Getting on the bike for your first time to ride to work can be a daunting experience and many people are worried about safety. Like any new experience it can make you feel scared to begin with, but after a few times cycling to work you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.
In fact, several recent studies have shown that the health benefits of cycling are far greater than any risks you take.
By following these six common sense tips, you can make sure that you stay as safe as possible on the road:
1. Keep a good road position – don’t ride in the gutter
2. Stay aware of hazards up ahead
3. Make eye contact with drivers
5. Stick to the lanes, just like a car
6. Do not overtake on the left, unless you are sure traffic has stopped
1. Road position
Take the lane – cycle in a position towards the middle of your lane. Don’t ride in the gutter. Riding to close to the kerb means that drivers may try to squeeze past you when there is not a safe amount of space to do so. Taking a position towards the middle of the lane makes sure that drivers must wait until there is a safe opportunity to overtake and it just makes you generally more visible.
Taking the lane may annoy drivers who are used to getting their own way, but you are entitled to do so. Don’t worry about holding up other traffic. But be sensible and considerate – if there’s not much traffic around, there’s no harm in pulling in briefly to let calmly waiting traffic past, if a safe opportunity arises. It’s live and let live! After all many of us are drivers too.
2. Stay aware
Scan the road ahead and identify potential hazards before they happen. An erratically driven car, an absentminded child about to step into the road, a large puddle. Don’t rely on other road users signals – some drivers will turn or change lane without indicating, other will indicate for no reason!
3. Make eye contact with drivers
The power of eye contact is amazing. A driver may not spot a cyclist at all but as soon as you stare directly at them, you magically come into focus. This is particularly useful when approaching junctions, like roundabouts, where drivers behaviour can be a bit unpredictable. Make eye contact with drivers – it’s help you read their intentions, and them yours.
One of drivers main issues with cyclists is that they are not sure what they will do next. Not all drivers are cyclists and vice versa. Let drivers know exactly what you are doing and it will make it safer for you. And remember you are not asking for permission – you are signalling what you are about to do.
Being well balanced on your bike is essential for safe signalling. Check the traffic ahead, and behind you, early on, so you can make your turn predictably. If you are confident, taking one hand off the bars can make looking over your shoulder much easier. Again it is a questions of practice.
5. Stick to lanes, just like a car, even on a roundabout
Do not hug the left edge on roundabouts with more than one lane! Do exactly what you would in a car – stay in lane, signal and filter off. This may mean you end up in the thick of the traffic but they will know exactly where you are, and will be able to predict what you will do next.
6. Only overtake on the left if the traffic is stationary
A very large number of cycle accidents involve careless drivers but equally there are many reckless cyclists. Overtaking on the left hand side is the most common mistake which can lead to a serious accident. If you are overtaking on the inside and a driver turns left without checking their mirror you will get squashed between car and curb. Only pass on the left hand side if the traffic is stationary and you are sure it will not start moving whilst you are carrying out the manouvere.