I took advantage of the free cycling lessons in Hull and learned an important lesson about drivers

Sofie Jackson with instructor Trevor Watts who took her on a cycling lesson in east Hull
Sofie Jackson with instructor Trevor Watts who took her on a cycling lesson in east Hull -Credit:Hull Live

You'd think more people would be cycling in a city as flat as Hull but the perceived danger is putting them off.

Statistically, more cyclists die per billion passenger miles travelled than car drivers (23 deaths for cyclists versus two for car occupants). Cycling is still safer than riding a motorcycle (114 deaths per billion passenger miles) but not nearly as safe as being cocooned in a vehicle with a crumple zone.

Women are much less likely to cycle to work than men and fear is the number one reason. But I'm truly fed up with "bus life" and have made it my mission to get used to the roads of Hull.


Fortunately, there is a lot of help at hand. The council-funded "Rusty Riders" programme delivered by First Step Cycle offers free lessons for total beginners or more experienced riders who want to build up their confidence.

Impressively, instructor Dan Currie can teach someone how to ride a bicycle in a single session even if they've never touched a bike in their life before. First Steps Sports have bicycles to loan free of charge for the lessons - so if you haven't bought one yet, it's no problem.

Sofie Jackson pictured with instructor Dan Currie at a Rusy Riders lesson in Hull
Sofie Jackson pictured with instructor Dan Currie at a Rusy Riders lesson in Hull -Credit:Hull Live

Because I'd done a fair bit of cycling in childhood and had the basics down, what I wanted help with was riding on the roads. I particularly wanted to learn about "defensive cycling" and safer positioning at junctions.

Instructor Trevor Watts took me and another cyclist on a very fun journey through east Hull, sticking to the well-maintained cycle path that leads to the P&O ferry port. I noticed what a difference it makes when a cycle path isn't as pockmarked as the moon - it's a shame the Hornsea trail in Hull is so uneven because I could otherwise use it for my commute into the city centre.

Trevor said it is OK for cyclists to use the pavement when they perceive hostile conditions on the road. This surprised me because I'd believed the law on cycling on the pavement was black and white.

I can foresee examples of when using an empty pavement might be safer - such as using one to get past a van parked in a bus/cycle lane rather than attempting to join a busy lane of fast-flowing overtaking traffic.

The traffic was very quiet on that Saturday morning so the conditions were much easier than I'd encounter in a typical Monday rush hour, but it was a very good foundation in safety. Trevor even gave me a free bicycle bell.

What I gained most from the lesson was that I learned to trust drivers. The average person drives safely and doesn't want to hurt you - if you try to make yourself as visible as possible, you're halfway there.

Rusty Riders typically offer about two lessons a month and they are always on a Saturday. If you want to learn more or book a lesson, visit the First Step Cycle website.

What I learned in my lesson:

  • Stay well clear of HGV blind spots - especially never filter past them at junctions

  • Even in the daytime, cyclists should wear light-coloured clothing according to Rule 59 of the Highway Code

  • It's always safer to use a cycle path than the road

  • Always give plenty of room when cycling around a parked car in case the door suddenly opens

  • Never cycle "in the gutter" - you are less visible and can become boxed in

  • "Take the lane" - be more than a meter away from the edge of the road to deter unsafe overtaking in the same lane where a vehicle might try to pass within inches of your bike

  • It's unlikely you'll get fined for cycling on the pavement, but you should go carefully and be mindful of pedestrians