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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello all; 3.5 months ago I bought my first ever road bike, and the first bike I've owned in about 20 years. It took a bit of getting used to, having never used any sort of foot clips before (it has screwed on rubber toe, er...pockets? Can't remember what they are called :d) and not having used drop down bars either.

The bars actually I found to be surprisingly easy to get to grips with; I had always imagined this would be hard to master whenever I saw people on road bikes, but it was only the foot clip things that troubled me. So much so that as I wobbled cautiously along an empty pavement after leaving the house of its previous owner just £80 poorer (I was reluctant to go on the road straight away, having avoided it like the plague as a child), I was feeling very silly and wondering if I had thrown away money on something I was fundamentally unsuited to. However, the 3 mile ride home, some of it tentatively on the road itself (it is already hard to imagine how worrying it was for me to actually have cars passing in such close proximity!), put this fear to rest, and I rapidly grew in confidence. I wasn't even planning to ride on roads unless I couldn't avoid it; my initial idea on getting the bike was to try and reach a nearby cycle path by using pavements wherever possible.

Since then I've been riding both on local cycle paths and roads (B roads, plus town and city) and have become very confident on the road. When obliged to take the centre of the road due to parked cars etc. (meaning the centre of the lane, as any motor vehicle does, as opposed to hugging the left-hand kerb), I generally try to go almost as fast as I can so as to inconvenience motorists as little as I can.

However, an incident occurred a couple of days ago which made me question the wisdom of this; I was approaching some city centre lights, which were on green, about 40 metres away. I was in the centre of my side of the road because I knew I would have to take place in a right hand lane which begins near the lights, and I was probably doing 15-20mph. Between me and the lights was a gentle bend in the road (no street infrastructure blocking my view) and a turning on the left was being entered by a couple of oncoming cars, slightly obscuring my view of the road ahead. I slowed slightly to let them finish turning comfortably, and continued on towards the lights (some more oncoming traffic was slowly approaching, getting ready to soon make the same turn).

It is at this point that I saw, about 10 metres away now (I am crap at estimating distance in figures though), a family that had started crossing the road. I was just coming off a slight downward slope and probably doing 15-18 mph, and I think the father and at least one other member were still on the left hand pavement while the daughter was just over halfway, and the mother was in the left side of the road (opens up to two lanes on this side of road approaching lights, central reservation separating us from single lane of oncoming traffic). They saw me, hesitated- and then decided to continue plodding across. They were not sprightly folk, and I was rather astonished at their decision. I would guess they were only 20 feet ahead of me now; I suppose they immediately assumed a cyclist probably wasn't going very fast and can stop easily, being an object of relatively low mass. I began braking (though not quite as violently as I had done a month or so back at a mini-roundabout, when I had stopped dead and gone flying over the handlebars!), and thankfully the mother realised that it would be a close thing and stopped. Both she and I were shocked, her saying 'Oh!' and me blaspheming. I had fishtailed a bit and come down to about 5 mph as I passed them (the daughter had got across safely), and I think I could have stopped in time without falling off had the mother carried on regardless, but it would have been with a foot or two to spare.

Before I had passed the oncoming cars turning right into the street to my left, there was definitely a car following quite closely behind me; I don't know if it had held back to let more oncoming traffic make the turning- perhaps if it had, seeing only a cyclist might be what made the mother think it was safe to continue. On the other hand, by the time I had slowed suddenly to avoid hitting anyone, I could definitely hear the car once again close behind, so it can't have held all that far back. This makes me wonder whether she saw the car(s) behind me; surely she wouldn't have kept on if she had. I suppose it might easily just be a case of the mother having an instant to make a decision and not being sure what to do; obviously one instant you are thinking it's safe to cross, the next instant there is traffic coming and you've only a fraction of a second to make a call one way or the other.

The important thing is though, I hadn't really thought too much until now how quickly I can feasibly stop when moving 'at speed' (say 15 mph plus, though I have no speedometer so maybe I am exaggerating the figure). Without risking going over the handlebars, which would obviously leave me lying in the road at the mercy of traffic, I have to pump the brakes a few times rather than just clamp down on them. It happened very quickly, so my judgement of all the distances and time might not be reliable, but suffice to say I didn't stop as rapidly as I had imagined (though as I say, I'd given it very little thought until now).

What do you guys think, is it better to curtail my speed in city centres and accept that I am going to slow traffic down when taking the centre of the road? Thanks in advance for any opinions.

Finally, I just want to say; I'm so glad I decided to get a bike again, and that I took the plunge and tried a road bike. The seat may be rock hard, me and my bike may feel every bump in the road and I can't go on trails, but the first time I started gently pedaling and found myself gliding along at speeds I had probably barely ever reached on my childhood MTB (at least on the flat), I was hooked.

2,026 Posts
You have not had a reply but it seems to me you are on the right track.

It is 55 years since I got my first bike and started mixing it with the traffic on the way to school – with steel wheels that had no braking in the wet and a headlamp that only lit up the front wheel not the road ahead.

Average traffic speeds in towns are low and so a bike at normal speeds is likely to make better progress than other vehicles (which sadly riles some drivers). Personally I find other two-wheel riders more frightening than the other traffic and suicidal pedestrians. Other riders give less space to me than drivers. I got my first helmet 30 years ago after doing the London to Brighton and having witnessed a novice rider knock down a row of cyclists at lights.

You are using advance driving techniques - looking ahead, anticipating trouble, and reacting accordingly. Slowing and dropping gears in advance of a hazard. Another part of this is ensuring you have road space in which to manoeuvre – which is what you have been doing – e.g. keeping well out so as to avoid potholes, drains, parked vehicles and road paint, and to ensure you do not get squeezed by overtaking traffic. Allowing sufficient space in front of you in which to stop, avoiding getting on the inside of trucks that may be turning. It also helps to be aware of and give clear signals to traffic behind as does moving promptly out of their path when you can. This is assertive – but not aggressive – riding.

BTW my assumption is always that a green light ahead will change.

Hmm - not been out lately. Perhaps I should grease the hubs and pump the tyres.
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