Archive | commuting

Overtaking cyclists

Motorists often give too little space when overtaking cyclists. It is potentially dangerous and an unpleasant experience. Often is just a combination of impatience and unawareness. But, once you have been a cyclist yourself, you would always approach overtaking a cyclist in a different manner.

Car overtaking on Oxford High Street very close



Big buses. Very often cars/ buses pass so close that if you put your arm out and signal right you will hit the vehicle. lorry-overtake

Beware of lorries turning rightcyclists-buses-pass-with-care

Cyclists – Pass with Care! – Buses overtake with Care!


‘Narrow Lane Do Not Overtake Cyclists’

How much room should you give a cyclist?

The Highway code states:

“give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)”

Highway code

“As much room as a car” leaves some discretion, but, I would have thought three feet would be a good minimum. My grandma used to think the law was enough space for cyclist to fall off, without hitting the overtaking car. The highway code doesn’t quite say that but it seems a good rule of thumb.

Also the Highway code states:

“Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.”

This is an interesting one, as sometimes, if you deviate less than one foot from your line an overtaking car will beep aggressively. True, you should be looking over your shoulder, but, if a small deviation from line causes consternation, it is probably because the car is passing too closely.

Urban roads and Rural Roads

It is common for cars to pass closely on urban roads, but at least speeds are lower, and often cars are more ready to slowdown. It is a bigger problem on fast rural roads where cars can be doing 50-60mph + and motorists don’t have the mentality to be ready to slow down. 50mph speed limits can become like minimum targets. If a motorist comes across a cyclist, they are loathe to slow down so just keep on ploughing on.

Speed of overtaking

There is a big difference between a car overtaking close at 20mph and a car overtaking close at 50mph. There is also a big difference when a lorry overtakes you and it is so close the drag pushes you around.


SPACE from carltonreid on Vimeo.

3 Feet Rule


A car giving plenty of room to a young kid on Cowley Road (look how close the child is hugging the kerb). I wonder if the cyclists was wearing lycra, helmet and fluroescent coat, the car would have given less room?


Some countries have toyed with the idea of passing a law that motorists should leave 3 feet when overtaking. If this was the case, 80% of drivers would break the law everyday.

Doesn’t giving Cyclists Room mean an increase in congestion / time wasted?


I’ve lost count of the number of times a motorist has impatiently overtaken – squeezed through a gap which wasn’t there and then had to slam on the brakes because he’s approaching a traffic jam. There is a certain karma to then be able to undertake them whilst they are stationary in a traffic jam. But, you would think, people would look ahead. Squeezing through gaps which aren’t there rarely get you any quicker anyway.

Generally, cars should give more space, but all rules need some discretion. As a motorist I find it quite easy to give space to cyclists because I always think empathise with the cyclist that I am overtaking. I would give the cyclist as much space as I would want myself.

I really don’t understand why cyclists get such a bad press in the media. When I think of the 100,000 miles I’ve driven in the past 10 years – how much time have I lost by waiting for a good opportunity to overtake. It is completely negligible. Furthermore, I enjoy the process of slowing down and giving space – because I know the cyclist will appreciate it.

It’s just a matter of perspective – Get mad because you have to wait 5 seconds, or take a bit more time and get to the back of the traffic jam in a calmer state of mind. Life isn’t rocket science!

But Cyclists don’t wear A Cycle Helmet / Cyclists don’t pay road tax

  • Would you want to run-over a pedestrian because they don’t pay an obsolete tax, no one pays?
  • Would you run over a pedestrian just because they are not wearing a safety helmet – to teach them a lesson?


External link


Guide to cycle lanes

Cycle lanes come in many different forms – the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes the downright bizarre.


Cycle path Oxford

In recent years, the number of cycle paths in the UK have increased substantially. In theory, they have the potential to make cycling safer, more enjoyable and reduce friction between different road users. However, because of the haphazard nature of creating cycle paths, there often seems little continuity in design and implementation. It means we have cycle paths ranging from the good to downright bad and some just silly.

More than anything, we need road planners to be bolder in actually designating more space for cycle paths. We widen roads to make dual carriageways, often all we need is a couple more feet to create a really good cycle path. Also a good cycle path is much more than painting a white line on a pavement and hoping it all works out fine.

Segregated Cycle Paths


Bi directional cycle path enables commuters to avoid crossing road and congestion.

This cycle path is separate from the road. It doesn’t conflict with pedestrians and is wide enough for dual way. This is an ideal cycle path for an inner city path. It is the kind of path which would encourage a huge range of new people to start cycling.

Continue Reading →


Cyclists and red lights

Mention cycling and red lights and many people will immediately see ‘red’ for want of a better expression. In 2013, over 4,000 cyclists were issued with fixed note penalties for jumping red lights.

Red light jumping is also prevalent amongst motorists. In 2006 the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said 43,500 fines were issued for drivers caught jumping red lights (

Given the emotive nature of the issue, some may be surprised to learn that red light jumping is less prevalent than people’s perceptions (like the people who tell you ‘all cyclists never stop at a red light’). This is partly because ‘bad behaviour’ sticks in the mind much more than following the rules.

According to TFL between 1998 to 2007, 4% of pedestrian injuries were the result of red light jumping by cyclists.  Whereas 71% occur when a car driver jumps a red light and 13% when a motorcyclist does. (CTC) Which shows that cycling through red lights does put others in danger, at the same time highlights the fact most road casualties are the result of motorised vehicles.


Waiting at the lights


On your marks! Continue Reading →


10 Reasons to commute to work

A while back – whilst in York, , I saw an advert encouraging people to cycle to work. – ‘It only takes 15 minutes to cycle to work – give it a try.’

So inspired by York’s cycling campaign here are 10 good reasons to commute by bike.


1. Save Money

A good bike may cost £200-£400. But, it can last for years. You will save petrol, car parking / bus fares. It can easily add up. In Oxford it would cost £9 to park all day – if you can find somewhere to park. Bike maintenance is likely to be nothing more than a few inner tubes, and new chain and cassette every 3,000 miles. When you take your bike for a service, generally you don’t have to worry about spending hundreds of pounds like for a car.

2. Health

Cycling is an excellent way to get low impact exercise. If you do very little exercise, cycling will improve your aerobic fitness and help to avoid heart related health problems. If you don’t have time (or the money) to go to a gym, why not try cycling to work / shops. People may worry that cycling is perceived as a dangerous activity. But, the health benefits of lower obesity / lower heart disease e.t.c. far outweigh the risk of accidents. See: How How safe is cycling? – Cycling Statistics


3. Save Time


For many short distance commutes through town, cycling can be quicker than driving or getting the bus. Many of our car journeys are less than 3 miles. If you try cycling, the time is often much quicker, especially in city centres. In commuting periods, you often get traffic jams and cyclists can both help reduce congestion and get there quicker. For me, getting to centre of Oxford, cycling is 5 minutes quicker than driving and 15 minutes quicker than the bus.

Also, a bike is more reliable than public transport, less likely to turn up late. Fate is in your own hands. Continue Reading →


Cambridge, hills and races to come

I’ve been training fairly hard since the start of the year. The miles keep clocking up, and I’m starting to do a little bit more intense efforts now. At the weekend, I was away in Cambridge. The best weather of the year – and I end up taking two days off the bike. Typical.


Though it wasn’t quite off the bike, I did take my commuting bike and plodded around Cambridge, I couldn’t face walking around a city – I would feel bereft without a bike and walking is too slow! I’m coming to realise I need a bike, a bit like a coffee addict needs their morning cappuccino.

After a few rides around Cambridge, I became rather envious of the great cycling infrastructure they have there. No wonder it is the most popular place in the UK to cycle. As a biased Oxford person, I generally think Oxford is better than Cambridge, but, it turns out, not for cycling.

I could never move to Cambridge, full-time though. The best hill climbing training is the bridge over the railway.

Training philosophy



With many miles in the bank, it’s a little tempting to get carried away and really start hammering yourself into the ground, but it’s a long season for me and I’m conscious of holding back – training hard, but not 100%. I’ll take inspiration from Paris-Nice, which currently seems to be a gentle winter training camp, with a little flurry in the last 10km. Still professional cycling is back on tv, and that’s the main thing. I don’t know how I survived the winter without images of the French countryside and Carlton Kirby waxing lyrical about the best way to make Paella.

I can’t resist Hill intervals

If I was very strict about training, I would probably be doing more level three and endurance stuff. But, despite trying to hold myself back a little, I can’t resist doing hill intervals. For a bit of a change, I’ve been choosing some long gradual ascents of around 3% – which take around 6-10 minutes. From the village of Hughendon, there are three different roads up towards Speen and the top of Whiteleaf Hill. It’s good to do hill climb intervals, which aren’t completely eyeballs out, but a bit more measured for the time trial season.

Early season targets

Looking forward to Circuit of Ingleborough at the weekend. My main early season target is the Buxton Mountain Time trial. It is a good excuse to up the intensity and do lots of hill intervals before early April. I will be riding the first two events of the Cycling Time Trials Classic Series, and hopefully more.

TT bike update


When I got my time trial bike last summer, I wasn’t sure if it was any faster. It left me thinking that’s an awful lot of money for a new colour of paint. But, I’m growing to like the bike a bit more. I went out for a so called recovery ride today. Two hours, averaging 18.5mph. It was about 55% of FTP power, so I guess it makes it a kind of recovery ride. The thing that stood out is that the bike is really fast.


Rules and practical advice for roundabouts

When in Dublin, I was surprised a friend had no idea about the basic rule of roundabouts. He cycles into town everyday, but didn’t know at roundabouts you are supposed to give way to traffic coming from your right.

I only noticed because at one roundabout. I waited, and he just cycled on into the path of a car causing it to slow down. He was actually surprised to learn you were supposed to give way. Maybe he spent too long in Paris, where it really is ‘first come, first served’


The Basic Practical Rules of Roundabouts


Roundabouts in theory

  • Give way to traffic on the roundabout. Only join, when it is safe.
  • If you are taking last exit or effectively turning right, you should signal right and ideally be in the right hand lane.
  • The highway code states that cyclists can stay in the left hand lane, even if taking last exit. If you do stay in the left hand lane it is important to signal right, until before the last exit where you signal left to turn off the roundabout.

Continue Reading →


Bike parking and bike racks

One of the (relatively minor) problems of cycling in Oxford is the lack of parking for bicycles. Popular spots tend to be busy, and this can lead to un-organised chaos as you try to find yourself somewhere to park.

There is some good bike parking provision. For example on Broad Street.


I used to want to get right outside the shop I was visiting. But, now I’ve decided I shouldn’t be so lazy. So I park my bicycle here and make use of the good parking facilities, and walk the 50m into Waterstones.

Abandoned bicycles taking up space

The problem of bike parking is exacerbated by the number of bikes that get abandoned. Students buy a £100 Ammaco from Cycle King, then don’t worry about abandoning it for eternity.


The council do have a policy of removing abandoned bicycles, but it is painfully slow. You can see the same rusty bikes for 12 months in a bike rack you want to use. Then finally a ticket is placed on them saying the owner needs to collect it, but then the council don’t come back for another 2-3 months. Often the ‘bike is abandoned ticket falls’ off, in the meantime! So you have to wait another 12 months to hope it will get retagged and retaken. I appreciate the council not wanting to take genuine bikes, but in this case, they are being a bit too generous to bikes obviously abandoned.

Useless Bike Parking racks


This is quite near y home in Temple Cowley. There is a big shopping centre, and big car-park. Very recently some brand new bike parking racks have been built. But, I’ve never seen a single bike locked in them. The reason is that the shops (and car park is 200m in the distance). No one is going to cycle 200m away from the shops to park and then walk back. It feels like the owners of the shopping mall had to meet criteria to build bike parking racks so they put it in the least unobtrusive (and therefore most useless place). They meet their criteria to build parking racks, but it is useless to anybody. When I shop I lean the bike against the windows of Sainsburys and lock the bike to itself.

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 →