City cycling clinic

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In a weekly series, Fiona McAuslan looks into all things cycling in London, and shares some top tips on riding round the capital on two wheels

  • The right way is the wrong way

    Should more local councils allow cyclists to travel the wrong way down residential streets?

    Motorbikes in cycle lanes


    Is Boris's first bit of road legislation a recipe for suicidal disaster for London's cyclists?

    Tykes on bikes

    Is exposing children to the perils of London's traffic too dangerous?

    Evading kamikaze jaywalkers

    How to kick absent-minded pedestrians back to the kerb

    How cyclists can beat the elements

    Surely when the heavens open, it's time to leave the bike at home?

    Why we need more cycle lanes

    The Olympic Development Authority will be pumping ‘multi millions’ into new cycle lanes – but does the capital really need them?

    Why headphones are for headcases

    Why you need all your senses on two-wheeled trips around the capital

    How to beat bendy buses

    Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of London's cyclists like Ken's bendy buses. Here's how to beat them

    To helmet or not to helmet?

    It's unlikely to save your life in a full-on collision – so why bother?

    How to cycle under the influence

    Should there be a legal limit for cyclists?

    Should cyclists pay road tax?

    The state of London roads is diabolical – so should two-wheelers contribute to their maintenance?

    How to ride the tube with a bike

    The folding bikes that won't cause fuss on the underground

    Why bike cops need to get busy

    Hot-wheeling fuzz: eco-friendly patrol or overgrown prefects in gym kit?

    What to wear on your bike

    With sweat-proof merino wool tops, stylish headgear and reflective ankle cuffs, are London's cyclists trendier than ever?

    When to jump red lights

    Can running lights preserve a cyclist's safety?

    Avoiding the couriers


    Of the various cycle tribes in London, none are more wilfully offensive than cycle couriers. Learn their tricks

    When to ride on the pavement


    Cycling on the pavement in London is illegal, but with so few cycle lanes and increasingly aggressive motorists, why adhere to a law that endangers you?

    Where to leave your bike


    With too few bicycle racks for too many cyclists, isn't it time the capital's pedal pushers we're allowed to lock their bikes to London's many railings?

    How to ride the canals

    How to beat the drinkers, dealers and dog walkers on London's canal paths

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32 comments
Kit
Kit

Dave, I take your point about taxes! However, I still think that genuine improvements in cycle networks need the support of the public which is currently being lost because of pavement cycling. When I mentioned Holland I meant the real, segregated cycle routes in the country areas not Amsterdam where pedestrians have to share the pavements with cyclists. I don’t think that you are qualified to say what is a hindrance to the blind and I think you are feeling more than a little defensive as there was no need to mention your charitable donations which are in no way connected to what we are talking about. Can you quote where I equated pavement cycling with disrespect for the blind? I never said that. I stated the pure facts of what has been my friend’s experience. I do believe-and here you can quote me-that pavement cyclists are showing disrespect for all pedestrians. You are fond of saying “assumptions are the mother of all f**** ups. You talk about a “simple mantra� that would remind cyclists that slower moving “traffic� has right of way. At the moment most pavement cyclists that I see are young, male and aggressive; they weave in and out of people as if they are just a human slalom there for no purpose other than for them to show off their prowess and if someone gets “clipped,� what’s the harm? This is what happens now when pavement cycling is still illegal but you believe that if it is made legal and cyclists have far less to fear from the law if they injure someone, that they will magically become considerate and respectful. Assumptions are the mother of all f***ups Dave. In this country, by both custom and law, pavement cycling has been illegal since the nineteenth century. Pavement cyclists are not “being criminalised� they are criminalising themselves by breaking the law and putting people in danger because they won't cycle in the road where they belong. This week a 20 year old man was sent to prison for 7 months because he killed an innocent 84 year old man in Weymouth whose only mistake – assumptions are the mother of all f*** ups- was to assume he was safe on the pavement.

TERRI
TERRI

i am blind and have a guide dog. with my dog i should be able to assume that the pavement will be a safe place for me to walk independently. yet it has become increasingly dangerous for me because of adults cycling on the pavenents (which is not a shared space) rather than in the road where there is a cycling lane for their use. i have had cyclists hit me as they passed. terrified my guide dog so that not only is he frightened by their sudden and speeding appearance from behind us but is then unable to work for a while... which puts me in danger too. there is no excuse for this behaviour. pavements are for people not cyclists and i must totally agree with kit on this. if the road is too dangerous... even with the cycling lane... then let the cyclist get off and walk like the rest of us. or have cyclists lobby councils to create safer cycyling lanes in the road... perhaps have them put in some kind of "cats eye" bollard about a foot high... spaced just close enough together to prevent cars entering the cycle lane so it is free of parked vehicles and totally safe for cyclists to use. instead of making pavements unsafe for pedestrians why not make the roads safer for cyclists? then we can all be happy. though i think there are some cyclists who simply get a kick out of going in and out of people on the pavement... gives them a sense of power and invulnerability. whatever the reason they should not be there. pavements are for people not bikes.

sian
sian

Yes Sean, you can cycle in the road. I cycled in the road from the age of 8. In the last 10 years there has been a 50% drop in mortality rates among cylists riding in the road. The more cyclists there are in the road the more car drivers have to be aware of them and accidents decrease. If you cycle on the pavement you make the roads more dangerous for the responsible cyclists who do ride in the road as well as making pavements dangerous for pedestrians. Statistically cyclists have more accidents on pavements than in the road. Whe you drove a car you hated cyclists and never gave a thought to pedestrians. Now that you cycle, you hate cars and never give a thought to pedestrians!

sean
sean

115 cyclists were killed by driving on the road in 2008 in england. Not one pedestrian was killed by a cyclist on the pavement. By law, Cyclists are forced to drive on the road, some not licensed in road rules. As a car driver, I use to complain at the cyclists but now i know they have no choice because of this Evil Law! I hate this government!!! You can't bring bikes on the tube or buses, can't ride on fottpaths/pavements/footways, can't drive on the road unless you want to risk your life but you litter as much as you damn well like.

dave
dave

Some valid points Kit. What's to be done tho? Pavement cycling is hardly the greatest hinderance to the elderly or the blind. A law to prevent respectful users like me from using the public spaces we pay to maintain isn't going to stop direspectful cyclists causing a threat to vulnerable people, whether on bikes or not. (This is England - 90% of our taxes go to people thatpiss us off!) Cyclists don't simply go around colliding with everything that isn't able to leap out of the way. The problem is that they assume people will move, and "assumption is the mother of all f*ckups" Criminalising pavement cycling creates animosity, unpredictability and disrepect for the law (as it is unenforceable). It would be better to create a simple shared mantra - "slower moving pavement traffic has the right of way" to remove the assumption that people will step aside, without turning normal people into criminals. Take the Amsterdam example - it takes some adjustment to walk around Amsterdam safely, as their cycling population expects their pedestrians to be wary of them at all times. If all London cyclists rode like that our problem would be a lot worse. It's also drawing a long bow to equate pavement cycling with disrespect for the blind, the amount I save on train fares per month is about the same as my monthly donation to sightsavers.org - but not becuase I've ever run over a guide dog!

Kit
Kit

Dave. Thanks for info on Knightrider. Explains why I did not know it; it's a bit before my time. I willl look out for it on one of the golden oldies channels. Dave, you sound very sweet but you are wrong about pavement cycling. All the incidents I have witnessed have been totally black and white; people (nearly always men) cycling illegally and at speed on pavements, causing fear and injury to pedestrians. I have mentioned here before that I have a friend who is blind who has been hit 3 times while on the pavement ( and I do mean pavements, not shared paths) and a fourth time a cyclist stopped one inch in front of her terrified guide dog. You can't get more black and white than that! I am assuming that you are quite young and perhaps you don't realise the fear and anxiety this creates in the elderly in particular. I know some neighbours and relatives who are nervous of going out where I live (East London). Around here there are often more cyclists on the pavements than in the road. I totally support genuine cycle paths of the kind that they have in Holland and would love to see that here but that kind of infrastructure costs huge amounts of money and pavement cycling is haemorrhaging support for cyclists among the general public. People don't want their taxes going to people who piss them off!

dave
dave

@ Kit: Bless! "Knightrider" was an 80's TV series starring non other than Mr Baywatch (David Hasslehoff) as Michael Knight, a crimefighter who beat baddies with the help of his talking car, a sardonic black "Trans Am" called Kit. @ Pete: Thanks for that, I'd written off my railing concerns as paranoia but I'll take more care now. The pavement cycling incidents i've seen are never black and white. The worst I've seen was where a cycle lane exited a park, crossing a pavement onto the road. A guy rode out of the park, watching for vehicle traffic. (This cycle lane also had a green "cycle" light telling phased to go when the vehicle lights were red). Unfortunately there was a tiny kid (about 4yo) on a little bike, riding along the pavement and they collided quite badly. This example shows how the best laid plans (ie a clearly marked cycle lane with it's own traffic light) is no substitute for simple caution. The lamest i've seen was while I waited outside an off licence for my girlfriend. I was sitting on my bike, stationary. A pedestrian was crossing the road towards me, using his mobile and not looking where he was going. As he stepped onto the kerb he looked the other way to check out some girls, and he walked straight into me! I copped some colourful abuse as usual for "riding" on the pavement. I've been on both sides of this problem - as a student in NZ I drove a public school busses. The most dangerous situations occur when people make assumptions i.e. they think if they can't hear a car, it is safe to step into the road without looking, or that if a queue of traffic is stationary, they can ride or walk through it with no danger of being hit. Commuting 18 miles a day by bike I avoid accidents by assuming that I am invisible to everyone, drivers and pedestrians - unless I have eye contact. I use the pavement whenever the road is blocked by anything other than other cyclists. When I encounter pedestrians I slow down to walking pace and say "excuse me" instead of ringing the bell. However riding along the road through areas such a Clapham Junction and Putney, near misses are much more common where it is pedestrians stepping on to the road.

Kit
Kit

OK, i give in. Will someone tell me who this Knightrider is/was?

Pete Biggs
Pete Biggs

@ Dave, I've got some cut railings on my road - and I'm in NW5, not East London where bike crime is far worse. In the worst case scenario a well placed kick can break a railing - some of them are very old and brittle. They really are a 'false friend'. If you don't trust me here's a quote from the Standard: Such railings - at traffic lights, around squares, in front of old houses - may be loved by cyclists but offer a totally false sense of security. "Wrought-iron railings can be very easily cut," says Sergeant David Prashner, of the City of London Police's cycle squad. (Or, indeed, broken with a single hammer blow.) "You need to fix your bike to something more solid." Come on Kitt, you were always pretty sarky in knightrider I seem to remember!

Kit
Kit

How brave of you Dave to be so sarcastic at a distance. I was asking you to clarify your comments because it wasn't at all clear how you were equating pavement cycling with crossing a road. Pavement cycling is dangerous to pedestrians Dave. A lot of people have been injured; elderly people have had their hips broken, very young children have had head injuries inflicted on them and blind people have had their confidence crushed when hit by these selfish people. Could you comment on that please rather than making peurile little digs at people?

dave
dave

Yes Kit english is a difficult language. Maybe ask a hooman to translate? Loved you in knightrider, xx

Kit
Kit

That sentence should have ended "still illegal". My elderly pc is not what it was.

Kit
Kit

No Dave cycling on the pavement isn't "fine"; it's selfish, dangerous and still. I'm sorry but I have no idea what the rest of your comment about crossing the road meant.

dave
dave

I've thought about that possibility often, but as yet have never seen evidence ie cut railings. My biggest concern is vandals kicking in my wheels.

Pete Biggs
Pete Biggs

This article is incredibly irresponsible! Railings are the worst place you can lock a bike to - because thieves can cut them or even break them with one kick. They are not as strong as most people think. Your strong lock makes no difference if the thief cuts through the railings with an angle grinder. And if you put on a high visability vest it's really easy to do this with an air of authority. Use a proper bike rack (of which, admittedly, there aren't enough) or failing that a sold piece of street furniture such as a lampost if you want your bike to be there when you get back.

Dave
Dave

Riding on the pavement is fine so long as you are cautious. Saying otherwise is to say the same about walking across a road without using a pedestrian crossing. Seriously people!

Morgan
Morgan

You take 20mins to ride from Clerkenwell Road to Columbia Road. Thats about a 5 minute ride. You need to stop using a bike as an accessory.

Kit
Kit

How can you "try not to cycle on the pavement"? Did someone hold a gun to your head and make you cycle on the pavement? Why not take responsibility for your actions. You made a choice to put your safety or desire to get somewhere quicker before the safety of pedestrians. If it is a dangerous junction then why not dismount and walk your bike? You are kidding yourself if you think you are being considerate; you are being selfish and doing exactly what suits your needs at the expense of others' needs. Pedestrians don' t" respect" you; every one that I know loathes pavement cyclists. If we get out of your ways it is not out of respect but because we like our kidneys the way they are and don't want them smashed up by your handlebars. Why adhere to a law that you claim endangers you? Well, because it is the law! Because the pavement is somewhere that people should feel safe. Because it is selfish and arrogant to do otherwise. How many reasons do you need?

Tatty
Tatty

i hate cyclists - they should be banned in London. They get in the way of all the cars

Tom
Tom

Why on earth do cyclists think it is ok to ride on the pavement? So many very fast swerving around everyone with no consideration whatsoever. If they think its ok to ride on the pavement, I will walk in the road from now on.

Davo
Davo

what a poor article

Nhatt Attack
Nhatt Attack

My lord, i'm used to some negative stereo types when it comes to courier, but this is frankly amazing. First off, it's been at least two years since anyone was drinking at the duke, thanks in part to camden changing it's drinking laws. I do seem to remember spending nearly 5 pounds for a pint there, which is nothing to an over paid journo but means several miles on a bike for me, so cans are really the only affordable option for a night of drinking, with maybe one purchased pint as a thanks to the duke for not calling the cops on us. Said offie also used to leave cardboard boxes for our empties, and I seem to recall most people using them. Now! The riding bit. A. It is not illegal to ride on the right of your lane. This is much safer than on the left in some places (like clerkenwell and old street) because the traffic is more consistant there. The bike lane tends to become the parking lane, the swerving to undertake a right turning car lane, or the "I want to turn left in two miles so I better move over now" lane. B. Jumping lights has the advantage of not leaving you a sitting duck for left turning lorries, and also giving you a head start on traffic that may not have seen you on their left before. c. are you really such a law abiding citizen that you won't go the wrong way down a deserted road? If so, you might want to give the policeman in your brain a raise and a gold star. I may not be as fast as your "neighbor" (please tell me that either you are making him up as an example or if he is real he has spent the last month egging your house everyday for being such a muppet) but I am able to get through traffic with a minimum of accidents 10 hours a day, 4-5 days a week by using the same tactics that he is using. Why don't you write an article about left turning HGV's or about the injustice of Emma Foa's court case instead of slagging off techniques that actually keep cyclists from getting killed?

Gary Byrne
Gary Byrne

This guide is not very useful to be honest. I hit my bollocks hard on the kerb because of it

gina
gina

Try spending 9 hours a day 5 days a week in London traffic trying to get from one side to the other of the city passing through oxford street and piccadilly circus at rush hour. I think you'll find the average "devil's delivery man/woman" knows what he's doing when it comes to risk assessment and traffic reading. I am confident, Fiona, that should you need to get your work delivered to your publisher, you wouldn't be complaining when it crosses central London in less than 15 minutes even if it does mean jumping the occasional light and doing the odd one way system, its all to keep the "devil" happy! ps. Pont is right, do not generalise by judging a whole group based on your experiences with one person (i seem to gather he is not even a friend) you seem very ill-informed (the statement that the Duke of York is the pub of choice is an immediate give-away!) If you are going to bother writing a column criticising someone do your homework properly!!!!!!!

gabriel woods
gabriel woods

Is there a forum for responsible cycling even knowing to get across central london may involve going entirely down the wrong way one way streets and on the pavement? Are there any statistcis to back up the "myth" that most badly behaved cyclists are w*ite middle class & "neuveau" cyclists? Has anyone noticed UK cities are designed for cars not cyclists and the "highway code" urgently needs to be reformed to exempt cyclists from rules used for people in protected boxes and often 9ft off the ground? Does anyone know if Glenda Jackson is sincere on cycling?

pont
pont

RE: 'Take on the devil’s own delivery men' What utter horsepiss. Fiona, you are a liar and rude to. Couriers have far more experience riding in London than you will ever have, and as such are as a group considerably safer. Anyone who needs to practice 'emergency stops' in parks should probably get off the road. Do not judge a group by the actions of your neighbour. You are also misleading - if not a liar. Going 'the wrong way into Columbia road' - what, the 10 metres or so of an absurd one-way system? and 4 miles from clerkenwell rd to columbia rd - more like 1.5. Stop exagerating your crap cycling achievments.

RFD
RFD

'Why adhere to a law that endangers me?' (re illegal pavement cycling) The same stupid selfish comment could possibly be made about knife-carrying. Get off the pavement, you selfish git - even if people say nothing to you don't take it as tacit acceptance, it's probably because they're frightened. Read letters in the local press and reports of local community and police meetings - it's you and others like you who are making the pavements in London a no-go area for old, disabled and vulnerable people. What a stupid and irresponsible article for Time Out to endorse - I will not be purchasing it again.

O Hetreed
O Hetreed

I was with a cyclist who was catapulted off her bike in an accident last week. She landed on her head and shoulder. Result: Helmet severely dented, concussion, face had a nasty case of road rash, broken collar bone. Without a helmet I think it could have been much worse. Re: amazing statistics - the trouble with accident statistics is it is impossible to measure all the accidents that don't happen...

Tony
Tony

Did the writer really mean; 'Anarchic behaviour under the guise of protest is selfish and self-defeating.' Or perhaps; Selfish behaviour under the guise of protest is self-defeating. Or maybe; Selfish behaviour under the guise of anarchy is self-defeating. Clean up on the stereotypes mate.

Ralph
Ralph

I ride through that road system most days and, as I've found generally with cycling in London at all times of day and night, if you ride with your wits about you, it isn't a problem. A cycle lane past Central St. Martin's would be safer and there's loads of pavement but in the mean time the author should grow a pair and use the road.

Paul Lowe
Paul Lowe

LB 's Southwark and Lewisham provide free Adult Cycle Training for all those who live, work or study in the borough. Available via www.cyclinginstructor.com. Online Booking!

Toby
Toby

Statistics show that amazingly cyclists who wear helmets have more accidents than cyclists who don't. This is because, the study says, drivers of cars and other vehicles tend to take it "slightly easy" when they see a cyclist wearing a helmet as opposed to when a cyclist is unprotected. A model Catch-22 situation innit?