Cycling to work in good weather is a great way to stay fit, help the environment, and save money. It can be argued that cycling has become the need of the hour, especially when you consider the alarming rise in health problems, the perils of global warming, and surging fuel prices. Commuting to work by bike is not without its risks, however.
Devoid of any protection around them, cyclists are the most vulnerable of all road users. Don’t let that deter you though. Overlooking the benefits of cycling to work because of the potential risks would be an absolute shame. Observing the 8 tips given below will keep you safe on the roads while still availing yourself of the benefits of cycling.
Know The Highway Code
All road users are expected to know the road rules as laid down in the Highway Code. As above, pay special attention to rules 59 to 82 of the Highway Code, which pertain to cyclists. These rules cover all aspects of cycling on the roads including cycle routes and tracks, clothing and lighting requirements, and right-of-way at road junctions, roundabouts, and when crossing the road.
Make Sure Your Bicycle Is Property Equipped & Ready For The Road
Ensuring that your bicycle is properly equipped and in good working condition is really the key to staying safe on the road. Even before your foot touches the pedal, you should take time to make sure that your bike is road-worthy.
- Check that the brakes are working smoothly and effectively. The last thing you want is for your brakes to fail when you’re riding in traffic.
- Check that the tyres are sufficiently inflated.
- Check that the lights are charged. Do this the day before as the lights will take time to charge.
The Highway Code (Rule 60) states your bike must have a white front light and red rear light lit if you’re cycling at night. It must also be fitted with a red rear reflector. If your bicycle was manufactured after 1st October 1985 it must also have amber pedal reflectors. Even if you only ride during the daytime, it’s a good idea to outfit your bike with these lights anyway and use them at all times. They will boost your visibility and avert potential accidents.
As an additional precautionary measure, charge a set of backup batteries/lights and carry them with you just in case the ones installed on your bicycle fail while you’re riding in the dark.
Wear The Right Clothing When Cycling To Work
There’s a reason cyclists wear bright, tight clothing. The bright clothing makes cyclists more conspicuous and attracts the attention of motorists and pedestrians who may be daydreaming or distracted while driving or walking, even if it’s just for a moment. Even if a vehicle doesn’t actually hit a cyclist, a momentary distraction may cause a driver to pass too close, knocking them off balance. Wearing reflective clothing or fluorescent strips around the arm, ankles, and waist increases visibility further and adds another layer of protection.
Tight clothing ensures that your clothes don’t get tangled in the chain, causing the bike to come to an abrupt halt and throwing you off in the middle of traffic.
Don’t forget about a cycle helmet. Head injuries are all too common in cycling accidents and they can cause permanent brain damage. If you’re buying a cycle helmet don’t compromise on quality or fit. Take time to look for a helmet that fits correctly and conforms to UK standards.
Obey All Stop Signs, Traffic Lights, & Lane Markings
It’s tempting to jump a red light or keep pedalling furiously past a stop sign when the roads are empty but this can be a really bad idea. You think nothing will happen but is it really worth the chance? For one thing, it’s illegal to ignore traffic signs. Secondly, it can also be dangerous for you and that one other road user who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Is it really worth breaking the law and putting yourself at risk of having a bad accident or worse just to save yourself a few seconds?
Be Aware Of What’s Happening Around You
No matter how careful you are when cycling to work, you could still be involved in an accident because of somebody else’s carelessness.
The driver or passenger of a parked car might open the car door without looking, just as you’re approaching it.
Another driver may suddenly realise they’ve reached their turn and swerve the car without any advance indication.
Is there somebody walking their dog without a lead on the pavement? Be aware that the dog may dash across the street if they see something worth chasing.
These are just a small number of things that can happen when cycling to work that would be out of your control. Staying aware and vigilant can help you avoid any major mishaps.
Keep Your Fingers On The Brake Levers
Make it a habit to keep your fingers on the brake levers at all times when riding your bike to work. This can make the difference between being able to brake on time and being a few seconds too late in an emergency situation.
If your hands and fingers are on the handlebars but not on the brake levers, you’ll lose precious time trying to reach them when you need to. And when you need to use the brakes in an emergency, it’s always best to press both brakes at the same time and apply pressure evenly to both.
Stay Cool At All Times Whether Cycling To Work Or Back Home
It doesn’t matter how bad a day you’ve had at work or how much of a hurry you’re in to get home, taking your frustration out on motorists won’t help. On the contrary, it may just escalate into an all-out road rage incident. You don’t know what kind of a day motorists have had. They could be as frustrated and angry as you are. With tempers flaring all around and tensions running high, especially during peak hours, staying cool and being tolerant towards other road users can help prevent a crisis on the roads.
Know When Not To Hit The Streets On Your Bicycle
Some days at work can drag on endlessly and get incredibly tiring. Sleepless nights at home with a newborn baby or with a sick loved one can leave you feeling like a zombie in the morning. Fatigue and lack of sleep can result in impaired judgment, making you a threat to other drivers and pedestrians. It’s just as important to recognise when you’re better off not cycling to work or back home and using a safer mode of transport instead.