A guide to surviving Wilmslow Road on a bike
Following on from my post about how dangerous Wilmslow Road is for cyclists I thought I would write a survival guide for those who do ride into town along Wilmslow Road during rush-hour. With winter creeping in, the days are ending earlier and Wilmslow Road becomes even more dangerous for the unprepared cyclist riding into or out of the city centre from Didsbury.
Following these tips will make you far less likely to become an accident statistic, and if you are unlucky enough to be in an accident you will be far more likely to survive it.
Helmet and Illuminous clothing and lightsIf you ride on Wilmslow road without a bike helmet you are asking to be killed. I see dozens of students every day who are peddling into university without a care in the world or a helmet. If you are unlucky enough to be knocked off your bike a helmet can be the difference between a broken arm and losing your life. Helmets cost as little as £25. Is your life not worth that?
The second item which can make a large difference to you for little cost is light reflective clothing. If a driver can see you then he is unlikely to hit you.
Another item to help you get seen is lights. Big bright flashing lights. You should use red for your rear and white for front facing. I would suggest a bright flashing red light and a bright constant white light. I use my lights even during the daylight hours. New L.E.D lights last for hours using only a couple of small batteries.
RouteMy next tip is choosing your route carefully. Different parts of Wilmslow Road are dangerous at different times of the day. If you have the choice of avoiding Fallowfield when riding into town and Rusholme on your way home I would certainly consider doing so. I also believe in using all the bike paths on offer, which means getting off the road in Fallowfield and Whitworth Park in Rusholme in both directions.
Traffic lightsJust because you are on a bike doesn't mean you are above the law. If a traffic light at a junction or a pedestrian crossing is red then stop at it. I occasionally creep forward if I know it will help me avoid the traffic waiting behind and therefore make me safer, but I don't go flying through junctions.
WeavingA really bad habit of many cyclists is to weave in and out of traffic. Drivers expect bikes to be on the passenger side next to the curb. If you start passing on the drivers side you are unlikely to be seen when a car decides at the last minute to turn right in Rusholme.
AwarenessThis sounds like a silly tip but it is actually the one that is likely to save you more times than any other. Being aware means knowing what is going on around you. In Withington it means being aware that you are likely to have cars unable to pass you, but occasionally an idiot will try it anyway. In Fallowfield it means knowing if a bus is coming up the hill behind you as you consider crossing the bus lane before the new Fallowfield stop. In Rusholme it means you know people are likely to pull from parking bays in front of you without any warning so you ride with fingers on your break leavers.
Awareness is about being able to say what traffic is around you and approaching you, and what road conditions, hazards and junctions are coming up next.
If you are aware, you are safer.
Wet weatherWhen it's wet it's even more dangerous. People can't see as far. You and every other cyclist is trying to avoid the large puddles which sometimes reach over a metre into the road.
If I can avoid riding in the rain I do, not only because I don't want to get wet, but because I know I'm more likely to be in an accident when it's pouring down.