Cycling proficiency

I never sat my “cycling proficiency test” at school (I think I was off that week), but even if I had I doubt it would have made much difference to how I cycle nowadays. Unfortunately, I find cycling on roads to be a real dilemma when it comes to rules and regs, overwhelmingly because I am very aware of my own vulnerability as a cyclist.
Having read this post from the BBC on women and cycling road accidents, I started paying more attention to the way I cycle on the road.
Chatting with a non-cyclist colleague recently, the comment was made that a lot of cyclists seemed really “arrogant” on the road. I knew what she meant, and explained that it’s probably because cyclists know that if there were to have a collision with a motorist then they are undoubtedly going to be worse off. What could be a ‘near miss’ (is that a ‘hit’ then… I digress) for a motorist could quite easily be a fatal accident to a cyclist. It’s every cyclist’s prerogative to ride like an bombastic egotist if that is going to reduce the risk of being killed or injured. It’s the cyclist’s defence, just as motorists have airbags, seatbelts and a metal cage to protect them. When you look at it like that, it’s not a good trade-off in terms of safety.

Now I’m not talking about those people on bike who charge on and off the kerb, jump red lights “because they can” and weave in an out of lane markers, pedalling with such furious abandon that they leave a string of (rightly) irate road-users in their path. No – those guys (sorry – never seen a girl ride like that), are eejits.

I suppose the way I ride to work is kinda “blokey” in style – I refuse to apologise for being on the road and I do everything I can to prevent motorists from overtaking me into on-coming traffic. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to dirty looks (and worse!) from the driver, even when what I’ve just done by riding another whole foot out from the kerb is save their Citroen Saxo from becoming permentantly enmeshed with a Rover 215. There’s gratitude for you. (Oh dear, this post is fast degenerating into a rant..soz). I usually comfort myself by muttering “Did you pay for someone to sit your test for you?!” into their exhaust fumes.

So I try to ride as confidently as possible, without taking unnecessary risks, in the hope that it will keep me alive (along with the abundance of reflective tape, hi-vis and flashing lights). But I’m still not clear-cut on a few issues. Is is acceptable to undertake stationary traffic at the lights? Is it safe? What about pavements when the road conditions are too risky? (There is a section on my home commute where I ride on the pavement at night. If there wasn’t any pavement there, I doubt I would commute at all – I don’t want to ride on a 60mph unlit road on a blind left-hand bend going up a very steep incline thanks). I’m a bit of a goody-goody when I’m behind the wheel – I tend to always obey the highway code and I rarely speed. Things just aren’t so simple on a bicycle. I’m not about to stick rigidly to the rules if it will compromise my safety. I reckon when you ride a bike, you have to revise your own highway code. The existing one just doesn’t work in reality.

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