Where do most accidents happen? Treacherous off-camber hairpins? Foggy mountain passes? Nope, it’s the common or garden urban junction, the place where there’s usually lots of traffic intent on heading in very different directions, across each other’s paths.
Cars pull out, clip those waiting to turn right and rear-end each other…However, none of this is inevitable, and it’s possible to get through junctions unscathed, thanks to the right speed, positioning and observation.
Here’s our 10 Top Tips on how to do that.
- BE READY TO STOP
Give Way signs mean (as we all know) that you don’t have to stop if there’s nothing coming. But on our crowded roads, you’ll almost certainly have to stop.
- LOOK ONCE, LOOK TWICE
Coming out of a minor road into a major, look twice both ways. The first look reveals if there’s anything coming, and the second it’s speed and whether you need to wait for it.
- LET THEM WAIT
There’s a temptation (especially for novice riders) to feel pressured by drivers waiting behind you, and maybe take off before you should, just to get them off your back. But don’t be – your safety comes before his/her convenience, and in any case waiting at junctions is a fact of urban driving life, and most drivers know that.
- PEDAL WATCH
It’s not just cars, trucks, buses and other bikes you need to watch for. Keep an eye out for cyclists, especially coming up the inside when you’re about to turn left.
- TAKE ADVANTAGE
If a kind driver or biker waves you out, take advantage, but don’t shoot straight out – keep an eye open for other bikes and cyclists filtering. They may not have noticed that you’re being let out.
- GIVE IT A SCAN
As you approach the junction, try and size it up. How tight will you have to turn, how grippy does the surface look? Is the exit clear? Are there potholes or manhole covers right on your line?
- THIN WHITE LINE
Stay the right side of white lines, whether waiting in the middle of the road to turn right, or waiting at a minor road to pull out into a major. If any part of you or the bike (mirror, elbow, handlebar tip) is over the white line, then it’s on the wrong side of the road, and you could be held liable if a driver clips you.
- GREASE IS THE WORD
We’ve alluded to this already, but junctions tend to collecting points for oil and diesel, simply because vehicles sit there, leaking this noxious stuff onto the tarmac, or spill it out of over-full tanks as they sweep round.
- READY TO GO:
Unless you can clearly see you’ve got a long wait, be ready to move off. On a geared bike, that’s in first gear, clutch in. Keep the rear brake on though, as there’s no harm in showing your brake light to the guy coming up behind.
- SHORTEST ROUTE
Pulling out of a minor road, take the shortest route across the wrong side of the road – i.e. straight across, then turn at 90 degrees – before accelerating away.
Word/images: Pete Henshaw