Directional Changes ALWAYS Incur Risk!

Other cyclists can just immediately halt and plant their feet on the ground it traffic is too busy to join a roundabout or traverse a juncture. You as a PF cyclist of course cannot.

Whether joining a roundabout or turning onto a juncture, there’s a risk of collision with other road users and even pedestrians. The problem is largely binary: you can either join the roundabout or turn onto the juncture safely, or the traffic flow is such that you cannot and must halt in the case of a roundabout, or continue straight-on and pass the desired juncture. And you must be aware of trailing motorists that could mow you down from behind if you hit them with an unplanned stop!

And turning right- across opposing traffic- is fraught with even more risk. Now you have trailing traffic in your own lane and you need to pass safely between the flow of traffic in the opposite direction. I’ll offer suggestions for managing this risk.

Yielding Right-of-Way: Don’t Be the Rightest Guy in the Cemetery!

Never cycle with the attitude “I have the right of way per the Highway Code!” However true that might be, you’ll be the rightest guy in the cemetery. Don’t be bloody-minded. You must be prepared to yield if there is any doubt a motorist will not respect your right-of-way to allow you to pass safely in front of them.

Signalling Direction Changes: NOT OPTIONAL!

If there’s any confusion on the part of other road users as to your actions, it will be YOU who suffers the consequences. And the Highway Code requires ALL road users to signal directional changes. So when approaching roundabouts/junctures, signal clearly and boldly– even if no vehicles are seen. Don’t go by audible noise alone in respect to gauging the presence of trailing vehicles: electric car, scooters and bicycles are quiet…

Mitigating Risk Changing Directions:

Sharp Turns: Don’t Make Them!

Turns must be wide and gentle. The faster and sharper the turn, the more likely that you’re going to go over the handlebars. Making a sharp turn at very high speed will guarantee a headover and the consequential injuries will be severe. If environmental factors are such that there’s no avoiding a sharp turn- I have one from a very busy main road onto a tiny country lane on my daily ride- then slow down to a crawl and lean back to counterbalance.

LOOK!

Don’t rely on only sound to inform you of the presence of trailing road users. Cyclists and electric vehicles can be trailing quietly behind you. As a Penny-Farthing cyclist I’ve had other cyclists drafting behind me just out of curiosity and also to film me on their phones or CycleCams.

Also, don’t be so fixated on traffic that you’re not paying attention to pedestrians that might cross in front of you.

Blind Junctures

If you don’t have a clear view of on-coming traffic at a juncture or roundabout, approach it standing on your mount pegs. This gives you options. If no traffic is coming, then just join the new flow of traffic, remount the saddle and continue peddling. But if traffic IS coming and you CANNOT safely merge into traffic, then you have the option of stepping off the pegs and halting.  Do NOT approach a busy juncture on the saddle at high speed. Making unplanned stops on a PF is asking to be a guest star on the next episode of “Helicopter Emergency Medics” ;-). Now you can see why I emphasized the importance of mounting & dismounting instinctively. Cycling a PF on the mount pegs is how you manage risk of merging in busy traffic and blind junctures.

When turning at a blind juncture on your pegs, do not re-mount the saddle until you have a clear view of hazards on the new road you’re joining. There might be pedestrians crossing the road around the turn and you’ll take them- and yourself- out. Remain standing on your mount pegs until you round the blind corner and have a clear view of any potential hazards and only then remount the saddle.

In the below video- filmed by following Penny-Farthing cyclist (Essex Dougie)- you can see me approach the blind roundabout on my mount pegs while moderating the speed with my rear caliper brake. I see that a car in the roundabout is passing in front of the car to my immediate right enabling me to join the roundabout. Note that I do not re-mount the saddle until I have a clear view of the traffic- and pedestrians- in front of me on the road I’m joining. Also note the perspective of the camera man joining the roundabout. This gives you a first-person perspective of the challenges of changing direction at a busy roundabout and why it’s so important that you master the skill of mounting & dismounting before venturing out on busy roads.

How to approach a blind, busy juncture on a Penny-Farthing

Turning Right: Turning Across On-Coming Traffic

Turning right is dangerous for standard bicycles, let alone Penny-Farthing cyclists who can’t halt with their feet on the ground. And even more dangerous for novice Penny-Farthing cyclists. Here are some tips to stay safe when turning right:

– Stage your approach to the juncture by adjusting your speed in relation to the approaching traffic so you don’t have to dismount in the middle of a busy road and re-mount while crossing on-coming traffic.Being able to slow-pedal and stay upright is a crucial skill for staging your approach to turns.

– Move all the way to the inside of your lane when turning right. This is to block trailing motorists from trying to pass on the inside while you are crossing. Not that this will stop aggressive motorists of course; there are a small number of dangerous idiots that will nonetheless attempt to pass you on the inside when you’re turning right. By taking the inside of the lane you make it more difficult for them to kill you.

– Signal boldly so that both approaching & trailing motorists are aware that you’re turning right

– If you CANNOT pace your approach successfully to turn right in a gap in the flow of on-coming traffic, rather than stop in the road I suggest you continue straight-on and reverse direction when a safe opportunity presents.

– If you CAN pace your approach successfully to turn right in a gap in the flow of on-coming traffic, then look over your shoulder for trailing motorists trying to pass on the inside before committing to turning right. 

– Take care to not speed through a sharp turn or you risk a headover in the other lane!

Turning Left: Your Ace-in-the Hole

Let’s say you do everything right: you moderate your speed, you swivel your head constantly assessing the road & sidewalks for hazards and it looks OK to enter the roundabout or juncture and some speeding lunatic appears. What do you do?

If some speeding motorist will make it unsafe to pass through a juncture or enter a roundabout, guide tightly to the edge of the road and turn left to avoid passing in front of them. It’s obviously better to make a complete halt, but if were on the cusp of entering the juncture when Mr. Speeding Lunatic Guy hosed that plan, turning left is now the least bad option. Just reverse direction at the next roundabout and continue on your intended path.

BUT: turning left is only possible if there are no pedestrians who look like they are about to cross the road! Make sure you scan the sidewalks for pedestrians as well as folks on mobility scooters & wheelchairs who might cross in front of you when approaching the juncture/roundabout. Be prepared to ring your bell and shout to attract their attention.