Top tips for approaching junctions on a bike
By Jack Vaughan
‘Cycle-friendly cities are not exempt from crashes’ warned The Times in an article published in August. In an analysis of the most dangerous commuter routes for cyclists in Britain earlier this year, Oxford (alongside Cambridge) enjoyed the unenviable position of topping the list. There is, of course, a degree of context to consider here – as cities that emphasise active transportation, the sheer number of cyclists on the roads naturally leads to a higher incident rate. Nevertheless, figures don’t lie. Oxford sees a proportionally greater number of accidents.
Whilst the most dangerous routes in the city don’t come as a surprise – The Plain roundabout near Magdalen Bridge, which is confusing for cyclists (and drivers) at the best of times – this roundabout is not alone in striking fear into the hearts of both experienced and new cyclists alike. Indeed, any junction can seem daunting as you approach it surrounded by buses, buses, and, as we’re in Oxford, more buses.
Fear not however, tackling junctions doesn’t need to be as difficult as winning the Tour de France on a balance bike. With a few simple tips, and a healthy dose of common sense, you too can navigate junctions correctly and, most importantly, safely. Read on for the DOS and DON’TS of junctions whilst cycling.
DO indicate early. Making your intentions clear can go a long way to avoid an untimely meeting with the tarmac. If drivers know what you’re doing, they’ll be more likely to give you the space to do it. By indicating early, you will have time to navigate the junction focusing on the road you’re merging onto, instead of quickly needing to manoeuvre in front of a car to get into the right position.
DO take a dominant position on the road. Cycling near to the kerb can result in drivers passing you closely. The police have attributed close passes to 25% of serious collisions between people riding bikes and those behind the wheel of larger vehicles. Improvements to infrastructure notwithstanding, moving into the middle of the lane as you approach a junction will help lower the risk of being passed closely.
DO use bright and well-positioned bike lights. Not only is it a legal requirement, the regulations state you need lights from sunset to sunrise. At this time of year, visibility can be compromised long before the evening sets in.
DON’T cycle on the inside of large vehicles. Heading along the left-side of lorries and buses at junctions might seem the obvious route – after all, cycle lanes tend to be painted on this part of the road – but positioning yourself here will increase the risk of being crushed if the vehicle begins to pull closer to the kerb, or is turning left. Hold back. It’s much safer.
DON’T lose concentration. You can follow all of these rules and tips, but sadly you’ll still encounter drivers and situations in which they will all become useless.
Follow these tips and you’ll be safer and happier navigating Oxford’s junctions.
Photo: The Plain roundabout, Oxford. Tejvan Pettinger CC BY 2.0.