More people than ever are taking up cycling, with 13 million bikes hitting British roads. But while two wheels are getting more popular, a sad fact is that cyclist deaths are at a five-year high with 2,771 cyclists seriously injured or killed in 2010. If you are a cyclist or are thinking of taking it up, remember these five cycle smart tips to keep you safe on the road.
Make yourself visible
On a bike you have to assume you are at the bottom of the road pecking order and often other vehicles like buses and lorries will completely miss your presence on the road, until it is too late. Make sure that you are wearing a bright helmet and reflective clothing. If you want to put style before safety then at least make sure that your bike has reflectors as well as your helmet. When making any kind of manoeuvre, be sure that drivers around you have seen you and attempt eye contact whenever possible. Never assume because you can see them, they can see you.
Don’t hug the pavement
It may feel safer to ride as close to the pavement as possible, but in reality you are only putting yourself in more danger. Not only are you more likely to hit debris or potholes that may cause an accident, but there is more chance that you will be squashed by larger vehicles moving alongside you. The road is big enough for all of you and if you have to wait for space then hang back – but cycling too defensively is only going to put you at risk.
Avoid major roads
When planning your route, stick to back streets and avoid major roads and junctions. These can often be confusing to drivers and the more cars involved, the bigger danger to those on two wheels, even if you are in the correct position. Don’t assume back streets mean you will be slower. Often they run parallel to the larger roads so will be around the same distance and because there will be less cars, it may actually be quicker.
Don’t trust other drivers
While it seems polite to give other road users a degree of credit when it comes to driving correctly, when cycling, it is best to suppose the worst. Whether it is pulling out at a junction or a car getting too close, don’t assume that they are aware that you are there. While most road users will be considerate and respectful to cyclists, some will not be and it is safer to prepare for the odd difficult customer just in case. Just because you are cycling safely doesn’t mean you aren’t in danger, often it is motorists in the wrong, but you will be the one to suffer.
Keep your head
If you are going to cycle on main roads, especially during rush hour, make sure you are continually thinking about what is coming up on your journey and be aware of what is around you. The moment you let your mind wander is when accidents will happen. Plan your journey as you go along and don’t be scared to veer off course if you think it is necessary. If you know there is a particularly hairy corner coming up then slow down and take it safely, don’t try to rush it, and if you are feeling too out of your depth, pull over and take a breather.