1, Be more observant.
2, Signalling is important.
2a, I just remembered another one: check lights and indicator bulbs regularly and replace any which are not working
3, Concentrate more.
4, Some motorcyclists are idiots.
5, Some car drivers don't even look in front of them. never mind to the sides or behind.
6, Some pedal cyclists have a death wish.
7, Buses and trucks deserve respect.
8, White van drivers aren't all bad.
9, Taxi drivers are good drivers (mostly).
10, Screaming children in the back of a car do distract the driver.
Disclaimer If you feel any of the following is meant to be a criticism of your driving, it is not. You are the best driver around. You have none of these faults: I am just noding what I think I know.
On a motorbike, I am more aware of what is going on. I am in the weather. I can taste the rain, smell the exhaust, hear the revving engines and feel the road surface. Also, in a collision with a truck, I am the one who is going to get hurt.
I learned very quickly that many car drivers do not look out for other road users. I have the scars and my bike has the dents and scratches to prove it. Among bikers, these are, to a certain extent, seen as evidence that one has learned to be a safe rider. So I'll admit it: when I started, I went too fast. I was not aware how the road surface changes with the weather. A car pulled out in front of me. I braked a bit too hard. It was wet, my front wheel locked, and… Well, now I don't drive so fast, especially in the wet, and I look out for cars pulling across the traffic stream.
Do they look out for me? Mostly yes, but there are enough who don't that caution is recommended.
Riding along, I have learned that car drivers don't expect to see me. I wear bright clothes, leave the lights switched on and follow the recommended practices, but so many car drivers are used to everyone else driving along at the same pace as themselves, they simply forget to look, let alone signal, before suddenly turning right when they think it will save some time.
You get to start reading minds: someone is driving along near the centre of the road, a few hundred metres before a well-used right turn (remember, we Brits drive on the left). No little orange lights ticking on and off to show their intentions but suddenly, a ton of steel and glass swings out across my path. Lucky I could read her mind. Extrapolate: a car driver is in the middle of the road, going a bit slower than normal. Do you sit on his left or his right, or fall back far enough to allow another car to do the same. Choose. Choose now, or risk death. Brake lights flash on, and the car swings around. Lucky again.
On a commuter bike there is no radio. Too much going on. Lights, signs, pedestrians, gaps narrowing, gaps widening. The road is a four-dimensional highway. I travel in the same space as the cars, but the cars are moving in space and time. Bikes are in a different dimension to cars. Two-wheeled leptons to the caged hadrons. We can dodge and swerve through infinite space, but if we collide, we have mass, and the mass will destroy us.
All the time looking for space. Looking for the absence of cars, looking out for the driver who wants to use his car as a weapon because his ego is somehow threatened by a cold, wet commuter, riding a small bike at half throttle. Watching the other bikers scream up your inside and outside, desperate to save a second or two. Looking out for the pedestrians, walking between stationary cars, and right into your path. They don't look. Mostly they think they are safe, having negotiated the four-wheeled cages going north, and are still looking north to see a gap in the south-bound traffic, barely realising that a small, buzzing lepton just stopped, inches from the south side of their legs.
There is a pecking order among bikers. I am at the bottom. Couriers always take priority, regardless of the rules of the road—or of safety. They scream up the inside, roar around the outside, jump the lights and distort time with their speed and agility. I am not brave enough to join their ranks. The sports bikers are next. Guys, mostly, in leathers riding Ducatis, R1s or Hayabusas. These machines can accelerate faster than a Formula 1 Ferrari, and stop just as quickly. They are the real kings of the road. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Most ride with care and consideration. Some don't, and it's scary. Use your imagination.
Next, the work-a-day bikers. When you stop at the lights you can start a conversation with these guys any time. Great people, and the vast majority are thoughtful and considerate. That's one of the pleasures of riding in this anonymous city: on a bike, you can strike up a conversation with a stranger at the lights, and then continue with it at each of the next three or four junctions, or simply end it as the lights change, without being thought rude. Next are the pizza delivery boys. All mad, all riding under-powered bikes with inadequate clothing and huge boxes on the back to make them unstable. Give them space, because they sure as hell won't give it to you. Finally, there's me. Happy to be out of the Tube, Enjoying the sheer fun of the daily commute. Smiling inside, as I buzz along at the back of the pack.
Cyclists in London are among the brave of this world. They ride with scant protection on machines powered by their own efforts. Momentum is like a currency to them. Once a store of momentum has been earned, it is a crime to throw it away; to transform it into the entropy of brake blocks and rims. Bikers, cars, trucks: none of us recognises this currency: we have motors and hydraulic brakes, and momentum is as cheap as fuel. But the cyclists' greed makes them dismissive of traffic lights and other thieves of precious momentum. To some, the cyclists are abusing the roads as they hoard their wealth. To others it's just mad and dangerous, but I spent fifteen years cycling in hilly towns and I know what it means to lose momentum. It's not just mass or velocity, but sweat and lactic acid in the calves and pain and aching joints. I don't begrudge them their stores of wealth. It's just another set of minds to read; another pattern of behaviour to predict.
White vans and taxis, much derided by car drivers do, at least know what else is on the road. They look. They might not signal, but they know what they are doing, and they are easier to predict than parents on the school run with children in the back. I have children. I have done the school run. I know what it is like. And I also know that the little darlings can be very distracting. So when I see a car with three or four children in the back, I expect the driver to offer no clues as to what he or she might do next.
If in doubt, be cautious, and try to read the driver's mind. They are good rules, and probably the most important thing I have learned since passing my driving test.