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Cycling Safety Questions: The Great Debate! (Part Two)

Cycling Safety Questions: The Great Debate! (Part Two)

Following on from yesterdays’ article about the main issues causing debate in and out of the cycling community, we’ve decided to follow it on with a few more pressing matters that have also become a cause for concern.

We’ve already tackled a few of the biggies, such as the helmet dilemma, the effects of Hi-Vis and the matter of wearing headphones whilst riding but there are other areas of cycling that are striking debate around the community.

These other issues include road positioning, whether flashing lights are better than static lights and the general opinion of cyclists and other motorists about the state of the road. We’ll also mention the major road rules and a bit of Highway Code too, just to keep you refreshed!

Location, Location, Location?

Where are you supposed to be on the road? As long as you’re on the correct side of the road, it doesn’t really matter but there are a few places that you should stay away from, that’s for sure. First things first: the kerb. According to many a cycling blog (of the how-to variety) it’s safer to stay as close to the kerb as possible because you don’t want to get by a passing car or anger passing motorists. This is obviously nonsense and should be disregarded immediately. If you’re stuck in the kerb, you’re putting yourself at the mercy of drains, puddles, hidden pot holes, slippery road markings and of course, the unexpectedly opened car door.

Cycling guidelines would try and push you to ride at least half of a meter away from the kerb at the absolute minimum; ideally, you should be at least a meter but sometimes bullying cars make that difficult for you.

When the time is right, the middle of your lane is also open to you and you should use that as often as possible – you’re legally entitled to it, it puts you in control of the situation and stops and potential overtaking cars from taking any risks. If you can keep control, it’s safer for everyone.

Of course, many motorists don’t believe that you’re entitled to the middle of the lane. They would be 100% wrong but that doesn’t mean that you should ride in the middle at all times. Being courteous and magnanimous seems to be the best compromise: take the middle when safe to do so but allow cars to overtake you. Why should you bow to the will of the car driver? It’s not fair but one line of research has proven that the further away from the kerb a cyclist is, the less space an overtaking driver will give them.

Find the middle ground by finding a happy medium between being dominant and submissive. If you can do it all with a bit of eye contact and a smile, everyone will be happier for it. You’ll also be safer too!

The Bright Lights

Lights are also a hot topic amongst cyclists and industry professionals; we all know that we’re legally obliged to have lights on our bike if we want to cycle at night but there is a debate raging about whether flashing lights or stationary lights are more effective.

Flashing lights grab attention, there is no question about that; many vehicles use flashing lights to signal their location and intention to other road users. They attract attention but does that mean that they’re safer for cyclists?

It all depends on where you are.

Studies from the CTC have proven that sure, in well lit, urban areas flashing lights will get you noticed and they’ll certainly work much better than steady lamps. The only downside seems to be coming from cars themselves; their headlights and interior lights are becoming brighter than ever and if a car is producing more light, the effect of a flashing light diminishes. If you can’t be seen amongst the dazzling background, it doesn’t really matter what type of light you’ve got.

Out in the countryside, it’s a different story. A steady light at the front will be more useful to a cyclist; it can help them see further along the road and it will alert any oncoming cars to the cyclist’s presence. Flashing lights may help cars coming from behind the cyclist read the situation but flashing lights have a tendency to trick car drivers. Flashing lights make it very hard for a driver to gauge the speed and direction that the cyclist is travelling, which could be problematic.

This is all in the governments cycling advice handbook but depending on where you live, you might want to bend the directives slightly. It’s all in the interests of your safety!

What The Campaigners Think

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that all of the things mentioned in this article and the previous one are very small items on the agenda of cycling advocates. Many cyclists believe that no matter how much you spend on the best safety equipment and no matter how much you try to improve your riding as a cyclist, you’ll always be at the mercy of other vehicles on the road; it seems as though the only way to stop accidents from happening is to re-educate drivers and change the roads for the benefit of cyclists. Of course, that’s one school of thought and it’s unlikely to change anything.

You could buy top of the range protective gear, spend a fortune on a professional helmet and wear knee and elbow pads twenty four seven but that isn’t going to prevent accidents from happening, is it? In fact, many cyclist magazines have proposed that wearing safety gear is one of the least important things to do if you want to stay safe on the roads and perhaps they have a point.

True, you could argue that we wouldn’t need safety equipment if car drivers could be re-educated but that doesn’t always mean that motorists are always to blame. The real important thing to take away from all of this is to cycle sensibly, don’t take any unnecessary risks, always expect the unexpected, never assume anything, follow the rules and remember that the road is not a race track. As long as you follow those rules, you should remain safe on the road: helmeted or not.

Stick To the Rules

It’s easy to say ‘stick to the rules’ but many cyclists (and an alarming number of car drivers) are unaware of what the Highway Code says about cycling. Here’s a quick run down of the big issues; follow the rules and stay safe out there! :-

  • At night your cycle must have white front and red rear lights lit. It must also be fitted with a red rear reflector
  • When using segregated tracks you must keep to the side intended for cyclists as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath.
  • You must not cycle on a pavement.
  • You must not carry a passenger unless your cycle has been built or adapted to carry one; hold onto a moving vehicle or trailer; ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner; ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine.
  • You must obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals.
  • You must not cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red.
  • You must ensure your brakes are efficient; at night, use lit front and rear lights and have a red rear reflector.

(Taken from https://www.gov.uk/rules-for-cyclists-59-to-82/overview-59-to-71)

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