Directional Changes ALWAYS Incur Risk!

Anybody can cycle in a straight line with no junctures/roundabouts. The risk of a serious accident is where you are merging into traffic, or passing in front of traffic making a turn. So the problem of directional change is 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. And you must also be aware of trailing motorists that could mow you down from behind if you surprise them with an abrupt stop when you realize you can’t really join the flow of traffic safely.

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

Yield right of way to aggressive/inattentive motorists even if you have the right-of-way. Or be the “rightest” person in the cemetery…

Approaching Junctures/roundabouts: (6) Key Procedures

1. LOOK!

When assessing traffic flow, be as equally aware checking for trailing motorists as well as those whom you are approaching. And don’t rely on only sound to inform you of the presence of trailing road users- LOOK!!! Cyclists & 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. Had I not looked over my shoulder to avoid a pothole there would have been a serious accident with these curious cyclists.

Also: Don’t be so fixated on traffic that you’re not paying attention to pedestrians, wheelchairs or even the blind who might cross in front of you on the road that you’re turning onto!

Cautiously approaching busy Upper Dukes Drive on my pegs after competing in the 2022 Penny-Farthing Hill Climb World Championships up Beachy Head

2. Signalling Direction Changes: NOT Optional!

After checking for trailing motorists and establishing it’s safe, signal. 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– your direction changes to both motorists you are approaching as well as those trailing you. And it’s in the cyclist’s interest to be unambiguous informing other road users where they’re going: any confusion and the cyclist pays the price.

3. Correct Lane Position

If turning RIGHT, move to the INSIDE of the lane to avoid a trailing motorist colliding into you as they pass on the inside of the lane!

4. Pace Your Approach

As you approach a juncture or roundabout, adjust your speed to enable you to merge into traffic safely. If traffic is too crazy, just slow-pedal waiting for a gap to open enabling you to merge safely. Dismounting & re-mounting in busy traffic is to be avoided where possible. Thus, being able to slow-pedal- pedalling so slow that you’re only going fast enough to stay upright– is a key skill for a Penny-Farthing cyclist.

5. Blind Junctures: Approach Half-Mounted

When approaching a blind juncture or roundabout on level or downward sloping ground, approach on your pegs (“Half-Mounted”) while continuously assessing traffic flow & pedestrians. If it’s safe to join the flow of traffic, re-mount the saddle and pedal. If it’s NOT, then brake either using your calliper brake or pressing your heel on the rear wheel with one foot and step off the pegs to halt. Re-mount and join the traffic when a gap in the flow makes it safe to do so. NEVER approach a busy juncture mounted 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” 😉

6. Don’t Make Sharp Turns

If beginning the turn Half-Mounted because of obstructed view, continue it Half-Mounted carving a gentle & wide turn being prepared to step down and halt if necessary.

If turning mounted on the saddle, the faster and sharper the turn, the more likely that you’re going to go over the handlebars.  

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. And dismounting and walking is always an option until you have the experience to judge your ability to join traffic safely under various conditions.

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 calliper 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. So although I cannot see approaching traffic very clearly, logically I know that even were they, the car passing in front of an such vehicles will block them for me.

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

Here in the UK, turning RIGHT means passing across on-coming traffic and is dangerous for regular bicycles, but even more so for a Penny-Farthing cyclist. It’s so important that you keep your head constantly swivelling and be prepared to halt if you cannot pass in front of on-coming traffic safely.

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, wheelchairs or blind folks who look like they’re about to cross in front of you when turning! So make sure you’re watching that sidewalk before turning!