially very dangerous move. Many fatalities occur because cyclists get caught in a driver’s blind spot when the lorry turns left. I know those stickers ‘Cyclists stay back’ are annoying, but you have to be wary of this danger.
    Continue Reading →

Cycling and negativity

Last week, I was complaining about motorists who would pass too close. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other reasons to complain when you get on to British roads. This is a shame because cycling should be an enjoyable activity – get on two wheels and pedal happily off into the sunset. But, it seems the world of a cyclist is squashed between the impatience of taxi drivers and complaints about the dangers of the road. If you’re not careful, you can get sucked into a ‘political world of cycling’ that is negative and endless arguments of who is right and wrong.


The internet has not particularly helped. There is something about the nature of the internet which encourages outrage, strong opinions, a tribal mentality of ‘us and ‘them. These issues of sharing the road were always around, but the internet gives it greater currency and force – feeding antagonism in a way that I’m not sure existed when you had to send a letter by pigeon post or go down to the local post office to send a telegram.


By the time you had Morse Coded your feelings, most of your anger had long since dissipated anyway. A more modern telegram service like Twitter lacks this natural delay of several weeks as you wait for the boat from India to come into dock.

What did minor-celebrities do before having twitter spats and outraging some or another constituents of the easily outraged? I’m sure if you read the Cycling Weekly letters from the 1950s, you would find letters of complaint. But, at least in the 1950s you could read a newspaper, without, on every article, getting sucked into reading comments from 335 outraged internet trolls, who don’t have anything better to do, but get disgusted with cyclists / motorists / pigeons / and the latest reality TV show on Channel 5.


Of course, it may just be we are just looking through tinted rays of ‘The golden age of cycling’ – this mythical utopia of cycling in the 1950s, where you could cycle 100 miles on quiet roads through British lanes to enjoy warm beer and sandwiches on the village green, with nothing more than a Bobby on his bike giving you a friendly wave.

60 years later and this mythical golden age of cycling utopia has been replaced by pitched battles between Uber fuelled tax drivers who equate cyclists to ISIS and the relentless finger pointing about who is the absolutely the worst person on the roads. The only thing we agree on is that it is always someone else’s fault!

Yet, all is not lost. If you go cycling on British roads, it is not as traumatic as you might believe from the comment sections of the Daily Mail. It is still possible to really enjoy cycling – whether it’s cycling up Hardknott Pass or even, dare I say it commuting into the centre of London. Continue Reading →


How safe is cycling? – stats on cycle casualties

November was a bad month for cycle casualties, with several tragic accidents reported in the press.

These are some statistics produced by the Department of Transport for road traffic accidents, which helps give a perspective on the dangers of cycling on British roads. (Source: Sept 2013 D o T)

Fatal Accidents

Fatal accidents have been falling in the past few decades. In 2012, 118 cyclists were killed. This was higher than in 2011 when fatalities fell to 107. However, it is significantly lower than early 1980s, when it reached a peak of 350. This compares to:

  • 420 pedestrian fatalities
  • 328 motorcycle fatalities
  • 801 car occupant fatalities.


Fatalities and serious accidents

If we include all serious accidents in addition to fatalities, there has been a stronger upward trend since 2003.


Cycle accidents per miles cycled

If we look at cycle casualties per billion miles cycled, the situation looks less promising. There was a significant improvement in cycle rates in the 1980s. But, the increase in cycle rates since late 1990s appears not to have caused the hoped for ‘safety in numbers’ we might expect. This shows that cycle casualties per bn miles cycled is increasing in the past decade.



Relative risk of different forms of transport – Cycling vs Car vs Pedestrian vs Motorbike

These statistics show casualties per billion km travelled. They produce a slightly skewed figure in that car drivers will clock up many miles on motorways, which tend to have much lower accident rates per miles travelled, compared to rural and urban areas. Nevertheless, it still shows how much safer car journeys are compared to cycling or walking. Which is to be expected. In a car you are protected by crumple zones and a block of steel. Walking and cycling, you are not.

Casualties compared


Fatalities by mode of transport

Using fatalities, pedestrians have a slightly worse risk than cyclists. Continue Reading →


The universal appeal of cycling

I remember vaguely a few months ago, something about a local politician from  Birmingham (1) who said that cycling was the preserve of young adult men and therefore we shouldn’t spend money on cycling infrastructure because it only benefits a small percentage of the population. At the time I was too busy racing, but I made a mental note to write something about this later.

one-man-foot-squeezing-carIt can be hard work cycling on British roads

I’m probably three months late to state the obvious, but if the roads of a city are sparsely populated with cyclists – and predominantly middle age men – then it’s a very good sign that the opposite case needs to be made – It is a very good sign that a complete rethink is needed to encourage the broad section of society back into cycling.

You only get a skewed demographic of cycling – if the roads are perceived as too dangerous – making cycling appeal only to those who have different tolerations or risk, danger and dealing with intimidating situations.

The thing with cycling is that it is universal and democratic form of transport. It is cheap, accessible and at some point in time, most people have experienced some joy from learning to ride a bike. It is a shame, when this ceases to be the case.

In the US, this report states that the typical cyclists is a 39-year-old male professional with a household income in excess of $45,000 per year who rides 10.6 months per year.

  • In Europe, statistics for rates of female cycling as a % of cycling population are 45% Denmark, 55% in Netherlands, and 49% Germany, in the US  it is 25%.

Age differences

Another big difference is the age profile of people cycling:

Age profile cyclingSource: Cycling for Everyone at

In the US for people over 40, only 0.4% of trips are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands this rises to 23-24%


The only question is why do people stop cycling?

Statistically, you can make a good case cycling is still relatively safe. But if you have to fight traffic and heavy goods lorries, no amount of statistics can change the real perception that it’s a tough job cycling on many cities. Too many near misses, too much stress. Perhaps some people don’t want to cycle because of the way they drive.


watch out!

A very simple comparison is to look at countries which have built suitable cycling infrastructure – Germany, Holland, Denmark. In these countries, the demographic of cycling is spread across all ages and gender. Cycling is seen as safe; when there are good cycle paths, cycling is an extension of a pedestrian mode of transport. Pedestrians simply going a little bit faster. Continue Reading →


Rules and laws of cycling

Some notes on the rules and laws of cycling. Though, whatever rules are – there’s a lot to be said for using common sense to stay safe and respectful of other users.

Difference between legal requirements and advisory notes

The Highway code reflects some legal requirements.

At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights [Law RVLR regs 13, 18 & 24)] This is a law.

The Highway code also offers ‘advisory notices’ on how you should behave.

 You should keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear.

The difference is that there is no legal requirement to keep both hands on handlebars – so it is OK to drink a bidon and eat a banana without risk of prosecution… It could be considered ‘best practise’ to keep hands on handlebars.

Generally, rules and laws are there to promote a more harmonious and safer experience on the road. When people ignore road traffic laws it can be both frustrating and dangerous. But, whilst it’s important to be aware of all the legal issues around cycling – you can’t beat plain common sense. If you cycle blindly through a red traffic light whilst under the influence of drink, you shouldn’t need a law to tell you it’s a dangerous thing.

Also, the next time someone beeps at you for cycling two abreast or 1 metre from edge of road, it is quite a comfort to know that what you are doing is perfectly legal and within your rights, even advised by the department of transport.

Common Questions on Cycling and the Law


Is it legal to cycle on pavement?

No, it is illegal to cycle on pavement (footpath by side of road) unless, it is marked as shared use cycle path [Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129]. Cycling on pavements can lead to a fixed penalty notice of £30.

Can children cycle on pavements?

No. However, children under 16 are unlikely to be issued with fixed penalty notice. In theory, police and community support officers are supposed to use considerable discretion in dealing with people who cycle on the pavement. This is to reflect the difference between a young children seeking a safe passage on the pavement and others who might be cycling at high speed putting pedestrians at discomfort. See more at: Cycling on pavements

Can you cycle on Bridleways and Footpaths away from the road?

The law specifically relates to footways by the side of a highway. In theory, if you are on a footpath away from a road, it is legal to cycle – unless there is sign saying otherwise.

Can you cycle across a Pelican Crossings?

No. The highway code states ‘Do not ride across a pelican, puffin or zebra crossing. Dismount and wheel your cycle across.’ However, you can cycle across a ‘toucan crossing’ A toucan crossing is  a wider version of pelican crossings. It will have an extra light to indicate a green cyclist.

To confuse matters, some pelican crossings have an extra green light for cyclist. A green cyclist light gives the indication it would be OK to cross on the bike.

Can you cycle on Dual Carriageways?

  • Yes, unless there is a specific sign saying cyclists prohibited.
  • Motorways are prohibited to cyclists.

A no cycling sign, might appear on some three lane dual carriageways.

Can you cycle in Bus Lanes?


Yes. Most bus lanes are open to cyclists unless indicated otherwise by signs.

Can a Cyclist cycle in the middle of a lane?


watch for car doors opening.

There is no law stating where on the road a cyclist must be. There are different guidelines offered. One guideline is to cycle ‘well clear of kerb. 1 metre on in centre of the left lane (best position on road for cyclists) and (Direct Gov link) However, this would also mean ignoring small bicycle lanes.

Continue Reading →


Tour de France legacy

Everyone seems to agree that the Tour de France in Yorkshire  / England was an unprecedented success. But, will it be a one hit wonder or will the legacy of the tour help boost the long term profile of cycling in the UK?

As the tour swept through Britain, you could see potential seeds of a real cycling legacy which could offer many benefits to the nation. And these could be real benefits like improved health, reduced pollution, greater community spirit – benefits which definitely surpass just an understanding of what an echelon is, or what the yellow jumper means.

Some potential benefits of Tour de France legacy include:

Closed roads are liberating


This is Silsden town centre. I’ve never seen so many people having so much fun in the middle of the road.

Usually we’re in a rush to get somewhere and the car is king. Because we’re in a rush we end up sitting in nice long traffic jams getting frustrated. The Tour de France was an opportunity to reclaim the streets, bringing whole communities together. People were having a great time. I’ve never seen so many happy people, not bad to say the action lasted only 30 seconds. In an age of digital communities and instant messaging, it is a relief to remind ourselves that nothing can beat going out into the world and meeting real people. I even broke a habit of lifetime and started talking to strangers by the roadside. The millions by the roadside show that it wasn’t just the attraction of seeing some lycra fleeting by – we actually love an excuse to be part of something big.


The Tour was a good example of how there is life after the motorcar and busy streets. It was definitely helped by good weather and having the Tour de France come through, but it shows there’s a lot to be said for creating towns where people can walk, cycle and chat and not just wait for articulated lorries to fly past and the pelican lights to change. Sundays would make a great time to have more road closures. Life doesn’t end if you can’t drive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Continue Reading →


Why cycle in the middle of the road?

I recently heard  a cycle campaigner who suggested that one of the best tips for cycling position on the road is to always cycle one metre from the edge. Interestingly, the Dept of Transport have also given out advice to cyclists that it is advisable to cycle 1 metre from the edge (Direct Gov link).

The problems is that although this is good advice, motorists can get very impatient when they see a cyclist in ‘middle of the road’.



One metre from edge is just over 3 feet and much further out in the road than the average cyclist will generally be. In fact I remember when I was very young and starting to cycling someone told my I should cycle in line with the outside of drains (basically 1 feet). When I was looking through photos of people cycling in Oxford, it was much easier to find people cycling by double yellow lines than it was 1 metre from the edge!

Even Transport for London advise taking the lane in certain circumstances.

Stay central on narrow roads. Try to ride away from the gutter. If the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it might be safer to ride towards the middle of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking by other vehicles.


Don’t feel obliged to ride in the gutter.

For many years I thought that is where I should be. But, I don’t advise this position.

Benefits of Cycling 1 Metre from Edge

If you are 1m from edge, you are more visible to cars turning right. This avoids the “Sorry, I didn’t see you mate type accidents”

The car doesn't see the bike hugging the curb. But, he does see Bike 2 out in the middle of the road.

The car doesn’t see the bike hugging the curb. But, he does see Bike 2 out in the middle of the road.

  • You are more visible to cars turning right.
  • You are more visible to cars coming from behind
  • It is harder for cars to turn left just in front of where you are cycling. This is a big problem where cars overtake cyclists and then soon turn left, leaving you squeezed on the inside.
  • It gives you more flexibility to avoid potholes. If you are in the gutter and swerve out a foot to miss a pothole cars will sometimes beep because they are overtaking you too closely. But, with a metre you have room to move in
  • It is where motorbikes tend to position themselves.
  • It could make cars more careful in overtaking because they can’t squeeze through when traffic is passing in opposite direction. They have to wait for a genuine gap.
  • You avoid nasty accidents from cars opening their doors into your path and other obstacles in the road
  • Sometimes cars will be in a long line. The car immediately behind you might see you, but if they overtake close to you, the 2nd car in line might not

Continue Reading →


Cycling and health

Cycling offers significant health benefits from the increased aerobic fitness. Given the rise in health problems associated with physical inactivity and obesity, cycling could play a major role in improving the nations health.


Health benefits of regular physical exercise

  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely
  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure
  • Helps reduce blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of developing colon and breast cancer
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Helps control weight
  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
  • Helps older adults become stronger and
  • promotes psychological well being

However in cost-benefit analysis of transport, health issues are often ignored. Unfortunately, concerns over the safety of cycling deter many from one of the most accessible forms of exercise. The tragedy is that as people lead increasingly stationary lives this causes hidden problems such as rising levels of diabetes and heart disease.

The rise in motor transport and decline in cycling / walking


The post war period saw a sustained fall in pedestrian and cycle transport. In the post war period, transport policy was driven by the attempt to accommodate the growth of motor transport. However, combined with a decline in manual labour, this era saw a sharp fall in physical exercise and a resultant increase in health problems.

Rather belatedly, transport policy has begun to acknowledge wider issues such as health, quality of life in determining transport policy.
For example, in 1998 the Integrated Transport White Paper A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone made the acknowledgement that

“The way we travel is making us a less healthy nation.”

Cycling and Health Statistics


Perceptions about the dangers of cycling deter many from cycling. But, in perspective, mortality rates from cycling are much lower than the ‘silent killers’ , such as heart disease.

UK Deaths in 2003

  • All Cyclists – 113
  • All road users – 3,471
  • Cancer due to inactivity – 28,016
  • CHD / Stroke due to inactivity – 57,322

Source: McPherson, Klim. (2002). Coronary heart disease: estimating the impact of changes in risk factors; Klim McPherson, Annie Britton and Louise Causer. – London

Despite cycling often being perceived as a ‘dangerous’ exercise. Society is arguably ignoring the hidden dangers of sedentary lifestyles.

Net health benefits of cycling

There have been various studies which show the net health benefits of cycling.

One of the largest was the Copenhagen Center for Prospective Population Studies It involved 13,375 women and 17,265 men aged 20-93 from a population of 90,000 living in central Copenhagen. Of this group 14,976 cycled regularly.

  • The study found that even including risk factors from cycling (injury), those who did not cycle experienced a 39% higher mortality rate than those who did. (Study)

Copenhagen has a low accident rate  helped by good cycling infrastructure. But, the size of the study shows the great potential for health gains from a city which encourages cycling.

Risk factor of mortality depending on levels of fitness


Source: Risk death

Another study suggesting an inverse relationship between mortality rates and levels of fitness. Continue Reading →


Exceeding the speed limit

Recently, I was researching an article – Cycling Facts – one interesting thing I came across is how in the 1920s American pedestrians were successfully demonised for crossing the road. A strong road lobby decided it would be good to shame pedestrians who wanted nothing more than to cross the road (and therefore inconvenience motorists). A law was passed making jaywalking illegal (In the US pedestrians can only cross a road at a marked crossing – if you cross the road where you feel like it, you could end up with a fine of $200). But, this law was also  accompanied with a sophisticated campaign to make pedestrians seem outdated and ‘dangerous’. – Successfully taking blame away from the real cause of the surge in road accidents – speeding motorists.

According to the BBC

Clowns were commonly used in parades or pageants to portray jaywalkers as a throwback to rural, ignorant, pre-motor age ways.

Another ruse was to provide local newspapers with a free service. Reporters would submit a few facts about local traffic accidents to Detroit, and the auto industry’s safety committee would send back a full report on the situation in their city.

“The newspaper coverage quite suddenly changes, so that in 1923 they’re all blaming the drivers, and by late 1924 they’re all blaming jaywalking,” Norton says.

Breakdown of all trips made in the US

  • Driving: 83%
  • Walking: 10.4%
  • Other (includes cycling): 4.2%
  • Public transport: 1.9%

Source: National Household Travel Survey, 2009

Speeding drivers



Speeding drivers kill every year. In the UK, there are 2,500 deaths on the road. These are not caused by cyclists or pedestrians, but almost entirely by cars, lorries and buses.

Yet, speeding has no real social stigma. There is no outrage from British newspapers at the preventable accidents caused by speeding drivers. In fact, the only outrage you are likely to get is the fact that speeding cameras ‘caught you’ i.e. breaking the law.

Continue Reading →