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VIDEO: A week in the life of a Croydon cyclist

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In the wake of a spate of cycling death's on London's roads, Advertiser reporter Georgie Keate has donned a headcam and been recording her journeys on a bike across Croydon for the past week. Here's her tale from the saddle - and a video of her experiences...
I'VE been cycling all over London for almost two years. However, I also walk and drive every day too, which doesn't put me in a bad position to comment on how we share our roads.

This week, I went down to Bike Plus in South Croydon and asked them to lend me a camera so I could put footage on a week in the life of a Croydon cyclist on our website.

I started cycling around Croydon about eight months ago when I began working for the Advertiser.

After my first day, I arrived home in a fury, hurled my bike through the door and snarled 'That route will be the death of me' to an unsuspecting friend.

Since then, my experience cycling to and from work, up and down London Road and the A23 in the north of the borough, has improved – although a day rarely passes without one hairy moment.

I'm not a safe cyclist all the time and I think most would be fibbing if they said they were. I haven't waited at every red light, I have undertaken buses and squeezed through traffic when it would have been better to wait.

Nor are all drivers safe all the time. Accidents happen when one or both parties are making mistakes.

It is important that everyone on the roads behaves but the fact remains – cyclists are far more likely to be injured or killed in a crash. It is no surprise there is an outcry about road safety whenever someone on a bike dies.

As for Croydon, one my first incidents was an encounter with tram tracks. I was labouring up a long and steep hill which meant, luckily, I was cycling at a snail's pace. I had to cross the track to turn left and went over the ridges diagonally.

Instead of reaching the left-hand turn, I ended up toppling to the ground as my bike wheels became stuck in the grooves. That time, nothing was hurt, except my dignity. Every cyclist I know in London has had an accident, ending mostly in broken elbows or bruised heads. Even being togged up in a helmet, flashing lights and a hi-vis jacket hasn't stopped me missing two days' work waiting in A&E with minor concussion. Having said that, it has probably saved me from diminished brain cells, or worse.

Despite all that, I'd much rather be on two wheels than on a bus or delayed on a train. Not only does the fresh air perk you up first thing in the morning, having a bike means I get to places faster than anyone else.

Unfortunately, Croydon is the least bike-friendly area I've ever cycled in. There are few lanes on the really busy, fast roads – Purley Way is a complete no go area, Wellesley Road is terrifying.

There are too many big junctions with no cycle routes, both in the centre of town and beyond. Tram tracks make many junctions difficult to navigate and buses thunder past you every five seconds. Alternative cycle lanes are badly plotted and signed, which means you often hit a stretch of pavement and anger pedestrians.

There is no doubt Croydon needs to take a hard look at improving our attitudes towards sharing the road. Get more people on bikes, teach them how to cycle safely and make sure cyclists are given enough space on the roads not to collide, sometimes fatally, with cars, lorries or buses.

VIDEO: A week in the life of a Croydon cyclist


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