Road etiquette: how cyclists should deal with heavy traffic
London traffic can be a nightmare, obviously. As much as people say the congestion charge has reduced traffic, it’s hard to tell when I’m cycling through a jam between a bus full of gawping tourists and a truck transporting precariously piled pipes or toxic waste or hungry tigers or something. It can be quite intimidating for cyclists to move through stagnant traffic, even if we’ll never admit it.
There are many tactics to take when faced with heavy traffic, so we’re here to offer our top 5, totally serious approaches on how best to deal with car and cyclist congestion.
Wheelie down the other side of the road
There’s no need to stay cooped up behind that queue of angry taxis; you can jump on the wrong side of the road and blitz your journey home in no time. Heck, it’s such a good idea, why not pull a wheelie? I once saw two dudes on bikes pulling a wheelie the wrong way down Tower Bridge Road and my first thought was, “Woah. Those are the coolest guys that ever did anything.” Statistically, they’re probably both in a coma at the moment, but ‘cool dudes’ can be put on their medical chart for preferential treatment from hospital staff (NOTE: probably not how the NHS operates).
Pros: Nothing to stop you! Those squares in cars will be soooo jelly.
Cons: Oncoming traffic can be a hassle/hazard. A little bit hard to get back on the correct side of the road when pulling a wheelie, especially if the central reservation gets in the way. But nobody said being totally rad would be easy!
Take to the pavement
Why bother dealing with traffic that’s bigger and tougher than you when you can deal with traffic that’s softer and lighter? Pedestrians are smaller, so easier to avoid, and more manoeuvrable so they can actually get out of your way when you ring your bell. No brainer, right? Even if you do crash into an elderly lady or a pram with twins inside, you’re on a bike! What are they going to do? Chase you? Not on those spindly little human legs, they aren’t.
Pros: Significantly less danger to your life as the heaviest thing you’ll encounter is a wheelchair.
Cons: If any cameras caught you running over that toddler, it’s going to ruin the already dubious reputation of London cyclists.
Mad Max: Fury Road it
A favourite of mine is to drive past the conga line of automobiles, weave in and out of them at maximum speed and every time I find someone with an open window, shout “WITNESS ME!” Another option is when you’re forced to stop (which isn’t very Mad Max), look at other cyclists with your chrome-covered face and scream “I LIVE. I DIE. I LIVE AGAIN!” before you cycle off into a busy crossroad.
Pros: People will think you’re pretty darn cool (right?).
Cons: Oh, just so many. There’s the inevitable crash, for one – that’s pretty high up on the list of negatives – but then consider that, if you survive, you’ll be instantly liable for any damages or criminal charges for reckless driving under the influence of chrome intoxicants.
Jump electric wires
This doesn’t necessarily apply to traffic alone, it’s just universally wicked-awesome. How excellent will you sound when you tell everyone about that live electrical wire you jumped over on your bike?!? Admittedly, you’re more likely to slow your progress through traffic, but if you do it right I think it’s reasonable to assume the cars will part like in Bruce Almighty out of sheer respect.
Cons: GI Joe will be FURIOUS.
Take your time and overtake safely
Lastly, we offer you the technique popular with people who are still alive and not in jail: being sensible. Bikes are nimble and able to manoeuvre through traffic pretty seamlessly, so with a little bit of patience, you can usually work your way through traffic safely. If it’s getting too dangerous, you can get off and walk for a bit until the coast is clearer.
The British Cycling Federation released some guides on cycling through traffic. They point out that while filtering on the left (undertaking slow or stationary cars next to the pavement) is the most obvious method for cyclists, it’s not as safe as it would seem. Drivers can’t see cyclists too well and there have been many an open door ruin a cyclist’s day. As much as it might seem the least safe option, overtaking the traffic is usually the best method because cycle safety is largely about being visible to drivers. Take your time, read the road properly, and you should be able to manoeuvre through to safety.
Road safety website, THINK! have plenty of tips for staying safe on your bike, most of which contain the subtext, ‘This is how you don’t get killed’. We recommend you check it out.
Pros: Life and freedom.
Cons: If you had a monster truck you could just drive over everyone.
There you have it: probably the best cycling advice that ever advised a cyclist. Are there any good tips we missed? Are we being dangerously irresponsible? Do you have a little sister that might think the first four suggestions were made unironically? Let us know with a comment!