A string of tragedies in London has sparked concern over road safety for cyclists. Cyclists on city streets are admittedly more vulnerable than drivers, so it is very important to take care when riding. However, every extra cyclist on the road is one less car, and riding to your destination is a fantastic way to beat the traffic, enjoy the fresh air, get fit and save money.
We do not want safety concerns to discourage people from saddling up – but we do want to provide every rider with a set of guidelines that will help keep them safe on the road. Here are our top tips to keep you safe:
- Safety for your body starts with what is in your head. You need to be confident in your own riding ability, and in your own knowledge of the road.
- Make decisive and clear movements, indicating before doing so and making eye contact where possible.
- Be sure you can confidently remove a hand to indicate, and turn your head when riding. If you are not sure you can do this – practice as a learner driver would, in your neighbourhood or even a car park – these are essential skills.
- Do not ride at the very left and side of the road “in the gutter” as it’s often called – this actually makes you less visible, and increases the likelihood if you having to swerve to avoid an obstacle. Drivers will generally give you the same amount of room on the right when overtaking as you have given yourself on the left so taking a prominent position will mean they are less likely to squeeze past you.
- When riding past parked cars, give a doors width of room just in case someone makes an error and does not check the road before opening the door
- The London Cycling Campaign have revealed that 50% of cyclist deaths in London involve lorries. Be very wary and never put yourself on the left hand side of an HGV, bus or large vehicle at a junction. You may be in the driver’s blind spot. If you can’t see their mirrors, they probably can’t see you. If you come across a stopped large vehicle before a junction overtake on the left only if you can get in front of it before there is any movement. If you are not confident this is the case, hold back and wait behind it.
- At a roundabout – consider yourself as a driver – and position yourself in the middle of the appropriate lane. It can be tempting to stay to the left – but if you are turning right – that will confuse drivers and upset the flow of traffic.
- Arrive at junctions or traffic lights in the middle of the lane. This means you are seen and therefore safer and prevents anyone from overtaking you in a dangerous fashion. If it isn’t safe to get to the front of the lights, position yourself in the queue with other cars. It goes without saying that you should not ride through a red light.
Be constantly aware
- The Highway Code is a set of rules for all road users to abide by. We should all use the roads with these rules in mind – however – there are times when people do not abide by them. For example, it may be your right of way – but that fact does not create a safety bubble around you. Be aware that a driver may make a mistake or breech the Highway Code, and you will then need to react – keep your concentration on the road.
- Keep your eyes and ears open for pedestrians too, as well as their four legged companions and children. People don’t always act by the rule book – a distracted pedestrian may step out in front of you – make sure you’ve spotted them, if you can, make eye contact and make them aware of your presence before swooshing by. If someone looks ready to cross, prepare to slow down in case you do need to brake.
- Strong lights and high viz make all the difference. If a road user sees you earlier, they have more time to react. Check out the Urban Limits post ‘Be Seen’ for some detailed advice here.
- Carry spare lights. Batteries don’t last forever, and even if you have a rechargeable light you power up between commutes, taking a spare is a good idea. You don’t need to spend too much on this, a simple cheap blinker will do – but make sure you have an alternative with you just in case one of your lights fail. I recently reviewed the Lezyne Femto lightest here – a set will set you back £21.99 here – these are small and light and would be a good back-up set.
We hope these guidelines help you to feel safer and more confident in your road riding. If your still unsure or feel you need some extra help and hints, look into a cycle training course – there is more detail about training available in West Berkshire here.
Images from tjevan