33

Commuting into work by bicycle can be a serious challenge if you’re anywhere other than Amsterdam.

I commute by cycling in London, about 6 km each way through busy parts of central London. Although I try to avoid cars and pedestrians by taking quiet roads, protected cycle ways and closed roads, inevitably you will come across some cars at some stage.

Even when I take these quieter routes, cars sometimes are still travelling fast (>45 kmh), so it is still dangerous. I try to travel slow (< 15 kmh) so I have enough time to react if anything should happen.

Sometimes though, I still get drivers cutting right across me when I want to go straight and they are turning left over my lane.

I wear a helmet, bright flashing lights in front and back, high vis vest and I have a bike horn. I don’t think there’s much else I can do to be more visible.

What can I do when a driver cuts me off? It’s extremely frustrating because it’s so so dangerous, and scary when it happens. I’m not doing anything wrong, but they still cut in front of me (or fellow cyclists). I see red and I want to go bang on the window and yell at the guy.

Is there a better way to deal with this type of situation? I’m not exactly asking how to avoid it - sometimes I see the driver indicating up ahead and I know they won’t bother to look behind them, so I slow down to let them pass. Other times they don’t indicate and I still keep my distance for safety. Other times still, they don’t indicate, are very close to me, but still turn in (almost) too quickly for me to react - one day, I will be hit by a car.

How can I let the driver know what they are doing is very dangerous? In my opinion, they should be fined for such offences, but it’s so hard to catch them doing it.

Based on some of the comments, I wanted to clarify some points.

  • Why am I cycling so slow? Perhaps it would be safer somehow if there was a smaller speed difference between me and the driver, by me cycling faster, so they would be aware of me? While I couldn't find any evidence or studies online to back this up, IMO cycling faster, in general, is more dangerous because reaction times need to be faster and collisions are more severe. I'm not driving a car on a highway trying to merge into the main lanes where speed matching is required. There is nothing in the UK highway code to say I need to match the drivers speed. And finally, I commute by cycling; I don't wear lycra and I don't want to sweat - I wear my suit to work and so I cycle slow.
  • Lights: Flashing vs. Continuous. I am open to suggestions here. Having lights, flashing or not, is safer than having nothing at all and is required anyway by UK law (rule 60)[1]. It seems there is a small advantage to having a continuous light in terms of visibility [2][3]. This answer suggests that it is easier to see cars rather than bicycles, not just because of their size, but because they have two lights in front and two lights in the back. To me this makes sense, so I'm open to getting more lights (set to continuous mode ;) ) to make it easier for drivers to estimate my position and velocity.
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    What you're describing is called a "left hook" (or right hook in places where you travel on the right side of the road). A fair number of cyclists in the UK use action cameras front and rear to document this kind of driving and report it to the police, although it seems that officials seldom take action. Road.cc has a regular "close pass of the day" feature.
    – Adam Rice
    Oct 17 '21 at 17:29
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Gary.Ray
    Oct 19 '21 at 15:35
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    When cycling slow, think of yourself as a pedestrian and follow pedestrian rules. This means looking all ways at every intersection and not proceeding until all is clear. If you have a rear mirror (which I think is essential), you have a head start on seeing if cars are coming from behind. If a car is approaching you from behind, you should either stop completely or slow down enough until you are certain of the driver's intent (whether to turn or not). I spent many years commuting to work by bike in the NYC area. Oct 20 '21 at 12:48
  • I like praying the "Czar Prayer" from "Fiddler on the Roof" youtube.com/watch?v=8jZFnKZcids
    – Mike
    Oct 20 '21 at 14:14
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    Question: when you say "my lane" are you in marked bike lane? Or taking a full-width traffic lane? Or just near the kerb of a normal lane? And how far ahead of you are these motorists? Far enough that they could perceive it as a safe and normal lane change or merge, by motorist standards?
    – CCTO
    Oct 20 '21 at 20:32

19 Answers 19

44

Ride like every driver is a psychopath who hates cyclists; you will be wrong 95% of the time. What if the driver who just cut you off is one of the 5% and has a knife (US == gun)?

It’s easier said than done (and not always possible). I have learnt the best approach is swear quietly to myself a few times, take a deep breath and keep riding. Avoiding becoming a road statistic is more important that any response. The unhurt and undamaged bike state is precious and any other action puts this at risk, especially a heat of moment response.

Anger can often be calmed with a few simple questions to yourself.

Are my expectations reasonable? ...
Am I angry at the right person? ...
Is my anger getting me what I want? ...
Is my anger out of proportion to the offense? ...
Do I have an effective response.

Best case confronting the driver is it elicits an apology and a recognition from you it was a driver error with no malice intended. Worst case is violent road rage and you get a file number and become a police statistic.

As already said in comments, cameras can make a huge difference. Knowing you have recorded evidence means you can ride on knowing you can report the driving later. If you decide (against my advice, but your choice) to confront the driver, cameras recording the interaction may be useful later.

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  • 5
    I don't go road raging when I have a giant cage protecting me from fallout, so why would I go road raging without one. Like they say, look for trouble and you will find it.
    – emory
    Oct 18 '21 at 0:50
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    @DanielRHicks: Sorry, I cannot laugh. Those idiots almost kill me, they almost kill my daughter right in front of me, and most often than not, don't even notice or care. The situation is highly asymmetrical, simply because they're protected by 1500kg of stuff around them, and cyclists are not. If I drive my bicycle carelessly, I can die. If they drive their car carelessly, I can die too. Staying polite and not confronting careless drivers cannot be the solution, if they didn't even notice that they almost killed someone. Oct 18 '21 at 8:52
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    "Ride like every driver is a psychopath who hates cyclists, you will be wrong 95% of the time. What if the driver who just cut you off is one of the 5% and has a knife (US == gun)?" They already have a car, which is a much more efficient murder instrument than a knife!! I do agree that "Ride like every driver is a psychopath who wants to kill you with their car" is good advice in a large city.
    – Stef
    Oct 18 '21 at 11:49
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    @Stef Nevertheless, the vast majority of car drivers is not killers. If you block their way, and they cannot get around you without crashing into a parked car, they will stop. They are dangerous because they don't respect bikers as beings with any rights on the road, but they won't actively run you over. So it should be more like "ride like every driver is a nutter who's won their driver license in a lottery yesterday, is highly alcoholized, and believes the road is theirs". Apart from the license, this may well be true :-( Oct 18 '21 at 18:36
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    I bought myself a dashcam, and I noticed that I subconciously wanted to film a bad situation. Instead of driving extra carefully, I more like "let it happen" thinking the dashcam would somehow "protect" me. Like a reporter that looked at a warzone through his camera lense. I really never had more almost-accidents than when I used a dashcam. That is why I have removed it again.
    – tmighty
    Oct 18 '21 at 23:27
25

What to do when a driver cuts you off?

  • Stay safe
  • Keep situational awareness in all directions - there may be another vehicle coming so look for it.
  • Keep moving - don't stop, get out to a safe place if you want to stop and collect yourself

What NOT to do:

  • Yell - it's unlikely to be intelligible from inside the car.
  • Hit the car with a hand/foot
  • Push back into the vehicle - they weigh a lot and will always win.
  • Confront the driver - they could react defensively then you've got a road rage situation.

You might choose to:

  • Sound your air horn, a bell tends to be inaudible and useless.
  • Submit a "poor driving" report via your local police/traffic authority. You must get the license plate for this to have any benefit.
  • Later at home, snag photos or footage off your camera (presuming you ride with an action-camera on the bike, I do.) These can be submitted with police report.
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    Would it be a good idea to report the footage to an association rather than directly to the police? I assume if one cyclist keeps bugging the police to complain about car drivers, the police will just ignore them. But if an association complains about 1000 car drivers in the name of 100 cyclists, it might have more weight.
    – Stef
    Oct 18 '21 at 10:53
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    In what situations would you claim the lane? (I ask you because I've seen you post here a lot, and so I guess you have seen a statistically relevant number of left-hook near misses. You also come off as confident enough to claim the lane in any situation that would improve safety.)
    – Clumsy cat
    Oct 18 '21 at 11:23
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    @Clumsycat Criggie recently made me aware that there are somewhat different rules regarding 'claiming the lane' depending on where in the world you live. What I would do here in the UK would apparently get me in trouble in NZ. It's also difficult to give blanket advice as what works for me may not be possible for other people. For example, I always claim the lane when riding in an urban environment, but I ride full gas to keep up with the flow of traffic. The OP would never get left hooked riding like this, but his work clothes would be a sweaty mess.
    – Andy P
    Oct 18 '21 at 12:49
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    @AndyP well that is worth knowing. It's a shame, because oddly enough being right in the flow of traffic often does feel safer. I feel like im in the place that people are most likely to check before maneuvering.
    – Clumsy cat
    Oct 18 '21 at 15:08
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    Don't ... bash the car. My brother-in-law is a passionate motorcyclist. His machine is very large and you can't miss it. One someone pulled in front of him to turn left (in the UK) and he rapped on the car bonnet with his mailed glove. The car stopped and a very large, very angry person started to get out. Fortunately at this point a bunch of Hell's Angels swarmed up and just sat there, looking; "have we got a problem here, mate?". The car drove off and my brother-in-law took some deep breaths, waved and grinned, and continued.
    – RedSonja
    Oct 20 '21 at 8:56
16

Sometimes though, I still get drivers cutting right across me when I want to go straight and they are turning left over my lane.

What to do?

Try not to be there!

Seriously, the biggest skill you can build for travelling in built-up areas is predicting what the driver in front of you is going to do. That's as true for cars and motorbikes as it is for cycling. There are usually plenty of clues that a driver is going to turn, and the challenge is spotting them.

You say that you're not looking for advice on avoiding the situation. But really you just have to accept that the situation exists. If we're honest with ourselves too, we'll all acknowledge that sometimes we've been that person and not had 100% situational awareness, and (mostly) we've got away with it. We're all human.

Yes, you can report them to the police. But to keep yourself safe, the best thing you can do is all your staying-aware stuff. That's what's going to save you.

That and a helmet anyway. Don't ride in town without one.

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    Watch at least for the car lights. Who is turning, should signal this!
    – nightrider
    Oct 18 '21 at 15:41
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    @h22 Oh my sweet summer child... ;) The number of people who've never discovered the indicator switch is infamous, especially with BMW and Audi drivers. I did start giving advice on how to spot what drivers are up to, but then I realized the OP had said they weren't looking for that. The main principle still applies though - the main person keeping you safe is you
    – Graham
    Oct 18 '21 at 18:26
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    This is really the key. If you learn to anticipate and expect people to do the wrong thing, you won't be surprised when they do it. Watch a car's "body language" even if it doesn't have a turn-signal on. When you can predict bad things, it's far less nerve-wracking because you can just avoid them and move-on. Oct 19 '21 at 22:10
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    Totally agree on a car's 'body language', I've ridden with others and have to bite my lip not victim blaming them when they are put out by a driver cutting them off. My internal voice is screaming 'you couldn't spot that happening???' Oct 19 '21 at 23:51
  • Helmets do not keep your arms/legs from breaking but do tell drivers 'no need to be careful with this cyclist, he has a helmet'. I live in a country where almost nobody uses helmets for 15 km/h speeds, drivers do respect us more than in other countries.
    – Willeke
    Oct 20 '21 at 16:37
13

Personal anecdotes incoming. Some useful advice after that.

I see red and I want to go bang on the window and yell at the guy

From personal experience cycling in London and flipping off drivers (bad idea!) who have driven dangerously near me I can tell you that confronting them in a negative way is a bad idea. Twice I have been chased by cars.

How can I let the driver know what they are doing is very dangerous? In my opinion, they should be fined for such offences, but it’s so hard to catch them doing it.

I once confronted a driver in a calm manner after they had parked. At first it seemed like they understood what I was trying to tell them but in the end they got annoyed and got angry. That was a waste of time.

Advice (for London):

In my opinion, they should be fined for such offences, but it’s so hard to catch them doing it.

If that is your intention you can use dash-cams and report them to the police. The subreddit londoncycling has users who do that quite frequently with some success. There is also a FAQ with a section for reporting videos to the Met police.

As pointed out by @Carel: For other places and countries, do check whether the use of dash-cams is actually allowed.

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    Don't try the dashcam thing in most EU-country where their use is prohibited. You may even be fined. In some places, the fine may go up to 10`000€ !
    – Carel
    Oct 19 '21 at 16:09
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    another subreddit good for that (with a few regular users from London, but also around the world) is /r/cyclistswithcameras. The Londoners do seem to have a higher success rate than the rest of us, though...
    – Jim Cullen
    Oct 20 '21 at 0:34
  • @Carel That is a good point. Thanks. I will add something about that in my answer. Oct 20 '21 at 6:04
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    @Carel can you quote your sources? Wouldn't such law make it driving any Tesla electric car (which records with several cameras at the same time) illegal too in EU? Oct 20 '21 at 19:41
  • @Carel EU is composed of quite a few countries, several of them at least where this is not the case. Which jurisdiction in particular are you talking about?
    – njzk2
    Oct 21 '21 at 20:04
9

I reckon I drive, walk and cycle equal distances each year, so I feel a bit qualified to comment from all perspectives.

Yes, people should not cut you up, but you can help.

Flashing lights on cyclists or dazzling (bright, upward facing) lights on cyclists. Absolutely daft and dangerous. I never have any trouble seeing a light. What I have trouble with is finding the right light to see. Is that a momentary reflection off a raindrop on my window or a flashing light? If I see a steady light, I can judge distance and trajectory. That's what I need to know to avoid you/not cut you up.

I had a cyclist approaching me - an irregular dazzling flash (pulse, gap, double pulse) and ended up dazzled and looking away. Just when I should be looking at him to avoid him.

Different night - empty road - I could see the dazzling flashing rear light from 3/4 mile back. But I nearly hit them when I finally closed because I suddenly discovered I was close because I could not judge the distance of a flash.

Some idiot living near here even thinks a flashing white light at the rear helps! There are rules so we all know what is going on. Don't make your own.

I cycle with steady, downward, white-front, red-rear and don't seem to get cut up. I feel safe cycling. If you want to be safer - lose the flash. Make sure the lights are fixed (not on you, who is wiggling, on the bicycle).

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    Welcome to the site - excellent first answer ! Keep it up.
    – Criggie
    Oct 18 '21 at 23:05
  • I have a flashing front light, but instead of a hard on/off it has a gentle "throb" mode that works really well.
    – Criggie
    Oct 18 '21 at 23:06
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    I have a bunch of lights installed on my bike that are pointed towards the bike itself, and towards the road underneath. I want drivers to see me and judge the distance. Not to blind them.
    – Gimelist
    Oct 19 '21 at 9:32
8

You can do nothing

By the time they've cut in front of you, it's happened and you can't change the past. All you can do is keep calm, and make sure you don't let their aggressive driving lead to you making a mistake. Screaming, bashing windows, aggressively chasing them, etc. don't help you get safely to your destination and are unlikely to make any difference to the person who cut you off.

Take a deep breath. Cycle as safely as possible for the rest of your journey.

If you were cycling in any of the many, many cities with less aggressive drivers and better cycling infrastructure than London then I'd recommend strategies to prevent this happening but realistically you can't do that in London. Even as a car driver in London you are forced into being incredibly aggressive by other drivers, as a cyclist you can't risk your health to do that.

Yield, take a deep breath, live to cycle another day.

5

I feel I need to repeat parts of two of the better answers already given, but it's worth elaborating.

First, as Graham said, the biggest skill you can build for travelling in built-up areas is predicting what the driver in front of you is going to do.

You will build it up with experience. There are plenty of clues what the driver is about to do, even if they are not as explicit as indication. (Yes, to me, not indicating is a worse crime than speeding. The biggest virtue in traffic is to be predictable). This is equally useful for driving as for riding.

By the way, being able to drive and driving regularly in similar situations can be very useful. In other words, "being on the other side" and appreciating the objective difficulties as well as subjective shortcomings. In reverse, this is perhaps the biggest cause of the problems you are experiencing: many drivers who don't ride just can't appreciate the situation properly. But solving this is a long-term education process.

With the drivers, I would divide them in two main categories. Or rather, not them but the causes of the situation: everyone can be on each.

  • The driver doesn't see you. This can happen no matter how much hi-viz gear you put on. Many drivers just don't register anything smaller than a car: they may "look but don't see".
  • The driver believes that he/she might "still make it" without causing too much trouble. Like any human judgement, it can be erroneous, especially for those aforementioned drivers who don't ride, but sometimes it can be justified.
    • First, driving in a dense traffic environment such as inner London requires a certain degree of assertivenes, as well as courtesy. Otherwise you might not be going anywhere. Sometimes it's reasonable to make the right-of-way traffic to slow down, rather than to paralyse everyone behind. And that other traffic (including you) might need to "read" the situation and accept that: we've all been on the other side, haven't we?
    • Just like you are (or will be) reading hints from subtle drivers' behaviour, they are reading yours. You are riding slowly and fearfully? OK, I'm not going to wait for you; at worst, you'll slow down a little bit more. This can easily become plain arrogance, but if this reasoning is explicit, the driver will usually explicitly indicate.

Note: I didn't include "psychopaths". There are not really many of them (although it varies by country and place). Most of these "psychopats" are really those from the first category who don't see. Real psychopats are actually quite visible by the way they drive (and often by their vehicles), and you'll learn to detect them first - and, of course, expect the worst from them.

So, to conclude, I would rephrase mattnz: 1) Ride like every driver doesn't notice you untill you know otherwise; and 2) with experience, build more self-confidence and learn to "read" other's behaviour and traffic in general. Don't assume that everyone will give you way and plenty of margin just because you are vulnerable. Sometimes, be more visible by being more assertive (more car-like) rather than by adding more lights.

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  • In my experience, you can remove "until you know otherwise", as you can never truly know the driver has seen you, even if multiple evidence indicates that they have. (speaking from experience) Oct 20 '21 at 19:44
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There's an excellent and very amusing short video series about driving through London on youtube called "Ogmios School of Zen Motoring". Sometimes when I get angry in traffic (first at someone, then at myself for getting angry) I rewatch those. The way he comments calmly on outrageous situations is inspiring.

Link to the fist vid:

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  • That was such a great video! Made me smile! Thanks for the share. It’s a shame the areas in London he shows are such god awful ugly.
    – PyRsquared
    Oct 19 '21 at 18:34
4

This may or may not be possible given the circumstances, but try to make eye contact with the driver. Looking back over your shoulder clearly, perhaps signalling with your hands.

3

Welcome to the flock!

I think the only thing you can reasonably (and legally) do is what somebody else suggested: use a camera, get a shot of their number plate. I'd consider setting up a name and shame website, perhaps on Facebook and invite all cyclists to contribute. This may actually be illegal, if you don't pixelate the number plate, but I think it is defendable as a form of civic disobedience.

Another thing that should be mentioned here is that cyclists very often are seen to behave in a way that appears to be designed to provoke anger, so make sure you are always exceedingly considerate in traffic. And yes, I do know all the reasons why cyclists behave the way they do; I'm a cyclist myself, but if we want to preach good behaviour to motorists, then we need to avoid hypocrisy.

Other than that, you might be tempted to do what I do to avoid problems: drive on the pavement if the road is not safe - and behave like a pedestrian on wheels: drive slowly, make way or stop if you meet other pedestrians, make eye-contact and smile in a friendly way; do all the things that make others feel you care about their safety, and nobody is likely to complain (not even the police, in my experience). Of course, this is illegal, strictly speaking, no matter how considerate you are, and the legal thing to do is to get off the bike and walk.

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    Remember riding on the pavement/footpath may not be legal - the laws vary globally.
    – Criggie
    Oct 19 '21 at 7:55
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    @Criggie I know - hence my last line: '...this is illegal,...'. However, a lot of things are 'mildly' illegal, in that people are willing to tolerate it if you are considerate.
    – j4nd3r53n
    Oct 19 '21 at 10:53
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That happens all the time to me, about as often as a pedestrian jumping in front of me (in my country, they erroneously put the bike paths on sidewalks, forcing us to ride among pedestrians and making us mostly invisible to car drivers so that when a combined bike path / sidewalk crosses a road the car drivers might not even realize there can be cyclists arriving at high speed).

The key for encountering such situations is to ride at a speed that gives you enough time for braking.

What I do if a driver cuts me off is to brake. I carefully adjust the amount of braking to be such that the bike stops less than a meter from the car.

Usually that is enough to signal that I had the right of way and the car driver did a mistake. Many times, the car driver brakes, too late, stopping the car directly in front of me. That's a good sign. It means they realized their mistake and attempted to brake, and then realized that the braking happened too late, and then found out the bike just managed to stop, barely avoiding an accident (what they don't know is that I perfectly well could have braked even harder to stop earlier).

It's important to adjust the braking such that you stop very close to the car. If you stop far away from the car, the driver doesn't even realize they did something unsafe. Then they continue driving like there are no cyclists and repeat the same mistake. However, if you adjust the braking so that you stop very close to the car, that causes the drivers to adjust their behavior and can avoid a future accident caused by them.

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As a bike commuter for many years in Copenhagen, I feel your pain. Some of the thing I do to keep safe is

  • try not to be in the blind spot of cars, i.e. right at their rear bumper
  • try to notice when cars move slowly. That might be an indication that they're about to make a turn.
  • be aware at all times.

When I do get cut off, I'm often prepared for it and can avoid the car. I yell "Hey!" as loudly as I can and often the person in the car hears it and realise their mistake.

As scary as almost getting hit is, I think it's also important to realise that the drivers aren't doing this on purpose. They're just humans like the rest of us and we all make mistakes. The issue is, of course, that no matter if it's you or the driver that makes a mistake, it's you that ends up in hospital.

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The logic of "going slow to be more safe" in car lanes is faulty in my opinion.

Perhaps it would be safer somehow if there was a smaller speed difference between me and the driver, by me cycling faster, so they would be aware of me?

  • I think you would indeed be safer. For one, you can merge more easily as you are disrupting traffic less. Additionally, I find that drivers respect cyclists more when they are riding at near-traffic speeds because drivers do not feel as strong a need to overtake them.

IMO cycling faster, in general, is more dangerous because reaction times need to be faster and collisions are more severe.

  • This is true of self-inflicted crashes. What you're concerned about now is your relative speed. Reaction times to what, by the way? I agree that collisions will be more severe, but you'll be less likely to be involved in a collision in the first place if you match the rest of traffic better.

I'm not driving a car on a highway trying to merge into the main lanes where speed matching is required.

  • You are riding your bike in the car lane. I'm pretty sure that is the same thing as trying to merge in a car. If you don't speed up to match traffic, traffic will have to slow down to match you.

There is nothing in the UK highway code to say I need to match the drivers speed.

  • However, there is also a difference between what you legally need to do and what you really should do for practical safety. You can shake the highway code and proclaim your righteousness all you want...from your hospital bed. You really don't want to play with people's patience when they are in a big, heavy metal box.

And finally, I commute by cycling; I don't wear lycra and I don't want to sweat - I wear my suit to work and so I cycle slow.

  • Fair point. I agree that it is unreasonable to say that only lycra-clad cyclists riding at 40km/h are capable of riding safely in traffic, and that following the other answers' advice regarding lights, clothing, lane position, etc is usually more than enough. However, I don't believe that riding slowly on purpose is a good idea.

EDIT: I realized I misinterpreted the question. Don't bother trying to ride at car speeds in the bike lane — if you can, you should be racing for a professional team. If you are positive a driver has noticed you, accelerate so they do not lose patience and try to turn before you reach their position. It's difficult for drivers to estimate your speed while they are driving, so you need to be watching for overeager drivers. I've been in a few situations before where drivers were aware of my presence and slowed down before a turn, but didn't realize I was riding at 35km/h and attempted to turn before I entered the intersection. The opposite scenario could apply to you, where a driver thinks you have passed already but you have not.

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    It might be the case that lycra clad cyclists riding at 40km/h are not the only ones able to ride safely in traffic, but that is the safest way to ride in traffic. When you are riding in the middle of the lane at the same speed as traffic you eliminate left hooks and close passes whilst also reducing the likelyhood of drivers becoming angry because you are holding them up. It's also easier than it may seem to ride at these speeds in an urban environment as you often don't need to hold them long - maybe 30-60 seconds before you can ease up for the next set of lights.
    – Andy P
    Oct 20 '21 at 11:23
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    @AndyP I agree - my personal policy is to hold at least 40 if I’m riding in car lanes.
    – MaplePanda
    Oct 20 '21 at 14:47
2

Well the short answer is you're breaking the highway code:

Rules for cyclists (59 to 82)

Rule 72

On the left. When approaching a junction on the left, watch out for vehicles turning in front of you, out of or into the side road. Just before you turn, check for undertaking cyclists or motorcyclists. Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left.

Others have covered many points I would otherwise make.

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  • Welcome to the site - Could you please clarify which country this is for ?
    – Criggie
    Oct 19 '21 at 22:01
  • The UK (given the questioner is talking about London)
    – Anon
    Oct 19 '21 at 22:02
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    A cyclist going straight has the right over traffic turning off over their path, as far as I understand, also in the UK. If you know different, can you please post relevant law texts (or links to them) in your answer?
    – Willeke
    Oct 20 '21 at 16:45
2

Plenty of good answers already, but there are a couple of fine details I wanted to mention.

... drivers cutting right across me when I want to go straight and they are turning left over my lane.

I'm assuming the lane here is either a physically segregated cycle lane, a mandatory non-segregated cycle lane (solid line), or an advisory non-segregated cycle lane (dashed line).

Left hook issues are generally less pronounced if you're taking the left traffic lane, with the exceptions of multi-lane roundabouts and some junctions like Hyde Park Corner, both of which are OK if you're alert and confident and moving at around motor traffic speed, and neither of which I'd fancy trying at 15kph.

So, we're in a dedicated lane to the left of the motor traffic. Things to watch out for are:

  1. vehicles alongside/ahead of you indicating to turn. Yes, it's optimistic and you shouldn't depend on it, but if they do indicate you should notice it

  2. vehicles alongside/ahead of you slowing before a junction: they may be preparing to turn, or they may be allowing oncoming vehicles to turn across you (both).

    The oncoming vehicles turning right won't be able to see you clearly if their sightline is blocked by the vehicle alongside you, and even if they're supposed to give way to you, it's worth remember that:

    • you'd come off worse in a collision
    • they can't see you until it's almost too late
    • if the vehicle alongside is being courteous (although obviously not to you), it won't hurt you to join in. Give the turning vehicles a nod so they know you've seen them, on the off-chance they bothered to look and even considered giving way
  3. long vehicles alongside/ahead of you beginning to turn right to set up a left turn.

    Even if they're indicating, it can be confusing if you notice the right swing first, but don't be tempted to undertake in this situation. These are the vehicles you least want to collide with, and they'll sweep out a large area of road when turning left. Just hang back and let them get on with it.

    Someone mentioned the importance of wearing a helmet. No helmet exists that will meaningfully help if you fling yourself underneath a lorry because you don't understand how they move.

In general, these lanes are set up to encourage undertaking (ie, passing on the near side). It may feel safer next to the pavement because you can bail out and dismount, but it's terrible positioning in moving traffic for exactly the reasons described above. It's not ideal for stationary traffic either, but at least if you're moving slowly you can stay alert and closing speeds are low.

2

To strictly answer the question: there's not a lot you can do if you're already cut off by a car, except going to the police with some footage if you have some.

But the best way is to avoid this situation, and the best answer to that is "defensive riding", and taking/claiming the lane more specifically (and wearing high visibility clothing). This article from The Guardian mentions some points that deserve more than a comment to the main answer.

As some people have commented, taking the lane may be illegal in some areas, but is the behaviour that is recommended by the London Transport Authority, according to the quoted article. It is also taught in to kids in "city riding" lessons. Several reasons are given:

  • better visibility for you and the cars,
  • prevent dangerous overtaking by simply not giving enough space to the car trying to overtake you,
  • being out of reach of a car door being open in front of you.

I would just add a few things about action cameras, that have been already mentioned many times:

  • have it on you helmet, so that it is clear that you have one (it may make a difference for some motorists)
  • you may need a 360° camera for the scenario you mentioned. A simple camera facing front is very unlikely to capture the number plate.

And another personal tip: install a decent mirror on your bike. Seeing what's happening behind you without have to make a full turn is a real help when riding in cities (and outside). It is the first accessory that I install on a bike, and now that I'm used to it, I feel unsafe using a bike without one. I think they are more important than on a car, given how often a bike is overtaken. But 99% of the riders still prefer to have nothing ...but wouldn't consider driving a car without mirrors.

0
2

Generally, communicate. A road full of traffic of all kinds is a team.

  • Observe light signals, and try to see the driver behind windshield.
  • If you make a brief stop, a car driver often interprets this as you are giving the way. Once you stopped, be careful when continuing.
  • Always use the constant white light at front, regardless if day or night.
  • If the car is standing or just rolling but you are not sure if they give you the way, show hand signal possible to understand "I am now going" (point at direction).
1

Practice the most important evasive maneuver: braking. Being cut off in traffic is part of life. It will happen to you when you are driving, biking, or walking, sometime or another. The thing to do is keep your balance, and control your speed. If there's a dangerous driver out on the road, you want them to get away from you. Keep them in front of you until they're gone their separate way. Don't leapfrog.

I try to go with the flow of traffic. On my commute, I ride fast to keep up with the flow of cars and turn and maneuver as a car. I have a 7mi course to work, so it's a manageable exertion.

I don't like to ride slowly on the street unless it's empty; it just doesn't feel safe to be overtaken frequently, with a big difference in speed. I like to ride at lower speed on paths and sidewalks, out of consideration.

I try to make sure I'm well in control of my speed, no matter how fast I go, and I practiced braking technique so I can avoid plowing into the side of someone when I'm cut off.

-6

If the traffic is heavy-I generally try to catch up with them and bend their mirror backwards as I pass them. If they're on their phone I'll pull up next to them and bang on their window really hard, verbally abuse them, and go about my way.

When doing this, make sure that you have a clear exit strategy and the police aren't around. You don't want this driver catching back up with you. Can you lane split traffic to get away? Is there a separate bike path to hop on?

Other considerations are in the realm of is there any way this person will recognize me again. You don't want the person side swiping you a week later after you've forgotten about the incident (but they clearly haven't).

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  • 2
    This feels like confrontational advice, and seems to provoke an escalation.
    – Criggie
    Oct 20 '21 at 0:58
  • I didn't see any indication on OP's post that said they were trying to avoid confrontation or escalation. With the caveats I mentioned, I don't see how this is bad advice.
    – Thomas
    Oct 21 '21 at 17:56
  • fair enough - this absolutely is a valid answer to the question, and is on-topic. The downvotes suggest that the community at large disagree with the suggestions. Please don't be put off by that - it is good to have a variety. (I've got an answer somewhere on SE that was at -38 !)
    – Criggie
    Oct 21 '21 at 18:17

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