Tips for safe cycling #2: Taking the lane
According to TfL, 77% of accidents happen at junctions. It’s understandable why this can be a hotspot for collision: there are two or more directions of traffic, visibility can be reduced, and confusion is common. For cyclists, the statistics are more scary: junctions are where most fatalities occur, especially when left-turning vehicles are involved.
Taking the lane at junctions (being in the centre) can greatly reduce the chances of an accident. Picture a typical T junction. If the cyclist hugs the kerb they are effectively inviting someone to come alongside them and turn either at the same time or turn in front of them. If the road has parked cars lining it, the cyclist is concealed from view for much of the manoeuvre. Being on the inside of a left-turning vehicle is the last place you want to be, so don’t invite it by sticking to the side. If you hold a central position you will have more road presence, better visibility, and another road user won’t have room to pass without going into the other lane so will have to wait behind – a much safer and more correct use of the roads (according to the Highway Code, if you’re in front you have priority, and overtaking on a junction is not permitted). If you’re turning right, the same principle applies – by placing yourself on the right hand side of the lane you are opening yourself up to being overtaken. Be bold and take the lane, whether you are turning left or right or going straight on, and take this position at all junctions including T junctions, cross-roads, traffic lights and roundabouts. Keep the central position until you have cleared the junction, then return to your normal riding position.
At pinch points or on narrow roads, there is often not room for another vehicle to pass you safely. If you stay to the left, drivers may try to squeeze past, so each time you approach a pinch point (e.g. traffic island), check behind and, if it’s safe to do so, move into a central position to discourage dangerous overtaking. If there’s someone directly behind, wait for them to pass before moving into the central position.
The way you behave on the roads affects how others behave, and your position can encourage others to drive more safely around you. Where you ride is a form of communication in itself; by riding wide and central you are saying, “Please wait before you overtake,” whereas a position to the side says, “Please go around me.” Think about which is safest for you in each situation and alter your position accordingly.