Writer_ Anne Hovingh
Anne Hovingh gives her top 10 tips on cycling the dreaded rods of London.
As can be easily observed by standing by the bicycle racks outside the library – Goldsmiths has a lot of cyclists. Although I’m not an expert by any means (especially not when it comes to cycling in central London), I do commute by bike to Goldsmiths every day. Here are a few points of advice that I’ve come to learn through friends and experience over the past few years.
- Get used to the fact that everyone hates you. Not just the cars, but the bus drivers, taxi drivers and pedestrians too. Even the other cyclists aren’t your friends. It’s a jungle out there, and you’re on your own.
- Know the law. Know what you can and cannot do, so that when one of your road-raged enemies attempts to shout at you, you are confident of the fact that you were in the right, and you can calmly and confidently tell them so.
- Make sure cars know you’re there. Stare them down until they give you an uncomfortable glance. It might make them think you’re really creepy and scary, or that you’re really bad at traffic jam flirting – but at least they know you’re on the road and they won’t run you over.
- Get a helmet. For the obvious safety reasons, as well as the fact that it’ll make drivers take you seriously – which is even more crucial if, a) you’re a woman, b) your bike isn’t the speedy, lightweight type or c) you have no idea what you’re doing and you couldn’t be more insecure whilst on the road.
- Which brings us to point number 5: be secure and confident whilst cycling. Know what you’re doing and don’t be hesitant, so that when you’re cycling in the middle lane (which, yes, you are allowed to do), you can give the driver who’s honking at you aggressively a very confident evil eye.
- Cycling in London is not the same as that lovely cycling mid-week mini break on the Isle of Wight you had last summer. It’s not meant to be fun, or relaxing. You’re trying to get from A to B in a safe way – stay focused.
- People are idiots; don’t trust them. Never trust that someone has seen you. Check, double check, and then do the awkward stare to make sure that whatever move you want to make is clear to those sharing the road with you.
- Don’t assume and think that everyone knows the Highway Code – they don’t. When you end up being hurt in an accident where you were in the right and someone else broke the law, you may win a court case, but it won’t mend your broken bones.
- Be visible. Have good working lights and stay on a part of the road where drivers can see you. Again, this links in with point 5, as feeling secure is a big part of being safe on the road.
- Be polite to other people using the road. Yes, there is a lot of aggression towards cyclists, primarily because of the bad reputation they have gained for themselves, but try to be the bigger person and that reputation might change in the future.
What it comes down to is that, if you want to cycle in London, you really have to want to cycle in London. Know what you’re doing, and don’t be stupid (which probably applies to a lot of aspects of London life).