: The overflow valve for my mind
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Filtering. Step 1, discussed.
1. Long queue (20+ cars) of traffic at a red light, I check over my shoulder to make sure it's clear, then pull out around the back of the queue and filter down the centre white line to near the front of the queue.

Firstly I identify a hazard and that I can cycle around it. Here it is a simple set of traffic lights causing a queue. Other obstructions, such as an accident would need a different approach (e.g. is it necessary to stop and offer first aid, is there danger of fire/other if I get too close, or is the road covered in glass that will puncture my tyres).

Then I am checking that it is safe to pull out around the back of the queue. The first things that are essential to check for is traffic approaching from behind and traffic approaching from in front. I have a small mirror on my commuting bike which helps me to keep an awareness of my surroundings, but I still make that double check over my shoulder to confirm itís safe.

Other things I am checking for are bollards and traffic islands or other debris in the middle of the road. I also am checking for side turnings as vehicles could be turning into or out of them without indicating. Finally I am checking that there is indeed space to cycle down the centre of the road. Surprisingly there usually is much more space than is at first apparent; also since car drivers are more used to being overtaken than undertaken they are more likely to see me and pull out of my way slightly.

Once I am happy that it is safe to pull out, I have to time that manoeuvre carefully. If I pull out too soon before I get to the back of the queue, I might be causing an obstruction to the traffic coming up from behind (or might even get hit by it if the driver doesnít see me or slow!) If I pull out too late, I might actually end up being boxed in by a car that is overtaking me and then stopping at the back of the queue.

The secret in the timing is to remember that I am maintaining a pretty constant speed, whereas the traffic is decelerating from a speed faster than me to a stationary point. At a point in time therefore we must both be travelling at the same speed. It is at this moment that I need to have a space alongside me, rather than a car, and it is an easy matter to slide sideways into this space. I achieve this by watching the space approach in my mirror and slightly adjusting my speed up or down to match.

I now need to check once again that it is safe to pull out from the space I am in in the queue, I am checking for exactly the same things as above. However this time I am also checking that once I have overtaken the one (or two) cars in front there is somewhere safe to pull back into.

If it is safe I pull out and pass that car. However, on my approach to the safe spot I have selected (a space between two cars) I am evaluating whether it is safe instead to overtake another car and then pull into a new spot I identify further down the queue.

So although I pass the queue in one smooth motion, I am in reality joining several small manoeuvres together to create the overtake.


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