Cyclists. Whether you love them or loathe them, the chances are you have an opinion on them. Possibly the most divisive topic when it comes to driving, cyclists are never far from a driver’s thoughts when they are on the road.
Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, you share the road with cyclists. And cyclists, you share the road with car and truck drivers. And whether you are a cyclist yourself or you are a driver, safety is very important.
In 2015, there were 18,884 incidents involving cyclists. This includes whether they were slightly injured, severely injured or killed. These are the latest figures that are available. It is also thought that this number is actually larger as many casualties aren’t reported to the police. In February this year (2017) it was reported that there has been a 50% rise in accidents between cyclists and pedestrians in seven years.
So regardless of whether you ride a bike, you are a driver or you are a pedestrian, keeping safe while cycling or around cyclists is absolutely imperative.
But how do you stay safe if you are a cyclist?
In this article, we look at road safety for cyclists.
Here are some of our top tips for cyclists when out on the road. Some of these may seem obvious, others not so. However, we hope that this gives you some tips to keep you, and those around you, safe.
Plan your journey
If you are setting off on a new route for the first time or are new to cycling, plan your route before you leave. Take into account the distance, and whether you will want to stop at some point to rest.
If you are unsure about cycling on roads, then you might want to have a look at cycle paths or off-road routes. These may take slightly longer, so if you are on a time sensitive ride, you will have to take this into account as well.
Accidents often happen towards the end of your ride, when you are tired and close to your final destination. Therefore, note the places it is safe for you to have a quick break. Also, make sure you have a food ration just in case you feel your sugar levels dropping. Even if it’s a short journey, you never know when hunger might strike.
Think about where you are in the road
You are encouraged to cycle in the centre of the lane. This is to maximise your line of vision. You shouldn’t stick to the kerb because this can be dangerous. We understand that sometimes it can be difficult and if you are in a big city, it can often feel intimidating, but becoming part of the traffic stream will force people to treat you like traffic. Because you are traffic.
It may also feel safer to cycle by the kerb or gutter, but this is not the case at all. It increases the chances of drivers overtaking you with only inches between you and this can be hugely dangerous. Not to mention the drains, potholes and debris that is swept aside by car tyres. You should never be closer than 50cm to the kerb, ideally you should be a metre out. However, if you don’t feel comfortable being in the centre of the lane, then you don’t have to. If the road is busy or the traffic is moving faster than you, then cycling to the side of the cars is perfectly acceptable. It also gives drivers a chance to safely overtake you.
You have to be in the driver’s field of vision. Incidents will occur when the driver can’t see you, and this could well be the most common type of incident. Therefore, you must cycle where they are looking, and that is often directly in front of them. The chances are, a driver will not rear-end you, but they could end up crashing into the side of you if you are cycling alongside them.
Don’t cycle along the inside of large vehicles. Ever. Especially at junctions. This is where most accidents happen and can be extremely dangerous. If a lorry is turning, pull back, don’t ride into the space they have created because this closes very quickly and you cannot guarantee they will see you. It’s always better to let large vehicles turn instead of risking sneaking past. Also, as a cyclist, you are allowed to stop on double yellow lines. Not many people know this, but you can do it. This enables you to safely allow a large vehicle to turn.
It takes longer to stop on a bike than it does in a car, and stopping distances on bikes vary. The car in front of you might have to stop suddenly and you will have to anticipate that movement before it happens.
Think about your environment, the road surface, the weather and anything else that may impact what is happening on the road. You will have to be prepared to stop suddenly, which means always being aware of your surroundings.
Don’t forget about vehicles that may cut across your path to get to an opposing road, vehicles that are pulling out from a minor road and vehicles that are moving to avoid parked cars or hazards. Assess what the vehicles in your vicinity are doing when approaching side roads, if they are indicating and you miss it, then this could cause an accident. If you are approaching a side road or there are side roads approaching, then we recommend moving into a centre position so vehicles can see you.
Make sure you are seen
Winter is coming. Well, it’s already here. But that means your daily commute via bicycle has got a lot darker. Therefore, it is imperative that you have the correct equipment to ensure you are seen.
It is a legal requirement for you to have white front and rear red lights on your bicycle at night. You should also have a red rear reflector attached. Your bicycle, if it was manufactured after 1/10/1985, must also have amber pedal reflectors fitted.
There are also reflective jackets that you can buy, shoe clips, and arm straps that light up to help ensure that you are seen by both drivers and pedestrians alike. Speaking from experience, I almost walked out in front of a cyclist when it was dark because they had no lights or reflective gear on. It would have been a disaster for both of us.
Another option you might want to consider is a helmet. It is not a legal requirement to wear a helmet, but they honestly do save lives, and it is also part of the highway-code. You can get bike helmets with reflective material on them and a waterproof reflective cover for your helmet as well.
Know what to do on a shared path
You may have to cycle on a shared path between yourself and pedestrians. If this is the case, then it’s important for you to know what to do in this situation and to be as courteous as possible.
Give plenty of room to pedestrians and keep to your side of the division. However, if it is crowded, then you will have to be prepared to slow down or stop. Don’t ride at high speeds and be careful at entrances to the path, such as where traffic lights or islands are.
Also, don’t assume that everyone can see or hear you. There are people who are visually impaired and hard of hearing. There are also a lot of people who walk with their headphones in. If you are cycling on shared paths often, maybe invest in a bell. Always give way to wheelchair users and horse riders.
Know the highway-code
This is an obvious one, but before you start cycling on the road, brush up on your highway-code knowledge. This will tell you everything you need to know about cycling on the road. This includes things such as;
- Using cycle routes and other facilities
- Cycle tracks
- Cycle lanes
- How to cycle sensibly and safely
- This includes keeping both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear (I have seen people text and cycle and cycle with no hands on a road, both of these are foolish and incredibly dangerous)
- Don’t carry anything that will affect your balance or get tangled up
- Do not ride in a dangerous manner (no wheelies – again dangerous).
- Do not ride under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine that may affect your ability. It’s the same as if you were to drive a car.
- Parking your bicycle
Safety tips for drivers
Even if you aren’t a cyclist but you are a driver, then you do still share some responsibility to keep road users safe. This means ensuring that you are aware of cyclists when you are driving. Here are some of our top tips for drivers when it comes to cyclists;
- Give them extra space when it is windy or wet
- When you are turning left, watch for cyclists on your near side
- Always look out for cyclists when approaching and using junctions
- When overtaking, give a wide berth of at least four feet
- Dip your headlights when approaching cyclists
- Don’t get annoyed when cyclists don’t use cycle paths, they are under no legal obligation to do so
- And don’t get aggressive or angry, they have as much right to be on the road as you do.
In conclusion, the main things you have to think about when keeping safe on the road is to ensure that you are seen, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and be aware of other drivers and their next move. Ensuring that you have the right equipment and reflective gear when it is dark is also imperative, and will make sure that you are seen by drivers and passengers. Brush up on your highway-code and make sure that you are abiding by all road traffic laws. If you are a driver, then ensure that you are treating cyclists with the same respect you treat other drivers, and that you give them enough room when you are overtaking. If you are sensible, abide by the laws and make sure that you are seen, then this will help you stay safe on the road as a cyclist.