Many commuters dust off their bikes in the summer, spurred on by warmer weather, lighter evenings and the freedom of leaving the car keys at home. Over 740,000 people get to work by bike each day, and that number is growing, as more of us see the benefit of pedal power.
While there’s no doubt cycling is becoming more popular, questions remain about how safe it is to bike on Britain’s roads. Government statistics show that there are around 100 fatalities, 3,300 serious injuries and 15,500 minor injuries involving cyclists each year, and though casualty numbers are falling, more can be done to protect cyclists as they pedal from A to B.
Hudgell Solicitors has a growing number of cyclists who travel to work by bike, and is also a proud member of Cyclescheme, the government-led green transport initiative. Through our experience in handling road traffic accident claims, we see the devastating impact bicycle accidents can have, and advocate for safer cycling wherever possible.
Today, we’re celebrating Bike Week 2017 — an international annual event encouraging more of us to travel by bicycle — by offering our essential top tips for safe cycling this summer. Aimed at those new to cycling, this guide can help you stay safer on the road — whether you’re cycling to work or picnicking in your local park.
Advice for Safer Cycling on the Road
Cyclists are the most vulnerable of all road users, with little to protect them in a collision. That means, as a cyclist, you have to ride with positivity and confidence, reading the road ahead to stay clear of hazards. Many people are put off cycling by the idea of riding in traffic, but by following simple road safety advice and the Highway Code, the road won’t seem so scary.
Here, we offer practical tips on how you can cycle more safely.
Follow the Highway Code
The Highway Code applies to all road users, even those on two wheels. If you don’t drive and lack the experience of using the road, this is a good place to brush up on your knowledge and learn how to negotiate different junctions and crossings, and find out what different road markings represent.
One of the key takeaways from the Highway Code is to not jump red lights, something which some cyclists are guilty of. Skipping a red light is not only dangerous, it could earn you an on-the-spot fine, as the police look to crackdown on riders breaking this important rule of the road.
Ride Positively and Decisively, Well Away from the Kerb
The more experience you get riding on the road, the more confident, decisive and positive of a cyclist you’ll become — reducing the risk of being involved in an accident. As you ride, keep your head up to read the road ahead, and position yourself around a third of the way into the lane of traffic. Don’t ride too close to the kerb, as this makes it more likely to hit a pothole or gutter, which could throw you out of the saddle. And don’t be afraid to make eye contact with drivers, especially when they’re waiting to pull out of a junction. This will attract their attention, improving your visibility on the road and helping you ride with confidence.
Make Clear Hand Signals
Taking your hands off the handlebars can be daunting in traffic, and counterintuitive to staying safe, but it’s vital that you let other road users know your attentions. When approaching a junction, look behind you to check the position of traffic (making eye contact with other road users where possible) before raising your right or left arm for around 3 seconds, giving drivers chance to react to your manoeuvre. When it’s safe to do so, reposition yourself on the road (important when turning right) and make the turn. Indicating your intentions with clear hand signals is a fundamental part of staying safe on the road.
Be Aware of Vehicles and Their Blind Spots
To cycle successfully in traffic, you need to be aware of other vehicles and how well their drivers can see you. This is particularly important when filtering through slow or stationary traffic, when there’s more of a risk of being hit when a driver makes an unexpected manoeuvre. While most cars have decent all-round visibility, the same can’t be said of larger vehicles like vans, trucks and buses. When filtering, be sure to give larger vehicles a wide berth, as it’s possible that the driver can’t see you. And never overtake a large vehicle up the inside; if the driver makes a left turn, you could end up in a very nasty accident.
Tips on Maintenance and Protection
As with any type of vehicle, cyclists must consider the maintenance and upkeep of their bike, and wear suitable protection and clothing that will help to keep them safe and visible on the road. In this section, we look at some of the things you can do to keep your bike in tip-top condition, and keep yourself more safe in the saddle.
Always Wear a Helmet
While there’s currently no law enforcing cyclists to wear helmets, calls have been made by bicycle safety charities and other groups to make head protection a legal requirement. Helmets provide invaluable protection in the event of a collision, and often mean the difference between a fatality and a minor injury. We’ve seen firsthand the catastrophic impact not wearing a helmet can have on cyclists, and would recommend that every cyclist wears one, regardless of whether they’re pedalling to work or enjoying a leisurely ride in their local park. When buying a bicycle helmet, make sure it has the relevant safety authentication and provides a snug and secure fit for your head.
Keep Your Bike Roadworthy
Cars need an annual MOT to ensure they’re always in a safe and driveable condition, and the same goes for bicycles. Each time you head out on your bike, you should make an effort to check the brakes, tyres, spokes and cables, so you can ride confident in the knowledge that everything’s in good working order. The condition of your brakes is particularly important, and you should replace worn pads at least once a year (depending on how often you ride). Maintaining your bike isn’t just a matter of safety; by making sure the tyres are at the right pressure, the brakes are in good order, and the chain is well lubricated, you’ll enjoy a smoother and more enjoyable journey.
Wear High Visibility Clothing
Cyclists in dark clothing can be difficult to spot, so make sure you wear some element of high-visibility clothing to help yourself be seen. Whether that’s a high-vis vest or coloured lycra; the more visible you are to other road users, the less chance you have of being in an accident.
Advice for Motorists
Cyclists and motorists are equally entitled to a share of the road, so it’s important that both parties show each other the respect they expect in return. To make the road a safe place for all, we’ve provided a few helpful tips on how drivers should negotiate cyclists.
- When overtaking, give cyclists a wide berth. Cyclists can use the full width of the road if they wish, so when overtaking you should treat them like any other vehicle. In 2016, the police began a campaign to prosecute motorists for driving too close to cyclists, so keep your distance to avoid a penalty.
- When turning left, always check your mirrors and your blind spot for cyclists coming up the near-side. If there’s a small distance between you and the bike, wait until they’ve passed to make your turn and avoid cutting them up.
- Dip your headlights when approaching cyclists at night, as you would when passing other vehicles.
- When it’s wet, give cyclists extra space to account for slippery surfaces, and to allow them to avoid puddles at the side of the road. Stopping distances vary on wet roads, so remember to keep your distance.
With the warm days of summer now upon us, we’d encourage you to get out on your bike and enjoy life on two wheels.