Deciding to trade your car for a bike is a great first step to better fitness and reducing your carbon footprint. But safety is a major concern, read on to find out how to stay safe on your cycle to work…
Cycling, to work or just for fitness at weekends, is an excellent way to kick start your metabolism and feel great. But before you take your bike out on the roads it’s vital that you get your kit right and think carefully about how to stay safe in relation to other traffic on the roads. So let’s get started.
Get the right bike
In the same way as drivers need to check their car is fit for the road with no cracks in the windscreen oil check, and tyres properly inflated safe cycling starts with a safe bike. Make sure your tyres are pumped up to the right amount – you can find the measurement on your bike tyre. Make sure your brakes are working correctly and that your chain is oiled – also don’t forget to fit your bike with a bell that works. That means you too, macho men! If you are planning to use cycle ways as part of or your entire route you will need a bell to warn pedestrians that you are approaching. Carry a spare inner tube and some tyre levers in your backpack or pannier bags as well as a small pump. There’s nothing worse than walking home pushing your bike.
Get kitted up
Being seen on the roads, starts with getting the right kit. You may not think it looks cool to wear Day-Glo colours post 1985 but hitting the asphalt in a traffic accident isn’t cool either. Dress to be seen with bright colours, yellow, pink, orange, green or blue they all work as long as they are bright enough.
Protect your head – get a helmet. Despite some mutterings about the effectiveness of cycle helmets all I can say is again think of hitting the asphalt without a helmet on – ouch!
Fit your bike and your clothing where necessary (backpacks and helmets) with bright lights. Just imagine you are cycling along on a dark winter evening, it’s raining. All car drivers can see out of their side mirrors are the bright lights of cars behind. If you approach on the left hand side without proper lights – what are the chances you will be seen before you fly over the car bonnet as it turns left? Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure your lights are bright enough to be seen.
Think about traffic safety
I often think everyone who drives a car or lorry should also spend time on the road as a cyclist and vice versa. It’s often obvious which cyclists are not experienced drivers from the way they position themselves on the road. One of the most important examples of this is the often difficult relationship between cyclists and lorries. Take a look at this great HGV cycle safety video before you try to tangle with the giants of the highways. Always be aware of just how big the blinds spots are for lorries, never assume you’ve been seen. Even when overtaking a stationary lorry at traffic lights look behind you, make sure the driver has seen you.
That’s another great cycle safety tip – look behind you in the same way you would use your car mirrors to check what the traffic around you is doing before starting a manoeuvre. I am always amazed by the number of cyclists who seem feel that looking behind before changing lane is unnecessary.
Basically: stay focused, keep looking around at what other traffic is doing, never assume you’ve been seen and always be cautious.
Jake Burrows is a freelance writer on all things car and driving related…