Get the Cycling Bug with Millie: 5 Things I’ve Learnt from Commuting in London

In partnership with Evans Cycles & Gore Bike Wear, guest writer Millie Citton continues her blog series with the Coffee Stop. A keen London commuter and road cycling enthusiast, Millie will be sharing her commuting tips, essential winter kit bag and heaps of motivation over the coming months to keep you riding throughout the cold seasons.

In the second of this series, we find out Millie’s top 5 cycle commuting tips and a bonus suggestion for Coffee Stop readers…

 

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Millie’s current preferred Winter bike is the HOY Alto Irpavi .002

 

The Road is a Jungle

Pedestrians can be found walking in a Brownian motion, strolling on cycling lanes and crossing roads, looking at nothing but their phones. Many drivers have developed the habit of pulling out, turning or changing lanes without properly looking. Cyclists are not any better at the best of times… Many ride at considerable speed because every kilometre counts (that can be me, admittedly) and others even cut red lights or ride on the pavement (not me, it’s my pet peeve!) because they know they can get away with it..

If you follow my adventure on Instagram, you’ll know that a month ago I was involved in a crash with a car. This blog has been in the works for a while now, as after the crash I debated for a long time whether to still write it or not. I put it off for a while because I thought: “Should I really be writing an advice article on how to commute in a big city, when I just had an accident?”. But the reality is crashes can happen as a cyclist – that doesn’t make you a bad cyclist and it doesn’t mean you haven’t learnt anything. In fact, quite the opposite is the case, crashing has taught me a bit more – so here are 5 things I learnt (plus a bonus tip) from my daily cycle commute in London.

 

>> Get the Cycling Bug with Millie: An Introduction <<

 

1. Be Predictable

The number one thing you learn by being on your bike is that “Keep ‘em guessing” really doesn’t work. At least, not when it’s you vs cars. In traffic, make sure that you claim your space (head to British Cycling for details about on-road positioning) but without deviating too much. If you do need to deviate, make sure you give yourself (and other road users) plenty of time and indicate your move well in advance. Check your back, your front and your side before changing your position and only when it is safe to do so.

 

 

2. Make Eye Contact

This is going to sound like a really odd analogy, but bear with me. Have you ever seen The Silence of the Lambs? It’s my favourite movie, so the analogy comes easy to me. Do you remember when Buffalo Bill addresses Catherine Martin using the pronoun ‘it’? “It puts the lotion in the basket”, he says. The reason for the use of the word ‘it’ is because it helps him remaining detached from Catherine. My point is, making eye contact induces that human element and suddenly a ‘nuisance’ cyclist becomes a parent, a husband, a wife, a sister or brother. When you make eye contact with, say, a driver looking to cross, that person has acknowledged your presence and identified you as another person on the road. At that point, you can usually rest assured he or she won’t cut out in front of you.

 

>> 50 Shades of Hi-Vis Cycling: The Evolution of High Visibility Bicycles, Clothing & Accessories <<

 

3. Obey the rules

Too many cyclists still cycle breaking all the rules of the road. This is at the expense of other cyclists who respect the road; it is normal that we get the negative comments of drivers for this reason, and the result is that all cyclists get labelled as rule-breakers, when actually there are a lot out there who do all things right. Remember, respect the rules if you want to be respected. Don’t cut red lights, it’s unsafe and it doesn’t look good.

 

millie-with-hoy-bike

 

4. Think for the People Around You Too

Commuting into work has a lot of benefits, and for me they will always outweigh any risks associated with it. However, I understand it can seem intimidating having to share the road with masses of cars, buses and even heavy vehicles because we are so vulnerable compared to them. Whilst I agree there is definitely room for improvement in terms of creating better cycling infrastructure there is something we can do now: Always check twice before you cross, exit or pull out – even if the light is green and even if it’s your right of way.

 

>> Tim Chivers: London Cycling Paramedic <<

 

5. Keep Your Chin Up

Isn’t it nice to escape all the stresses of life and stop thinking of the rest of the world when you’re on your bike? Absolutely, but leave the daydreaming to your traffic-free rides. Commuting is a game for sharp minds. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times, don’t stare on the road as if you were following someone’s wheel. Keep your chin up, look in front, around you and use the full vision to try and be aware of everything on the road. Cars, potholes, other riders. You name it, be present in that moment and alert.

On a positive note, I would recommend not to always second-guess drivers and sometimes give them the benefit of the doubt. A couple months ago I was waiting at the lights to cross the road, and a black cab rider pulled out in front of me and rolled down his window. I immediately got grumpy, thinking “I have done nothing wrong”! Then he said to me: “I really like your kit, I want to get one too”. It made me so happy, and also I felt so guilty for having negative thoughts initially.

 

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Bonus Tip: Quiet Routes

I am late to the party on this, so I you may know about these already… I can already see your faces going “Daaah girl, that’s no bonus tip!”. But I figured, if I was late to the party maybe other people are too. “Repetita iuvant”, as the Latins used to say. You’re probably aware that London has Cycle Superhighways. They are great, but have you heard about Quietways? They are TfL routes which are quiet and cycle-friendly. They are back roads, so not just for cyclists, but they are well indicated and maps can easily be downloaded for them. I would recommend checking if there is a Quiet Route near you and to take full advantage of it.

There are many more things to share, but these are the main five things that I wanted to share after my crash.

 

Stay tuned for more from Millie and follow her on Instagram here.

 

>> Browse our entire range of Gore Bike Wear here <<

 

 

Comments

Frank 21/01/2018

Lovely ideas, not really a big surprise and new, but at least Evans try to make themselves relevant.

Reply
Paul Bunting 21/01/2018

I aged 71 am retired, so don’t now commute. My worst worst experience was having two double decker buses either side of me near to Brixton, but bus drivers are among the safest drivers and I needn’t have worried. My other difficult experiences was a man cleaning his car shouting at me shouldn’t I be wearing a helmet (it was a quiet Sunday ride). Wearing bright blue cycling shorts attracted a wolf whistle. I am a bit too old and injured now to cycle now having injured my right knee digging on my allotment. My two bikes (Roberts road and Fisher off-road) now share my garage with my 8′ 6′ John Broadwood Drawing Room Grand Piano from 1875 – a beautiful long grand in figured rosewood veneer – and very nice to play, so I can still say hello to my bikes when I go to play this lovely old instrument, made before the age of steel introduced the single cast steel frame of modern pianos. The tuner said it was in remarkable condition for its age. Driving now, I can anticipate the likely move of cyclists and alway give way. I know they are other human beings, and that drivers who, round here (large South Coast town), often fail to signal when turning a corner, are also other human beings.

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John Beech 22/01/2018

Very good advice here. I’ve been a London bike commuter for many years (estimated 75,000 miles so far ) and never had an vehicle accident – my only accident was years ago when I collided with a young women jumping off a moving Routemaster bus which I was behind. Ugly for her but my impact was very cushioned….

I’d add to the para 5 above that checking every parked car you pass in case there’a a chance of an opening door. It’s less onerous than it sounds and saved me more than once.

The eye contact advice is pretty important and I’ve not seen it mentioned before….especially with lorries.

As regards “claiming your space” I cycle quite positively and at pace which is the least problematic way. Dawdling in the middle of the road often causes problems for the cyclist as the vehicle drivers affected get grumpy and cut too close.

And finally, I remember a fellow bike commuter and I having a discussion on lorry etiquette. He was an Ozzie (on the same old-school make of bike as me – a Coventry Eagle) and colourful in his language 🙂 but his completely correct opinion on big lorries to treat them as if they were on fire. Sadly, the annual list of fatalities in London would be much less if cyclists followed this advice…

Reply
Frank 25/03/2018

Very good sensible advice, I find the key is to remember that 95% of motorists on every commute are good sensible considerate drivers. I find it good practice to recognise this with a smile, nod and a wave when they have been considerate to me. If you show appreciation they will remember it next time they pass a cyclist. The bad always stands out but try not to dwell on it, stay positive.

Plus, I notice a different behavior when I have made the effort to make myself visible and safe. High viz, day lights, giving clear indications etc. I genuinely believe that if you look like you don’t really care about your safety the cars that pass you have less interest too.

Reply

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