How to Cycle Safely on Roads

Many more people are seeing cycling as a viable form of daily transport rather than just a weekend pastime. Environmental issues, the ever-increasing number of the overweight and obese and the need to take your general well-being seriously are frequently in the news. Cycling is a way of improving your fitness and is a reliable and cost-effective means of transport.

The urban streets are constantly congested with vehicles and in cities such as London and Manchester the average speed by car at peak times is lower now than when most travel was by horse and cart! Road planners are creating more cycle lanes to try and make the streets safer for cyclists. Also, many towns and cities now have cycle share schemes to encourage people out of their cars. For these reasons, commuting by bike is becoming a more attractive proposition.

Unfortunately, cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users in areas where cycling infrastructure is poor. While cyclists don’t necessarily have a higher risk of having an accident than any other mode of transport, their vulnerability makes the consequences worse.

How Cycling Accidents Happen

Cyclists are not entirely blameless when it comes to road safety. There is no excuse for ignoring the rules of the road and there is a minority who have a complete disregard for other road users. These riders often go through red lights, ride too quickly for the conditions, endanger pedestrians by cycling on the pavement, go the wrong way on one-way streets and weave among vehicles.

However, the majority of accidents involving cyclists are the result of the inattention of motor vehicle drivers. Frequently the accidents are caused by a driver opening their door, turning into or out of side streets or changing lanes without making an extra check for bikes. Various attempts have been made to increase the awareness of drivers, but these types of accident are still all too common.

Riders also need to be aware of how vulnerable they are and be responsible for their own safety. It may be perfectly legal to filter through slow traffic but there is always danger from vehicles turning or moving across the road, so be extra observant.

Tips for Cycling Safely

You shouldn’t even go on the road unless your bike is well-maintained and fit for use. The brakes and gears and their cables should be working efficiently, tyres with good tread and at the right pressure, the chain and other necessary parts checked and oiled.

Helmets are not yet compulsory but it is always advisable to wear one if you are travelling at high speeds or regularly mixing it up with vehicles. Any helmet that has been dropped, bashed or battered might look fine but should be replaced as it could have been weakened.

The slogan, “Be Safe, Be Seen” is more true today than ever. Wear hi-vis jackets and sashes, reflective bands on your arms and ankles. Lights are only compulsory during the hours of darkness but using them in the day, particularly in bad weather will help motorists to see you. Flashing front and rear lights tend to be more noticeable.

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The Highway Code applies to everyone on the road, including cyclists for whom there is a whole chapter with which you should familiarise yourself. If you are involved in an accident in which you are accused of contravening the code, you can be prosecuted and possibly sued.

When you’re on the road, avoid riding in or too close to the gutter. This will give you a little more room to manoeuvre and help you to stay off drain covers. If you need to ride in the middle of the lane to stay safe, drivers will just have to wait to pass you safely.

Beware of getting caught on the inside of lorries turning left at junctions as you could be in the driver’s blind spot. If the lorry is stopped at lights, either pull in front so they can see you or stay back and let them go first.

Awareness and observation will help you to anticipate possible problems. Watch out for pedestrians on their phones and kids playing near the road. If a car pulls in to the kerb you can expect the driver to open their door. Being ready for these circumstances can save you from having to take drastic action like swerving which can put you in danger. At junctions try to make eye contact with drivers to get an idea of whether or not they’ve seen you. Avoid using earphones while cycling as that in effect eliminates one of your key senses.

Treat every other road user as an idiot and expect the unexpected.

After an Accident

You can take all of the above precautions but you can’t always avoid the actions of others. If you are involved in a cycling accident, what you can do will depend on the extent of your injuries, if any. If you are able, you should take down the details of anyone else involved and take photos or ask someone else to do it for you. Often in these circumstances a witness will step in to help you.

The police should always be called and an ambulance if necessary. Certain injuries are not always obvious straight away so it can be advisable to get checked by the ambulance crew. The police can control the situation and take statements which will be available to you in the event of you later making a claim.

Claiming for a Cycling Accident

If you’ve had an accident for which you believe somebody else is to blame you might be able to make a claim against them. To find out how to make a claim for a cycling accident injury, you should consult a legal expert who specialises in this type of claim. If your claim is successful you will be compensated for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost earnings, damage to your bike and any other related costs.

Pete Reynolds

Pete is the co-founder and editor of Discerning Cyclist. He commutes by bike daily from his home to his co-working space. Originally from Wirral, UK, Pete now lives in Spain. When visiting a new city, Pete loves nothing more than to explore it on two wheels. See Pete's Muck Rack profile

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