An increasing number of people are taking up cycling as a means of transportation as opposed to cars. This may be down to the recent economic recession pushing the cost of car-ownership up to often unaffordable levels. Or perhaps we’re all beginning to take note of the impending obesity epidemic and we’re taking up cycling to keep fit. Whatever the reason you choose to take to the roads on two wheels, it’s important to be aware of the risk of cycling accidents and subsequent bicycle accident claims. In the UK in 2012, 122 cyclists were killed in road traffic accidents, with that in mind here are some top tips on safe cycling:
Wear the correct clothing – A cycle helmet is an absolute must. Ensure that it is the correct size and fits well. A cycle helmet won’t make you invincible to accidents, but it will protect your head to some extent if you come off your bike in a low-speed collision. Cycle gloves in a bright colour will provide comfort, keep your hands warm, and ensure that your hand signals are easily seen. Wear something fluorescent and reflective so that you can be seen during the day or at night. Avoid any loose clothing that may get caught in the spokes and impair your cycling ability. Cycle shorts and waterproofs are ideal for keeping you somewhat protected from the elements.
Light your bike up – Your bike must have front and rear lights fitted, as well as a rear red reflector and amber pedal reflectors. As soon as it begins to get dusky you should put your lights on to increase your visibility to other road users, and your front light will also help you to see where you’re going. Remember to remove the lights when you lock your bike up to prevent them from being stolen.
Keep your bike well maintained – Before cycling each day give your bike a once-over, paying particular attention to the tyre condition and pressure. On a weekly basis ensure that you lubricate the chain and gears to keep them in good working order. And on a monthly basis do a thorough check-up; look at the bike frame and ensure it’s free from damage and the seat is at the correct height and bolted into place sturdily; check the steering and pedals for looseness and tighten accordingly; check the brakes for wear and tear and replace any frayed cables; check that the gears are working correctly and take your bike to a mechanic for any gear repairs; and finally, check the tyre condition and pressure. A well-maintained bike will add to your safety on the roads.
Cycle sensibly – Don’t undertake vehicles in their blind spot, they’re bigger than you and if they can’t see you then they won’t stop for you! Make eye contact with other road users, particularly at junctions, this way you’ll know whether they’ve seen you or not. Be aware of what’s happening around you and be on the lookout for potential hazards such as car doors opening into your path or cars that may overtake a bit too closely. Try to cycle about 1 metre away from the gutter/kerb to give you leeway in case you have to swerve away from a passing car. Keep your brakes covered in case you have to use them in an emergency. And just as you would hope that other vehicles will indicate their intentions to you, you should let other road users know what you’re doing too!
Take out insurance – Many home contents insurance policies will cover bikes as well so check with your provider. However there are also plenty of insurance companies that specialise in bicycle insurance, which is more suitable if your bike is more valuable. When shopping around for a bicycle insurance quote, look for a policy that will cover you if your bike is stolen or accidentally damaged, with breakdown cover and legal cover as standard. It’s also a good idea to go with an insurer that offers new for old on replacement bikes and can offer replacement cycle accessories such as helmets and clothing as well.