Looking Out To Sea

Thoughts from the saddle

We’re finally making it out of winter — in fact, I believe this is the vernal equinox? — and it’s no longer pitch dark when I leave work. Just in time for the lighter evenings, we both had the front lights from our bikes stolen on Monday evening.

I’ve seen a lot of suggestions for different styles of bike lights in the last couple of years, and now I’m obviously in the market for something new. My previous front light was very difficult to whip on and off the bike, which is why I tended to leave it there. I won’t make that mistake again. I’ve even seen suggestions for indicator lights for bikes, though the problem with cyclists is we don’t have width and so drivers look right through us. So not only do they not really see us whether we’ve got lights on or not, but indicators wouldn’t be mounted far enough apart to be very obvious at a distance. I suppose if you had a big 2D array of LEDs hanging off the back of the saddle with an animated arrow it might do something.

But really I don’t think the issue is one of clouded intent — if anybody cares to look they should see my road position (much more obvious when you’re a tiny fraction of the lane width), the direction I’m looking and that I’m frequently checking behind me. All this even if it is unsafe to indicate with my hands. (The two occasions I’ve been thrown from my bike by potholes I had only one hand steering because I was indicating with the other. I now only indicate when obviously safe to do so.)

Drivers don’t often take the time to look and that is where the real problem lies. Forethought and patience seem to be thin on the ground sometimes too. The number of drivers who appear to wait until pinch points in the road — traffic islands, delivery vans stopped on narrow streets, etc — before overtaking never ceases to amaze.

Last month I experimented with taking a shorter train journey and a correspondingly longer bike ride when commuting to work. This provided financial savings but the risk to my life seemed to fly out of control. One car driver tried to nudge me out of the way as I exited a roundabout. A bus driver tried to run me off the road twice in one journey (once on a narrow bridge, once at a traffic island — see a theme?). I made a complaint to Stuarts of Carluke and though the man was very apologetic on the phone I doubt anything came of it. I’ve gone back to the longer train journey.