Hold your line

Watching bicycle couriers at work in Melbourne is heart-stopping. They dart between cars, trams and pedestrians – here suddenly, gone before you catch your breathe again. It’s their unpredictability that scares you. Yet being predictable is one of the best ways a cyclist can stay safe in traffic.

Don’t dodge in and out of parked cars. Ride in a straight line. Motorists have a better chance of seeing you if you hold a steady course. You may feel exposed if you’re not used to riding in this manner. But this way you won’t surprise anyone by appearing suddenly from behind a car.

Riding past a line of parked cars requires vigilance. The safest place to be is a good car door width away from the cars. It is illegal to open a door into the path of a person or vehicle, but many people just don’t look first.

Motorists coming up behind you can see you. So even though you might feel exposed, this is the safest place to be. On busy roads where parking is allowed along the kerb there is usually plenty of room for cars to pass you. Don’t be intimidated, you’re quite entitled to take up half a lane here.

You are allowed to pass cars on the left, as long as the car is not turning left. Be aware that you might be in a motorist’s blind spot as you sneak up the inside lane. Watch the backs of heads. You’d be surprised what people’s body language gives away and that way you’re prepared whatever they do.

While turning left is easy, turning right can be a challenge. Confident cyclists simply indicate their intention to turn right, move into the right hand lane when it’s safe and turn with the traffic. If you’re not so confident, it’s quite acceptable to use a hook turn to get across the intersection.

Large, busy roundabouts are also daunting for many cyclists. Again, the safest place to be is well into your lane where everyone can see you. Don’t feel you have to sit right in the left as you pedal through. If cars have to follow you through the roundabout, you’ll only hold them up for a few seconds. Sitting well into the lane also stops them trying to squeeze past you on the roundabout itself.

Stay vigilant, stay safe, and I look forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing. Eddie Barkla

First published in the Bendigo Weekly Friday 2 June 2006

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