Your cycling could take you on all roads, at all times of the year and in a range of weather conditions. As such it's great to know the best practice cycling tips based on when you're planning to hit the streets. This section of the resource is designed to help out in this regard.
Rush Hour & City Cycling
Cycling in cities and towns is becoming more popular in order to avoid intense traffic queues. London is one such city where cyclists come out in their thousands every day. However, if you're planning to cycle in the city it's important to know the ins and outs of keeping safe and within the law.
First, let's take a look at city cycling from a perspective of staying within the law. In the same manner as motorists you should stop at all red lights and avoid riding through. By ignoring this you will be fined £50 if caught. It may be tempting, but it's an offense and also extremely dangerous.
From a safety point of view, the following is also integral to keeping safe on the roads:
Position your bike centrally on narrow roads. This prevents you swerving to avoid hazards such as drains and ensures motorists won't risk overtaking and putting you in danger
As the Highway Code suggests, keep a car width distance between yourself and parked vehicles. This gives you room to play with if a door is opened unexpectedly
Stay back from large lorries and HGVs. The chances are drivers won't be able to see you and could turn into your bike
Always wear bright or reflective clothing
Signal before turning left or right and ensure to check behind before completing the maneuver
In many cities and towns there are a number of cycle lanes designed to ensure safety for both the cyclist and other road users. There are four you're likely to come across and as such, it's worth knowing how each operates.
Mandatory Cycle Lanes:
These lanes are marked with a continuous white line. It's illegal for any vehicle to enter this area either when driving or parking.
Advisory Cycle Lanes
Work in a similar way to mandatory lanes but with a broken white line. Motorists shouldn't enter the lane unless it's unavoidable.
Contra-Flow Cycle Lanes
These lanes help cyclists navigate one-way zones. They act in the same manner as mandatory lanes for motorists.
Shared Bus & Cycle Lanes
As you would expect, these lanes allow buses and bikes to share a designated lane. Other road users are not allowed into these areas.
More and more people are cycling to work nowadays. This is to avoid the rush hour as a motorist, keep fit and clear their head for the day ahead. However, whilst this can be a great habit to get into, it can also be dangerous for those not in keeping with best road travel practices.
The thing is, although there'll be coworkers ready to put you off with horror stories, it's actually safer to cycle than walk, according to the UK's National Travel Survey.
There are also plenty of cyclists choosing to venture out at night. Whilst many will question their sanity, night riding can be just as fun as during the day, as long as you practice the right safety procedures.
Obviously, the main difference with night driving is the lack of light and visibility. This is solved with the use of good lights fixed to both the back and front. In fact, at night, drivers will even respect your presence on the road more and give extra space when overtaking.
Of course, as discussed previously, the use of reflective clothing and equipment is also recommended. It's this visibility that's crucial to nighttime cycling, so it would also be worth sticking to well lit streets (by avoiding country lanes particularly).
Our tips for nighttime cycling include:
Always have your lights with you
If your lights aren't fixed to the bike, ensure they're carried around with you in a bag. You never know if you'll be caught up at work or out longer on your bike than expected. The darkness could soon set in and you'll want your lights ready to use.
Carry back-up lights
Lights do blow or run out of battery, so prepare for the worst and have back-ups ready to return home safely. You could also consider a light for your helmet to better see the road ahead.
Maintain a safe speed
Whilst whizzing down hills in the dark can be exhilarating, you need more time to react to hazards. Always maintain a speed that's safe, so there's plenty of time to brake and take evasive action accordingly. For your notes, at 16km/h your bike has a six metre stopping distance and at 32km/h this triples to 18 metres. You could double this for wet roads.
Plan your route beforehand
Before taking to night cycling it's advised to practice the route in the daylight first. This will prepare you for what to expect and ensures there are no surprises around the corner. Whilst you should always be alert, it's best to have taken the route a few times beforehand.
Don't ride alongside the kerb
At night it's best to stay around one metre from the side of the road. This ensures drivers can see you in time and you're not just in their peripheral vision. Riding further into the road also allows more space to avoid hazards such as potholes.
Don't stare into the headlights
Oncoming cars may not think of you the same as a motorist. If drivers have full beams on they may neglect to dip the lights, so staring straight ahead could dazzle. If there's a vehicle approaching with full beams, try to look down at the road.
Think carefully about your routes
There are bad drivers around, though fewer than you probably think. That said, it's still worth thinking about the routes you take and avoiding areas of greatest risk. Unlit roads are a prime example of places to avoid if you can, as a speeding car could easily come round the corner to hit you head on.
The risks involved with cycling are worsened when it comes to the winter months. As such, it's important to be even more vigilant, as the bad weather can affect both the way your bike handles, and how other motorists react to situations.
Cycling during the winter months even poses more problems in non-collision incidents. Slipping on ice is the cause in 26% of accidents over winter, with 8% attributed to wet roads. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, more cycling casualties occur over winter.
There are however, some basic tips to take on board to ensure you're safe and sound when cycling over winter. This includes the following:
It becomes even more important to plan your route in advance and know exactly which roads you're travelling. In treacherous conditions you're more likely to have an accident trying to navigate areas and junctions you're unfamiliar with. You should also ensure to have a puncture repair kit with you at all times and know exactly how to use it
Alter your cycling based on conditions:
The conditions you encounter when out on the road should impact how you cycle. For instance, if it's wet, icy or there's snow on the ground, adjust your speed and give yourself more time to brake when approaching junctions and traffic. You should take a look at your bike's tyres to ensure there's enough grip to handle the conditions and purchase winter tyres if necessary.
You will also want to wrap up warm, with cycling gloves, neck guards and layers of thermals. You may also consider mudguards for the bike to prevent mud splashing up onto your clothing.
Maintain your visibility:
Even in daylight hours you'll want to ensure you're as visible as possible to other motorists. Snow and rain can obstruct the view of drivers, so wear reflective and colourful clothing. You'll also want lights and reflectors fitted throughout winter and whenever cycling at night.
Icy Weather Cycling
Ice on the roads can be extremely hazardous for motorists, but for some reason cyclists seem to think they'll be unaffected. In fact, it's the opposite. Ice can have a devastating effect on bikes and you can easily be caught unawares.
The main problem is, people don't tend to think of ice when the skies are blue. However, the previous night could well have frozen over the roads. As the sun remains low in the sky it's not going to help defrost ice anytime soon. For that reason, cyclists opting to head out early morning are most at risk of being caught out.
Black ice is particularly dangerous and is often caused by rainwater freezing before it's drained off the road. This leaves a thin layer of almost invisible ice. If there's a risk of black ice on the roads, keep clear of untreated areas. Particularly you would want to steer away from country lanes that won't have been treated by the council. However, it's also worth pointing out that even treated roads can become slippy by the water dispersal used when laying salt.
If you do cycle over black ice, make sure to avoid any sudden movements as this would only cause your bike to skid dangerously from side to side. This includes braking or serving. Try to sit the black ice patch out and prepare yourself in the event of toppling over the handlebars.
Seven Tips for Safer Cycling in All Conditions
So, we've discussed cycle safety and how to approach certain situations to avoid an accident. However, if you do take anything away from this resource, ensure it's at the very least the following seven tips.
1. Practice & Hone Your Skills
If you don't feel accomplished on the bike, it's possible to go away and take a programme to get you up to speed. These programmes aren't aimed solely at children and the National Standards training covers everything from the basics through to urban journeys.
2. Stop cycling against the kerb
Some cyclists will religiously sit alongside the kerb when cycling as a way of getting as far from motorists as possible. This is useful in some instances but not ideal for continued cycling. Being positioned better in the road helps your visibility and allows you room to maneuver from hazards.
3. Make eye contact
When waiting to turn at a junction it's always worth eyeballing motorists, even if only for your peace of mind. By making eye contact you'll know the driver has clocked you and can't say otherwise if there's a collision.
4. Signal with intent
Cyclists have as much right to use the road as motorists and you should treat your cycling as such. Signal with intent and let everyone else know exactly what action you're planning to take.
5. Use the correct lane
Some cyclists will tell you to stay left when taking a roundabout, but you should be brave and stick to your lane, even when turning right. If you stay left, motorists won't know where you're planning to exit and start second-guessing your movements. This is the wrong situation to be in.
6. Always keep to the rules of the road
Rules aren't in place for some and not others. This includes jumping red lights. You have to sit patiently and wait just as every othermotorist would. Stay in the designated waiting zone if there is one and take the appropriate lane.
7. Overtake on the correct side
When overtaking it's important to distinguish between moving and stationary vehicles. If the traffic is slow moving, you should overtake on the right, so you remain in vision. If stationary, it's perfectly fine to cycle past on the left.