Pedal-power could shorten my lifecycle

Cycling can be a nerve-wracking experience if some drivers don't make allowances for you.

Cycling can be a nerve-wracking experience if some drivers don't make allowances for you. - Credit: PA

Swapping four wheels for two comes as a shock for motoring editor Andy Russell who thinks cycling might be more of a risk to his health than carrying a few extra pounds.

I've discovered the secret of being invisible but, instead of it making me a fortune, it could cost me my life.

Harry Potter had the Cloak of Invisibility… I've got a new bike!

As a driver I've always respected the rights of cyclists to share our roads – although I admit to be more than a little niggled by those who cycle the wrong way up one-way streets, scoot through red traffic lights, cycle up the nearside of stationary traffic even when a car driver is indicating to turn left and those riders who generally seem to think the Highway Code doesn't apply to them.

That's got that off my chest but, generally, I find cyclists a courteous, happy bunch and we rub along just fine. They give me as much room as they safely can to pass them and I pass them when there is enough room to keep them safe… a sort of road-users' versions of 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch your's'.

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Anyway, back to my new bike. It'll go up mountains, has super-duper disc brakes and more gears than there seems to be links in the chain. Totally impractical for my modest pedal-power needs but I love it and it makes me want to ride it.

More importantly, I've also got front and rear lights, reflectors, a bell and a hi-vis jacket, cycle helmet and gloves which I wear… and road sense which, for me when riding a bike, is don't argue with anything bigger even if you have right of way and they are in the wrong.

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Having ridden motorcycles for many years, I like to think I am conscious of two-wheel traffic around me and, wherever possible, make allowances to make their progress safer.

So getting on my bike came as something of a shock.

It's scary how little room some drivers give cyclists when passing them, so close and fast that it's hard not to be swayed by the slipstream.

And it's also frustrating how little respect some show for bike riders. There came a point where I had to cross a road, having left one cycle path to reach another. In doing so, I had to cycle a couple of hundred yards on the road with the flow of traffic. We were approaching a roundabout, so the cars behind were slowing down anyway, and there was no oncoming traffic. Despite having my right arm out to let drivers know I wanted to move across the road did any of the cars behind me give way while I was trying to cross the road? The fact that I counted 17 go past and ended up having to go round the roundabout says it all!

It was with interest that I read an AA/Populus survey of nearly 18,000 drivers that found as many as 93% of motorists admit it is sometimes hard to see cyclists while driving and 55% are often 'surprised when a cyclist appears from nowhere' – that must be Harry Potter again in his Cloak of Invisibility riding a bike!

And I applaud the AA and AA Charitable Trust, with support from British Cycling and the Motorcycle Industry Association, for launching a national Think Bikes awareness campaign.

Initially one million free stickers are being distributed to remind drivers to do a 'double-take' in their mirrors for cycles and motorcycles in their blind spots. It is suggested the cycle sticker is placed on the passenger's side and the motorcycle one on the driver's side.

AA president Edmund King said: 'Our campaign is definitely needed when half of drivers are often surprised when a cyclist or motorcyclist 'appears from nowhere'. Those on two wheels never appear from nowhere so, as drivers, we need to be more alert to other road-users.'

Absolutely spot on.

I started getting on my bike to help shift some weight and take more care of my health and heart but at the moment I think cycling might be a bigger risk to my life.

Twitter @andyrussellauto

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