Cycling to work, part 2

Today: Communication, part I

Your journey to work might take you along perfectly paved pathways. You glide serenely along flat tarmac waving at friends and picking your nose. Lucky you. My journey is in central London, mostly that part of London governed by Tower Hamlets Council. Whatever they spend my council tax on, it certainly isn’t the backstreets and cycle paths of their assorted hamlets.

What I’m getting at is this: taking a hand off the handlebars of your bike is a recipe for disaster. When your front wheel hits a pothole it will go where it wants, and you will fall off and look a tit. Or you will fall off and get run over by a white van. More likely and more painful.

But you need to communicate with other road users sometimes. It’s impossible to flick the Vs at somebody when you have both hands on the handlebars, for instance. Unless you are deformed in some way.

This is where your RADA training comes in. If you make eye contact with your target audience you can communicate all sorts of messages without resorting to gesticulation. Let’s take changing lanes as an example. Conventional wisdom has it that you should gracefully extend an arm in the direction you want to go and manoeuvre across when convenient. In reality, if you try this you’ll just get your arm hit by a wing mirror. Then you’ll hit a pothole and the rest of you will get hit by the rest of the vehicle.

No, the answer is to look over the shoulder where you want to move. Fix the nearest driver with a stare that says “I believe you are in my lane, sir” and move across in a manner that brooks no argument. Safer for you and less inconvenient for him since he won’t have to extract your mangled bike from his bumper this way.

Oh dear, I’m sounding angry again. In fact I had several civilised and good-tempered conversations with drivers this morning entirely through the medium of nodding and smiling. I did hit a few potholes but I stayed on my bike, which is the important bit.


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