Cycle Safe: Great Tips To Keep YOU Safe
If you spend a lot of time cycling on the road, you’ll know that the majority of potential accidents can be avoided with a little bit of forward planning and a bit of common sense too. In the event of a collision with a car, no matter what safety equipment you’re wearing, you’re going to come off worse; that’s why we’ve compiled this list of tips and tricks to help you avoid any potential accidents and allow you to enjoy your ride a whole lot more.
Some of these tips may appear to be obvious but by understanding the ins and outs of the road, the mentality of many car drivers and the importance of making yourself visible, you will lower your chances of being caught in an accident scenario.
Take The Back Streets
It’s often said that the fastest route is the route you know and that may be true – but fastest isn’t necessarily the safest! When you take a ride, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking the route you know, the route that you’d take in a car. What might be a safe journey in a car may not be safe on two wheels, so it’s wise to tailor your route to your method of transport. With respect to cycling, you’ll want to avoid the busy roads with a lot of traffic, only crossing them when you have to.
By separating yourself from the crowd, you’ll be more likely to avoid an accident scenario! Of course, as a cyclist you have every right to travel on the roads but it’s always better to play it safe, just in case!
Where you should position yourself on the road is one of great debate: should you hug the kerb rather than disrupt the flow of traffic? Should you ride in the centre of the lane, re-enforcing your right to be there? Is it a problem to get in the way of the traffic?
Simply, you should ride where you feel the most comfortable but hugging the kerb isn’t recommended. By hugging the kerb, you’re allowing yourself to be bullied by other traffic; you’re also tucking yourself away, making yourself invisible. The key to your safety is being seen and hugging the kerb is one of the worst things you could do.
Cycling in the middle of the lane may sound dangerous but legally you’re allowed to be there. In fact, if a car wanted to overtake you, they must treat you like they would another car; they must overtake you with the same amount of room. If you’re in the middle of the lane, they’re more likely to do this, rather than overtaking you dangerously within the lane.
Things don’t always pan out that way though, so always imagine that a car driver will overtake you in relation to your distance from the kerb: if you’re a meter away from the kerb, they’ll overtake you with a meter gap; if you’re thirty centimetres from the kerb, things could get pretty close!
Of course, there are times when you may not want to ride in the middle of the lane. In these situations, it’s best to ride somewhere that’s neither in the middle of the lane, nor in the kerb either.
Keep yourself where the driver can see you – either of these two positions will help you be seen. If you’re seen, you’re safe.
The trick to safe cycling is to be as visible as you can whilst assuming that you’re completely invisible. It sounds contradictory but understanding it will help you avoid a potential accident.
You should always do everything in your power to make sure that you’re seen: fluorescent clothing and reflective accessories are great however, just because you’re visible doesn’t mean that you’re going to be seen. Now it’s time to assume you’re invisible.
Imagine that you’re genuinely invisible and that no driver can see you; you’ll then have to change your riding style, without taking the road rules for granted. It’s time to assume that you don’t have the right way (even if you do) whilst crossing a junction. You’ll find yourself slowing down and crossing that junction with more vigilance, possibly avoiding another accident scenario.
Although legally, you shouldn’t have to change your riding style it’s worth keeping in mind for your own safety. Being in the right isn’t much in the way of compensation when you’ve got two broken legs!
If you need to make a turn then make sure that you signal correctly approaching a junction. First of all, you should perform a quick over-shoulder check well before you approach the junction to make sure that the road behind you is clear before you signal – you don’t want to move your arm into the path of an oncoming vehicle now do you? As soon as you’re clear, place your left or right arm out accordingly and gradually move across the lane until you’re in the desired position. This allows the traffic behind you to slow down or make space for you.
When the road is clear, you should perform another over-shoulder check before making the turn. Keep your arm held out until you’ve completed your manoeuvre.
If your bike is fitted with mirrors, then this task becomes a little easier but even if you have mirrors, an over shoulder check is always a wise idea.
If you’re riding at night, it’s a legal requirement for your bike to be fitted with front and rear lights, red rear reflectors and amber pedal reflectors. Basically, you want to make yourself as visible as possible, letting the traffic know where you are. You can buy LED bike lights for next to nothing and they’re worth having, even if you’re not riding at night. Flashing lights are also allowed but steady lamps are recommended for the front. Once again, being seen is being safe!
Ditch The Tech
Almost everyone has a smart phone these days and many cyclists have been taking advantage of this new technology to make their rides more comfortable: some take advantage of the GPS navigation tools, others like to have hands-free conversations on their phones, while some simply prefer to ride with an accompanying soundtrack of their favourite playlists. It’s recommended to leave the distractions somewhere out of sight, out of sound and out of mind. When you’re negotiating traffic, you should give riding safely your complete attention. Your ears are great tools, blocking them out will only harm your awareness. You’ll want to have them free to listen out for any dangers!