Road Safety For Cyclists: Expert Tips

For many people, cycling is something they did with their friends when they were a child and then forgot about once they grew up.

But times are changing. The popularity of cycling is soaring and shows no sign of slowing down. More and more of us are riding our bikes once again, for fitness, fun, and practical purposes like commuting to work, school or university.

However, lots of people worry about safety and are unsure whether getting back on their bike is worth it. There’s no need to panic — the number of fatalities on British roads has actually decreased over the past decade and the majority of accidents are non-fatal (approximately 99% in 2016, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents).

Riding a bike can be a very safe way to travel if you know how, so learn about road safety for cyclists and you’ll be well on your way.

Cycle route sign

Attend a training scheme

It’s worth attending a cycling training scheme for adults, especially if it’s been years since you’ve ridden a bike. Guidance and encouragement from an instructor will build your confidence and improve your ability to deal with all kind of scenarios.

Bikeability offers training for people of all ages and experience, taking you from the basics (level one) to making an on-road journey (level two) and dealing with more challenging situations (level three). Even if you cycle regularly, level three will equip you with the know-how on coping with unforeseen road challenges, increasing your safety.

Learn to cycle decisively

Before you set off, plan your journey from start to finish, especially if it’s long or a new one. Take any traffic updates into consideration and think about when you may need a break (and where you can stop safely). And make sure you know the braking distance of your bike — this will help you react accordingly when you have to stop.

Once you’re on the road, it’s important to maintain a confident approach to cycling. Signal clearly and avoid second-guessing your next move; you should only decide when you’re sure.

You’ll be able to see more if you ride in the centre of the lane, although you may need to move over to let cars and other vehicles pass. Check you have enough room to do so first.

Laws to remember:

  • Cyclists must not cycle without due care and attention.
  • Cyclists must stay on the road or a designated cycle path at all times — it’s illegal to cycle on the pavement otherwise.
  • Cyclists must stop for red lights.
  • Cyclists must not ride through an amber light unless not doing so would cause a collision.
  • Cyclists must not cycle in a public place whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.
  • Your bike must not carry more than one person unless it has been designed to do so.
  • Your bike must have two working braking systems, one for the front wheel and one for the rear wheel.

Steer clear of motorists

The worst thing you can do is assume motorists know you’re there. Make it your mission to be clearly visible — drivers on both sides of the road should be able to see you and you should be able to see them. Try to make eye contact whenever possible, especially when you’re waiting at junctions, and don’t make assumptions about what others are going to do next. Expect the unexpected.

Accidents are most likely to happen when you are on the inside of a vehicle which is turning left. Reduce the risk by waiting until the vehicle has moved off before you start cycling again. You should never cycle on the inside of a large vehicle – they don’t have the visibility to see you.

Pay attention to the weather

Just like when you’re driving, you’ll need to adapt the way you cycle to suit the weather conditions.

Staying safe when it’s windy

  • Ride as part of a group if you can, or take a route where there are natural windbreaks, such as hedges.
  • Bend close to the handlebars to lower the resistance of your body against the wind and hold on tightly.

Staying safe when it rains

  • You should pay special attention to stopping distances. It will take longer than normal for your bike to come to a halt and the road surfaces will be slippery.
  • Avoid drains and road markings if possible, since they will be slippery too. If it’s not safe for you to cycle around them, slow down and don’t make any sudden moves.

Staying safe when it’s icy

  • Stay on roads which have been gritted.
  • Keep your eyes on the road ahead so you can watch out for icy patches and cycle past them.
  • If it’s not safe for you avoid icy patches (i.e. if there are cars coming from the other direction) then slow right down, don’t lean into the bike, and don’t make any sudden moves.

Wear the right safety gear

A helmet is essential. It’s not illegal not to wear one, but the protection a helmet offers in the event of an accident or a fall can be the difference between life and death. You should be able to adjust it so it fits comfortably and securely on your head.

All helmets in the UK must meet either the EN 1078:1997 or EN 1080:1997 safety standard.

Cycling glasses with interchangeable lenses are a useful, year-round accessory, keeping everything from sun, wind, rain and insects away from your face.

Stay visible

Making sure motorists can see you goes a long way towards keeping you safe on the road. Wear bright, fluorescent clothing and invest in lights and reflectors for your bike.

Lights you’ll need at the front of your bike:

  • A minimum of one white front lamp
  • Up to 1500mm from the ground
  • Facing the front and visible to oncoming traffic
  • Marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard (if the light is steady)
  • Emit at least 48 lumens (if the light only flashes)

Lights you’ll need at the rear of your bike:

  • A minimum of one red rear light
  • Between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground
  • Facing the rear and visible to following traffic
  • Marked as conforming to BS3648 or BS6102/3 (if the light is steady)
  • Emit at least 48 lumens if the light only flashes)

Reflectors you’ll need:

  • One red reflector at the rear of your bike, between 250mm and 900mm from the ground, facing the rear and visible to following traffic
  • Four amber pedal reflectors, marked BS6102/2, one at the front and one at the rear of each pedal

(source: Cycling UK)

Maintain your bike

It must be roadworthy before you set off on your journey. By roadworthy, we mean your bike is:

  • The right size for you
  • Equipped with pumped-up tyres and working brakes
  • Fitted with the correct lights at the front and rear, and on the pedals

As a cyclist, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re heading out on a safe bike.

It’s also worth using a bell, as recommended by The Highway Code, in case other road users – including pedestrians and horse riders – don’t notice you. Bikes can be surprisingly quiet.

Make sure you’ve got the right storage for your bike

Everyone wants to know they can store their bike securely at home, at the office, or at their place of education. The right shelter goes a long way to making sure you’re bike stays in top condition. The Bike Storage Company provides secure, accessible solutions, including shelters, canopies, racks, stands and lockers.

All our infrastructure is BREEAM-compliant, rust-resistant and made in the UK. We design many products from scratch to suit your requirements, so get in touch and find out how we can help you create the right storage for your bike today.

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