On your bike - get to grips with cycling in Hackney

As the Gazette campaigns to cut the number of cyclists hurt on Hackney’s roads, reporter Jasmine Coleman gets into the saddle to learn skills that make you safer

I’m a fair weather cyclist. There it is. Too cold and wet and I’m miserable for the rest of the day. Too hot and my fringe is stuck to my forehead.

But with the sunny, breezy days we’ve been enjoying recently, there is nothing better than whizzing past packed buses and stuffy cars on two wheels.

Having just acquired a second-hand bike, I’m keen to get pedalling. But I’m afraid of aggravating motorists and other cyclists alike by wobbling along in the wrong lane.

And then there are the lorries. Five cyclists were killed in collisions with HGVs in Hackney between 2006 and 2009. And there was tragedy once more with the death of 28-year-old Daniel Cox in February.

I decided to take hold of the handlebars. Hackney has more cyclists than any other London borough. Everyone, especially me, could learn something new to make them safer. And they can do so for free – Hackney Council offers two-hours tailored one-to-one training to anyone who lives, works or studies in the borough.

What better place to start than London Fields, where cyclists come in all shapes and sizes. Alongside the cycle chic of Broadway Market, four-year-old boys bomb past on bright red rides and weather-worn veterans wait patiently on 20-year-old Raleighs.

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My tutor for the day is Lucy Nandris, cycle training manager. And our schedule looks reassuringly simple, starting with the basics – even down to getting into the saddle.

Now it’s not as though I’ve never cycled before. I did a two week trip around the Scottish Hebrides. So I hope it’s not too boring. But I soon realise I have much to learn.

Starting and stopping in a low gear can make you so much more confident. And braking rapidly without jumping off the seat keeps you fully in control.

Moving through the stages, I make it onto level two and onto the road. This is where we all have to work together. Lucy gives similar training to HGV drivers to help improve understanding on the road. My job is to make it easier for them by being as visible as possible.

Road positioning is key. Contrary to popular belief, a cyclist should not be hovering over the double yellow lines. By riding more centrally of the lane, drivers see you from all directions and there is no danger of getting stuck in a lorry’s fatal blindspot – to the front left of the cab. By the end of the two hour session, I’m in full control and asking drivers to give way with the power of a single stare.

For more information call Hackney Service Centre on 020 8356 2897 or go to www.hackney.gov.uk/cycle-training.htm.

To join the Gazette’s Hackney Cycle Safe campaign and sign our three pedal pledges encouraging all road users to take responsibility, go to www.hackneygazette.co.uk and click on the campaign logo.