Updated: Jul 31
How to stay safe when riding in traffic - what to do and not to do. Be predictable, signal, do not be intimidated. Size matters: stay away from HGVs at junctions!
London Embankment. The big difference to Bangor, County Down is that cars, vans, and buses stay out of the bike box. County Down drivers, take note!
There are two main problems with riding a bicycle around Bangor: first, cars park everywhere: on pavements, in cycle lanes, on double yellow lines. The second is that most drivers who have just parked up have never heard of Dutch Reach and simply open their car door without looking in their rear view mirror. New teeth, anyone?
The solution for both is to ride at least one meter away from the parked cars. You will probably upset some car drivers who feel you are holding them up. Don't worry about this: they will learn to live with it. Under no circumstances ride closer than 1m to parked cars. You do not want to get doored.
Ride in a straight line. If you wobble on your bike, practice until you don't. When you want to change direction, do a shoulder check, then signal if you're ok to move, then make your move. Remember your driving lessons: mirror, signal, manoever. On a bike it's shoulder check, signal, manoever. In Northern Ireland, however, the first two appear entirely optional and often are ignored, especially on motorways.
The road surfaces in Ards and North Down are the worst in the province. There are potholes everywhere. Do not ride through them, ride around them if you can. If that entails a major change of direction, try to signal so following traffic knows you're going to change position. If you have to ride through a pothole, stand up on the pedals. Your wheels will thank you for this.
Do not be intimidated
Cyclists have the same rights as motorised vehicles to be on the road. Don't feel like you have to ride in the gutter as to not annoy car drivers. The gutter is full of nasty stuff - you will not only end up with a flat, but you will probably also get side-swiped by a car that is passing you too closely. Anecdotal evidence suggests that drivers will pass a cyclist by approximately the same distance the cyclist keeps away from the curb. Hold your line!
If you ride in a group and traffic is backing up behind you, ride single file. This will endear cyclists to car drivers who might pass us carefully the next time we meet. If someone passes you with plenty of room, give a thumbs-up if you can. On the other hand, if someone passes you way too closely, report them to the PSNI for careless driving. Provide video footage if available to strengthen your case.
Size matters! Do not insist on your right of way if a driver refuses to yield to you. Cyclists have no crumple zones or airbags. At intersections, be very careful around HGVs. They have huge blind spots and if you sneak past an articulated lorry to get to the front of a lorry waiting at a traffic light, you will be invisible to the driver. If the lorry turns left and you end up under the lorry wheels, it's lights out. Don't do it.