It’s easy to feel that everyone is out to get you on a bike. But the truth is actually the opposite. The biggest problem is that most drivers don’t even know we are there. Defensive riding is about making yourself seen. Spotting the hazards before they happen and doing the car driver’s thinking in advance on their behalf.
Unfortunately, there’s no substitute for experience here. Every ride is a lesson learned. So make the most of them. Build a mental database of driver actions and reactions to what you do. Get to recognise that a car moving about in its lane probably means the driver is fiddling with the radio or sending a text.
Learn the silhouette profiles. Driver on phone, driver faffing with kid in baby seat, driver and passenger arguing, driver opening a bottle of drink. All these things mean danger so give them a wide berth.
Think about making yourself more visible. Can you see their mirrors, because if not, they can’t see you. Moving position gently makes them more likely to spot you and making your intentions (indicators are lifesavers) and actions (pulling out) as deliberate and obvious as possible helps massively. As does assuming that they haven’t seen you.
Filtering through traffic is the best example of defensive riding. Assertive and confident, but never aggressive. If you can go through a gap, then go for it, but don’t get stranded half way through and don’t be afraid to sit in traffic if you aren’t sure. Don’t ride in the gutter. Use the width of the carriageway – make them overtake you properly and always wave a thank you when someone gives you room (but don’t automatically make the manoeuvre – check that it’s safe first).
And finally, fluorescent clothing is a good way to add visibility, but don’t assume that just because you look like a flare gun that drivers have automatically seen you.
Often further training such as advanced riding or completing BikeSafe can help accelerate your learning and equip you with further skills to stay safe on the road – why not check them out?