10 Rules for Rural Commuting

I notice that there’s some controversy over in the US bike blogs about the best approach for urban commuting. Eco Velo has their kinder, gentler take on the subject here, but it got me thinking about what the equivalent rural rules might be for around here:

  1. Warn any horse riders of your approach by telling them there is a bike behind them and then pass them slowly and carefully and giving the horse as big a berth as possible. And a top tip for recumbent riders: lower your little flag before attempting to pass a horse.
  2. Warn any pedestrians of your approach with your bell, especially if they’ve got their back turned or are with a dog. If you’ve no bell, a cheery ‘good morning’ will do (in the morning, obviously, otherwise ‘good afternoon’) but be prepared for them to jump fifteen feet in the air when you pass them any way.
  3. If a car is hanging behind you waiting for a safe place to pass, a glance over your shoulder will generally encourage them to do so – so choose your moment to look carefully. Sometimes it’s fun to tease a 4×4 by never looking at all, but they usually lose patience in the end.
  4. If they can’t pass, it’s probably polite to speed up, if you can, or at least look as though you’re making an effort to get up that hill. I find dropping a gear so my legs go round faster gives the impression I’m trying really hard.
  5. On the whole, it’s probably best to pull over to let tractors past, especially if they’ve got lots of complicated machinery with pointy bits hanging off the back. Or are towing a trailer full of slurry.
  6. If any vehicle passes you, give them a wave. If you know the driver, make it a big one. Or stop for a chat.
  7. If you overtake another cyclist, or they overtake you, always pause to pass the time of day. Tag along for a while if they’re going your way. The ride goes faster if you have someone to talk to.
  8. At night it’s dark. Really dark. Really really dark. Get lots of lights, or only cycle on moonlit nights.
  9. And don’t let the bogles get you
  10. And finally, one from this morning: If there’s a man on a quad bike rounding up a loose bull on the road, the bull (and the quad bike) have right of way…



12 Responses to 10 Rules for Rural Commuting

  1. Jo says:

    Is the slurry tip from personal experience?

  2. Ragged Thread Cartographer says:

    9th rule is definitely the most vital.

  3. disgruntled says:

    Jo – they all are. Except I’ve not yet been troubled by bogles
    RTC – quite

  4. WOL says:

    People will notice a blinking light much more quickly than one that doesn’t blink. Fairly large red blinky lights fore and aft — that are visible from the side also! — might be an option to increasing your night time visibility. I understand that they make them with LED lights in, which take much less electricity to operate. I suggest red because (a) it is the color of warning, and (b) red light does not impair your (the cyclist’s) night vision.

    Have you thought about those highly reflective vests like road crews and rescue workers use to increase their night time visibility? If you are handy with a sewing machine, you could construct your own with canvas cloth and reflective tape. You could then slip it on over whatever weather clothing the season requires.

  5. Nice list — I once commuted 20 miles / 35 km across central Illinois prairie in all weather, where I shared the road with farm tractors and combines.

    @WOL: Front bLinky lights are fine for city riding. On dark country roads, however, they’re extremely distracting for the cyclist and don’t do a good job lighting up the road in front of you. You need “see” lights rather than “be seen” lights in rural areas.

  6. […] Velo offers 10 kinder, gentler rules for urban bike commuting; Town Mouse responds with 10 rules for rural commuting from the Scottish countryside. Evidently, bike rage is the new trend, as a Brit cyclist beats a […]

  7. Dom says:

    If the pedestrian fails to respond to your cheery hello check for the presence of a headphones. I can’t hear ANYTHING with mine in which is part of the reason I’ve nearly been run over by ambulances twice in London (top tip: look left and right even when the man is green).

  8. Louise says:

    And please don’t cycle as close as possible to small dogs as they will give you a warning bark:)

  9. disgruntled says:

    WOL & Richard – I find at night that I need all possible lights – blinky, non-blinky, ex-WW2 searchlights – and it’s still like peering down a very dark hole… I do also wear a reflective jacket at night(it’s the only time I bother here).
    Dom – True. You don’t see them so much here but I was thrown recently by a chap who seemed to be completely blanking me until I realised he was one of the Pod People
    Louise – I give all dogs a very wide berth. Border collies particularly seem to consider cyclists their sworn and ancient enemy

  10. wol says:

    Just to clarify, I meant red blinky lights in addition to white lights for the cyclist to see where they are going!

  11. At last! A sensible take on commuting! You should also note that sheep (or even lambs) have right of way. Not that they ever know which way they’re supposed to be going.

  12. disgruntled says:

    you’d be there a long time waiting for a sheep to make up its mind where it’s going

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