1. Assume that all pedestrians you see have the road sense of toddlers with iPods, particularly if they happen to be students. Most of them aren’t, but this will prepare you to deal with the inevitable one or two who are, and who will step right out into the road without bothering to look. You would think that people who have voluntarily deprived themselves of the sense of hearing would be extra-vigilant when crossing roads, but it doesn’t work like that.
2. Ride assertively, but don’t be an arsehole. Give cars room to pass whenever you can, but only when it’s safe to do so. You have an equal right to be on the road, and you must claim it. If you need to pull out around a car and there’s another car behind you, get in position nice and early. If they have to slow down, they have to slow down. Drivers will deal with this far better than if you suddenly swerve out at the last minute.
3. Never, ever, undertake. Do not go up the left-hand side of a lorry or bus. More cyclists get killed doing this than any other manouevre. They can’t see you and they WILL squash you. Filtering up the left-hand side of a row of stopped cars at a traffic light is a different matter – UNLESS one of them is a lorry or bus!
4. Flashing lights are legal as of 2005. I used to think they weren’t, and rode with steady lights, but not any more. As a driver, I realised that when I saw a flashing white or red light, I immediately thought “bike”. This is the reaction you want. No other road vehicle uses flashing lights, so they immediately identify you as a bicycle, and they are more eye-catching than steady lights. My two cents – choose what suits you.
5. Keep the wheel reflectors on your bike. As a driver, often the only time I’ve seen a bike crossing a junction or road in front of me at night is when the headlights reflect off the distinctive rotating reflectors.