Friday, 22 July 2011

Cycling – not quite a bus, pedestrian, motorbike or car. Not going to let that stop me.

Every ones approach to cycling is different, some people are rigid rule followers, waiting patiently at the lights while wearing a florescent yellow vest and some are speed demons with a reckless opinion of life weaving in an out of oncoming traffic on a one way street. I usually try to find a happy medium.
My least favourite though are probably the ones who just don't know any better, this is usually the panicky tourist velib’ user who is wandering around like a priest in a lingerie department (feeling very uncomfortable and not sure what to do but still enjoying the view).

Sometimes the best approach to cycling through a city is just to go at it tooth and nails, and the best thing about being on bicycle is you get to cheat at a lot of the rules cars and pedestrians have to follow. 
Now I'm not saying that cyclists don’t have to follow the law- we do, but I’m just saying that it doesn't always happen that way.......

While cycling everyone bends or breaks the rules, following some research I found this website particularly helpful in realistically identifying common types of accidents, some named:
  • The Door Prize
  • The Right Cross
  • The Cross walk slam
and my favourite
  • The Red Light of Death!
and giving you practical advice on how to avoid them. With diagram's!

Don't be scared is one of the most important things to remember. You are also a road user and have the same rights as the cars, by this justification though you should also follow the same rules as the cars and this especially means stopping at traffic lights, signalling when turning and getting into the correct lanes. Cars can't avoid you if they don't know what your doing.

So here are some simple tips on how to stay safe for the realistic cyclist:

  • Don't be scared
  • Stop at lights
  • Signal with your hands
  • Get in lane
  • Don’t listen to music
  • Have and use your bell
  • Be visible at night
  • Try not to mount the footpath
  • Dismount your bicycle when on a busy footpath
  • Be patient
  • Feel free to take up the entire lane- lane control position
  • Pull right in front of cars at traffic lights- avoid their blind spots
  • Assert your rights as a road user, but
  • Don't be arrogant of your rights, bend the rules within the reason of safety and never expect a car to slow down for you.

Being patient is also a very important part of getting around Paris, and by this I don't mean just waiting at the lights, one thing to remember is that everyone is a road user including pedestrians, and Paris is a city with a population of over 2 million people and that's not even counting the tourists and suburban dwellers(9 million-ish). 
So showing these people the same respect that you hope they would show you if you were the one crossing the road is essential, and if you do decide to mount the footpath, try and looks sheepish and apologise to any pedestrians you might nearly bump into – remember you are in the wrong.

Maybe cars might find you a little annoying when you're first discovering the best way to cycle to work, but even if they do beep at you, apart from the shock factor a beep never injured anyone, and at least that means they see you.
By that same justification a signal such as giving the beeping car in question a certain hand gesture might be an appropriate way of indicating your acknowledgement of their dissatisfaction with you bicycle skills.

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