Watch Out For The Nervous Cyclist
Dr Ian Walker carried out some interesting on-the-road research a couple of years back. He was trying to assess the likelihood of a cyclist being involved in a collision under varying circumstances. His central research method was to ride around with a whole bunch of sensors on his bike, which then measured how much space cars gave him as they passed.
The logic was that closer = more dangerous = more likely to mow the cyclist down like a combine on the prairies at harvest time. Now putting aside my personal [completely unverified by any sort of real scientific experiment, and therefore worth less than shares in Northern Rock] opinion that most danger comes from drivers hitting you at junctions, rather than overtaking on the straight & narrow, this is still some interesting research.
What he found was that . . .
- Drivers compensated for cyclist wearing helmets. Taking account of their obvious extra proficiency and the fact that they were wearing crumple zones (uh . . the helmet), drivers overtook noticeably closer to the cyclist. On average, they passed the bike with only 8.5cm of clearance - that’s less than four inches!
- Drivers gave un-lidded cyclists a wider berth, making them less likely to be hit.
- But safest of all . . . ? Guys - get yourself a long blond wig! As well as putting you in touch with your feminine side, and opening up a whole world of transvestite possibilities, it may just save your life. Drivers gave Dr Ian the widest berth when he was dressed as a woman - averaging an extra 14 cm (almost six inches) of breathing space . . .
- The basic conclusion (HIS conclusion - not mine) was that the less confident you look as a cyclist, the less likely you were to end up as a statistic.
So why is this relevant to me (and, presumably, you). I mean, we’re both high-mileage-out-in-all-weathers-staring-down-death-and-winning-every-time kind of cyclists, aren’t we?
Yeah, well. Yesterday was my proper first ride out after taking a slide across the road last Monday. And it was early enough in the morning for there still to be frost on the ground. And I was riding Trixie The Fixie - a bike with some rock solid predictability to her handling, but still with a fixed wheel, and likely to spank my bum if I didn’t treat her with respect.
So I was riding cautiously. In fact, I may just have spent 70 minutes as the Safest Cyclist In England.
- Type: Cycle
- Date: 02/11/2008
- Total Time: 1:09:00.00
- Distance: 18 miles
- Average Speed: 15.65 mph