Cycling to work offers several benefits over driving to work. Not only is it healthier but it is also more practical, cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, in recent times, the massive increase in traffic in cities such as London has given rise to several safety issues and an increase in the incidence of cycling-related accidents.
While it may not be possible to avoid accidents that are due to somebody else’s rashness or negligence, there are a few things you can do to reduce your chances of getting involved in accidents and staying safer while cycling.
Keep Your Bicycle In Good Condition
To stay safe on the roads, your ride has to be in top form before you even begin your journey. Check the tyre pressure, brake pads, chain and seat height every few days. Loose breaks and low tyre pressure can put you in sticky situations in wet weather and gravelly or muddy roads.
Also make sure that all nuts, bolts and screws are properly tightened. As you ride, they tend to get loose and need tightening up regularly or else they will eventually get too loose and result in an accident.
Wear Proper Protective Gear
It goes without saying that this is the important step to be followed to stay safe. Even a minor skid can end up causing serious injuries which can put you out of action for several days. A helmet, knee guards and elbow pads can go a long way in protecting you from getting seriously injured.
Wearing the right clothing for cycling is just as important. While long dresses or a maxi skirts may be comfortable or work-appropriate, they tend to get stuck in moving parts like pedals or wheels and can cause serious accidents. There are several types of clothing available in sporting shops nowadays which are trendy, comfortable and practical.
Needless to say, wearing flip- flops, loose sandals and high heels while cycling is just inviting trouble, since they significantly hamper your capacity to balance if you suddenly need to stop or slow down.
Make Your Bicycle More Visible
Ensure that you are visible to car drivers from a distance by installing reflectors, headlights and bells/ horns on your bicycle. Reflectors make it easier for the driver behind you to see you and estimate your speed more accurately.
Installing headlights is another option that is highly underestimated. A headlight on your cycle helps other drivers to identify and place you, especially on those overcast conditions that are so common in the UK. Headlights that have a blinker option are harder to overlook.
Besides warning other drivers to your presence on the roads, installing headlights on your cycle will also make it easier for you to see those potholes and other obstacles more clearly on those overcast and rainy days.
Follow Traffic Rules
Following traffic rules is a must if you want your commute to be safe. Never cross a red light, or even an amber light for that matter. Bicycles are much slower than automobiles and you might not be able to cross that road or junction in time.
Don’t be tempted to overtake from the left. That is the blind side for most car drivers and they may not even know you are there. Many drivers don’t bother to even signal while turning left, which increases your chances of getting hit.
In looking for a short cut to their destination, cyclists often ride against the direction of the traffic. This is a bad idea. The laws of physics cause head-on collisions to be more violent, and also reduce the time you get to react. Far better to ride in the same direction of the traffic even if it means taking a little longer to reach your destination.
Stay Away From Pavements
Never ride on pavements or on the extreme left of the road unless necessary. When you have to get down to the street at junctions, there might be vehicles coming in from your left. The closer you are to the edge, the more difficult it is for the driver to see you early and vice versa.
If you ride in the middle of the road or somewhere around the middle of the left lane, both you and the approaching driver have a higher chance of either slowing down or avoiding a collision.
Don’t worry about the cars behind you. They can see you from a distance and have more time to react compared to those approaching you or coming in at a right angle.
Always Slow Down When In Doubt
It is always advisable to slow down when there is any doubt at all.
Not sure whether the driver is going to take a turn at the junction or move straight ahead? Slow down and see what their next move is.
Not sure if the car parked in the driveway ahead of you is going to pull out, or if the driver in the parked car is going to open the door to step out? Slow down and see what the driver will do next.
Saving a few seconds during your commute isn’t worth risking your life over. Slowing down may be inconvenient, but it gives you the time needed to think and react and can save your life.
What To Do In Case Of A Cycling Accident
Sometimes, despite taking all precautions, you could still be injured in a cycling accident caused by a speeding bus, a rash driver trying to run a red light or a pedestrian crossing the street unexpectedly. In all of these instances, you may be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries.
If you are injured in a cycling accident that was due to no fault of yours, the most important thing to do is to get photographs at the scene of the accident and get the contact details of witnesses.
Other things that are equally important to do at the earliest are to get medical attention for your injuries, file a police record if the accident warrants it and consult with a personal injury solicitor to determine your rights with regards to getting compensation. More information on bicycle accident claims can be found here.