Thursday, 8 July 2010

First Things First - The Highway Code

The first thing I did when I decided 3 years ago that I would seriously start using a cycle as a permanant, and only, personal mode of transport, was go on line and read the highway code. So much has changed over the years and I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to break the law or ride unsafely.

Although I took many driving lessons when younger, I never finally took my test and therefore have only ever been a passenger throughout the whole of my life. The driving insructors I had many years ago, were very good and instilled in me what makes a good driver. So although I don't have a licence to drive, I do have some pretty good knowlege of how to drive.  And I don't mean how to control the car, but of good and bad driving.

As a passenger I have sat beside some of the best drivers and some of the worst. One doesn't have to actually be a driver, to know a bad one when one sees one.One good thing about never being a driver is, that I haven't picked up bad driving habits that could easily spill over to riding a cycle. The good thing about knowing bad drivers is, that as a cyclist I am aware that I have to ride as if the next car will contain a bad driver, an arrogant driver or just plain stupid driver. At all times I must be aware that the driver may not have seen me or may not respect my right to be on the road and therefore not give me the room required to over take me.

The space required according to the law must be as if that car were over taking another car. In other words a driver must imagine that the cycle is taking up as much room as another car and over take accordingly.

Equally a cyclist must respect a cars place on the road. The driver of a car coming up beside or behind us, can't read minds. Therefore we must signal well in advance any changes of position we are about to make and not do anything stupid that is going to cause a driver to have to suddenly brake or swerve to avoid us.   We are moving much slower than a motor car and therefore we have much more time to think about what we are about to do, so there is no excuse for us ever getting in a car's way, apart from forcing them have to slow down behind us if the road is too narrow for them to pass us safely.  If we as cyclists ride sensibly and carefully we have already cut our chance down of having an accident by 50%.

When on the road, I am very aware of the fact that just as a driver must do, I must also obey the laws of the road. This is why my first job was to read the highway code. Even drivers that have been driving for years should every few years read a new updated version, as things do change. Simply because one has driven a car for many, many years, doesn't mean that one knows it all.

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