Cycling is a great way to get fit and, in some cases, a much quicker way to get from A to B than driving or taking the bus. However, cyclists are one of the most vulnerable road users and they can be seriously injured in accidents involving other vehicles. Therefore, in this article, we’ve created 10 tips on how to remain as safe as possible when cycling.
Plan Your Route
Planning a cycling route is beneficial for several reasons.
- Firstly, it improves safety by avoiding hazardous roads and high-traffic areas. Cyclists can identify bike lanes or paths, minimising the risk of accidents with vehicles.
- Secondly, planning allows for efficient use of time and energy, optimising the distance and terrain to suit individual fitness levels. A well-thought-out route might also encompass scenic views, enhancing the overall experience.
- Thirdly, it enables cyclists to anticipate potential challenges like steep inclines or adverse weather conditions, preparing them adequately. Moreover, route planning fosters exploration, encouraging riders to discover new places and experience diverse environments.
Check Your Bike Is Safe
Start by checking that the tyres are properly inflated and look for any signs of wear or damage. Ensure the wheels are securely attached and spin freely without wobbling. Check the brakes for responsiveness and proper alignment, and inspect brake pads for wear.
Test the gears to ensure smooth shifting and verify that the handlebars are tight and aligned correctly. Check for loose bolts or components periodically and tighten them as needed. Assess the chain for lubrication and tension. Finally, confirm that the lights and reflectors are functional for enhanced visibility. Regular maintenance and safety checks will ensure a safer and more enjoyable ride.
Always Be In Control Of Your Bike
Always being in control of your bicycle is paramount for safe cycling. Maintain a firm grip on the handlebars, and ensure your hands are ready to brake at all times. Try to keep a steady pace and avoid sudden manoeuvres and always be aware of your surroundings so that you can anticipate potential hazards. If you stay focused at all times, you’ll reduce the risk of injuring yourself or other road users.
Follow The Highway Code
Rules 59 to 82 of The Highway Code are solely for cyclists. They set out essential rules to ensure safety on the road. They provide advice on the types of clothing cyclists should wear, when they should use cycle tracks and cycle paths and where to position themselves on the road. Importantly, the Highway Code has been updated in recent years to promote a hierarchy of road users. One key change involves how motorists should drive to pass cyclists safely. Another explains how cyclists and other road users should give way to pedestrians who are trying to pass at junctions.
Use Hand Signals
Cyclists should use hand signals to communicate their intentions clearly with other road users. You should safely stick your arm out clearly to indicate which direction you are turning when entering a junction or changing lanes on the road.This proactive approach fosters safer interactions, reducing the risk of accidents and helps to keep traffic flowing. Using hand signals is a simple yet effective way for cyclists to enhance their visibility and ensure a safer riding experience for everyone.
Check Behind You
Cyclists should always check behind them to be aware of their surroundings and potential hazards. By regularly glancing over their shoulder, cyclists can identify approaching vehicles, pedestrians or other cyclists. This increased awareness allows cyclists to make informed decisions and take necessary precautions, such as adjusting their position on the road or signalling their intentions. You should always check behind you before changing lanes, overtaking or performing other manoeuvres to try and prevent accidents.
Approach Junctions Correctly
Approaching junctions correctly while cycling is vital for ensuring safety and smooth traffic flow. Firstly, position yourself well in advance, in the appropriate lane and consider taking the primary position to increase visibility. Always check for approaching traffic from all directions and try to anticipate potential hazards.
Then reduce your speed as you approach the junction to allow for better reaction time. When approaching a junction, make clear hand signals so other road users know what you’re about to do in advance. Remember to yield to vehicles and pedestrians if they have the right of way and avoid entering the junction until it’s safe to do so.
Lastly, obey traffic signals and road signs to navigate junctions as safely as possible.
Be Aware Of Larger Vehicles
Cyclists must be acutely aware of larger vehicles for their own safety. Larger vehicles like lorries (HGVs), buses and larger cars have larger blind spots which can make it difficult for the driver to see nearby cyclists. Staying visible and avoiding blind spots can prevent dangerous collisions. Moreover, larger vehicles require more time to slow down or stop, so cyclists should give them extra space and avoid sudden movements. Being cautious around larger vehicles also means anticipating wide turns and giving them enough room to manoeuvre. By being careful around large vehicles, cyclists can reduce the chance of serious injuries quite significantly.
Cyclists can enhance their visibility on the road to improve safety in several ways. Firstly, wear bright, fluorescent or reflective clothing, especially when riding in gloomy conditions, at dusk or nighttime. Most bikes are fitted with reflectors on the wheels but you should also increase your visibility by installing approved lights on the front and back of your bike. You should also keep your lights and reflectors as clean as possible to improve their effectiveness. You can further increase your visibility by using hand signals to communicate with other road users and by positioning yourself conspicuously on the road, slightly towards the centre of the lane when necessary.
Look Out For Road Defects
It is important that while you’re riding your bike, you scan the road ahead for road defects such as potholes, sinkholes, exposed tree roots and fallen tree branches. Extra caution should be taken when riding in the rain as potholes that are full of water can be very difficult to see which means you could be thrown from your bike if you hit one at speed.
What To Do If You Are Involved In A Bicycle Accident
Even if you adopt most of the tips we’ve suggested in this article, there’s still the possibility that you’ll be involved in a road traffic accident at some point. If that happens, here are some of the tips you should take:
- If you or anybody else is injured, you must report the accident to the police.
- Swap details with anybody else involved in the accident.
- If you were hit by a vehicle, you should make a note of the registration number and other information such as the vehicle’s make, model and colour.
- Speak to any witnesses and ask for their contact details in case the police need to investigate what happened.
- Take photographs of any damage to your bike and other vehicles.
- Seek medical treatment for any injuries you’ve sustained as soon as possible.
Can You Claim Compensation If You’re Knocked Off Your Bicycle?
It may be possible to claim compensation if you’re injured in a cycling accident that was caused by a driver’s negligence. For example, it might be possible to claim for your injuries if you were knocked off your bike by a car door as it was opened. Similarly, you might be able to claim if a collision occurred because a driver was using their mobile phone.
If you are involved in a cycling accident, you should try to carry out as many of the steps listed in the previous section so that you can present evidence to prove how the accident happened if you decide to make a personal injury claim. Advice on bicycle accident claims can be found here.
As we’ve shown, there are plenty of ways in which you can make cycling safe and enjoyable. However, despite your best efforts, there might be times when you might be injured in a cycling accident or have a near miss which might reduce the pleasure of cycling. We say that you shouldn’t let the prospect of a cycling accident deter you from getting on your bike. Whether you’re commuting to work, popping to the shops or enjoying the British countryside, there’s no better or healthier way to do so than by bike!