Complete guide to safe cycling for cyclists and motorists

Safe cycling is something we cover extensively on London Cyclist. This post is a collection of some of the most important information, in one place.

Motorists share a responsibility with cyclists to create a safe environment, so we’re going to cover both road users here (after all, many of us who cycle, are also drivers).

5 skills you learn at cycle training

  1. Ride away from the kerb – many cyclists feel safer when they are riding as close to the pavement as possible, however this encourages drivers to dangerously overtake you and gives you no room to manoeuvre if you need to avoid an obstacle. It’s also dangerous as this is often in the door zone of parked vehicles.  The more space you give yourself on your left, the more space drivers will give you when they overtake you. We’ve covered the secrets to road positioning previously and addressed some common concerns such as “but drivers will get annoyed!”.
  2. Regularly glance over your shoulder – this has a double benefit as you get an awareness of the traffic behind you and it brings drivers attention to you. Eye contact has a huge role to play in the way you are treated by drivers.
  3. At a junction, wait in the middle of the lane – as I show in the 5 of the greatest dangers facing cyclists in London post, when you wait by the pavement, drivers will typically pull up tightly next to you at junctions and traffic lights. When the lights change, this puts you in an uncomfortable space, with little room to cycle. You should always take a primary position at a traffic light or junction, which will allow you to safely move when you are ready.

  1. Use hand gestures confidently – with practise, you should be able to ride with just one hand on the handlebars. When you are going to turn, make sure you check behind you first, then fully extend your arm out. By glancing over your shoulder to check the position of vehicles, you will alert the drivers around that you are about to change road position.
  2. Be ready to pull your brake levers – when cycling you learn to expect the unexpected and having a couple of fingers already placed on the brake levers will speed up your reaction time.

A special note on blind spots

HGV’s are responsible for more than 50% of cyclist deaths, therefore it’s important to be aware of the blind spots that exist in front, behind and to the side of a lorry.

The image below shared on the London Cyclist Facebook page is a good illustration of some of the blind spots.


When you see heavy goods vehicles on the roads, alarm bells should be ringing. You should either stay back or safely overtake on the right. Also, aim to establish eye contact with the driver.

The Exchanging Places short film shows the view from inside the carriage of a HGV.

Where you can go on a free cycle training course

The best advice I’ve ever received as a cyclist was to go on a cycle training course. Initially, I refused to go reasoning that having cycled all these years on the busy streets of London, what could they possibly teach me that I didn’t know already? Fortunately, I overcame my stubbornness and attended a 2 hour one-on-one course with Cycle Training UK and it completely changed the way I cycle.

To go on a similar course I recommend reaching out to your local council, TfL or your local cycling campaign group, who can point you in the right direction to organising a training session.

For a list of direct links to the pages on council websites that talk about cycle training, checkout my post: Where to go on a cycle training course in London. The same principles apply for finding training courses outside of London.

What to do if you are ever in an accident

  1. Get yourself out of dangers – if you are unable to move then aim to make yourself visible.
  2. In injured seek medical attention, or get someone to call an ambulance for you.
  3. If possible, look for witnesses. If you are injured assign someone to find witnesses for you. People may move on quickly, so its important to do this early on. Ideally, aim for 2 independent witnesses who can vouch for what happened. Ideally, get their business card and make a note of where they work. This makes it easier to track them down.
  4. Exchange details with the driver, making a note of vehicle registration plates, make, colour and model.
  5. Gather evidence – make a note of CCTV cameras and keep your own notes. Use your camera phone to document the scene. Ideally, this should be done before the vehicle or your bike is moved. Be thorough with picture taking, including a picture of the driver.
  6. Keep copes of everything – police reports, ambulance reports, names of officers attending the scene.
  7. Compensation – bicycles need replacing and medical expenses may arise. As a cyclist, you have as much right to compensation as a driver would in an accident.
Fill out the claims form to get advice on your accident from CAMS.

How to safety check your bike

The M-Check is a simple check you can complete to make sure your bike is working safely.

What cyclists would like motorists to know

  • Vehicles overtaking you at high speeds and without adequate distance is an uncomfortable experience. Providing more space is always appreciated.
  • Cyclists may need to avoid small obstacles in the road that drivers may not see. Therefore, don’t expect that a cyclist will always stick to their exact path.
  • When cyclists are riding away from the kerb, it’s not to annoy drivers, it’s because this is a safer position for avoiding obstacles and it may be that there isn’t enough room to overtake.
  • When we see fellow cyclists going through red lights as we patiently wait, it’s just as frustrating as it is for motorists.
  • Cyclists are mothers, brothers, cousins, best friends, unfortunately that is too often forgotten and cyclists are seen as an obstacle.
  • A little understanding and courtesy goes a long way and it’s something all road users appreciate.

How to drive around cyclists

This short film with Chris Boardman and master driving instructor Blaine Walsh, shows how to safely overtake a cyclist.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

14 Responses to Complete guide to safe cycling for cyclists and motorists

  1. Phil 01/10/2015 at 8:43 am #

    Point 2 is especially useful; I look back roughly every 15 seconds, and I make a point of looking at the registration plate as well, so the driver knows they have been thoroughly clocked should they try anything- which they will do if they think they can get away with it.

    • Andreas 06/10/2015 at 9:08 am #

      Agreed – people are shocked when I share how often you should glance over the shoulder but it makes such an incredible difference.

  2. Phil 01/10/2015 at 8:56 am #

    Also, look back before making any change of direction, you never know who is speeding up behind, and take a safe line well in advance of parked vehicles so you don’t ( relatively )suddenly pop out in to the line of traffic right by the vehicle.

  3. Tom 01/10/2015 at 2:34 pm #

    Also, when a driver does (it happens more often than you’d think) give way to you, or give you plenty of space when passing you a little wave of thanks, or a nod is a nice thing to do and won’t leave the driver thinking “bloody cyclist, I give way and they just blank me”.

    It’s very important to try and reduce the us and them attitude where possible, drivers need to see cyclists as fellow road users rather than the enemy, and vice versa.

  4. D. 02/10/2015 at 10:05 am #

    “At a junction, wait in the middle of the lane – … when you wait by the pavement, drivers will typically pull up tightly next to you at junctions and traffic lights.” – I always do this and this is very good advice.

    The problem is that where the road is wider than usual (and there’s one junction I regularly use where this happens *all* the time) motorists will pull up next to me no matter how far out from the kerb I am. Seriously, I can be right in the middle of the lane – maybe eight feet out from the kerb – and a car will still slide up next to me.

    • Phil 02/10/2015 at 1:07 pm #

      It is unfortunate for you that some drivers will insist on being *****, even when given the opportunity to demonstrate otherwise. In my experience, they are most often the ones at the wheels of marketed-as-driven-aggressively BMWs.

      • Andreas 06/10/2015 at 9:07 am #

        Language Phil!

        • Phil 13/10/2015 at 1:08 pm #

          Sorry. But they do *grin*

    • Robert 16/10/2015 at 5:06 am #

      If the road is that wide, and is not narrowing down just ahead, I would keep left and let cars move up on the right. The video is good but should perhaps mention this as anexception to the blanket take the lane strategy.

      You can often let a platoon of cars go and get into clear air behind them.

  5. Chris 02/10/2015 at 6:58 pm #

    What a great post! With night’s getting darker this is a great reminder to the experienced cyclist and great insight to the new to cycling! Thank you on behalf of all cyclists!

    • Andreas 06/10/2015 at 9:07 am #

      Thanks Chris – I really appreciate the feedback 🙂

  6. D. 03/06/2016 at 9:21 am #

    The picture illustrating HGV blind spots is terrifying! The area in front of the cab is also an exact match for an ASL – and there’s nothing you can do if you are in an ASL and a HGV pulls up behind you, dropping you into their blind spot… Other than shuffle forward and forward and hope you don’t get ticketed for going over the second white line.

  7. Grace Carston 15/10/2016 at 2:52 pm #

    Sometimes cyclists are a danger to other cyclists. I was almost knocked off my bicycle on Belvedere Road Southbank.London at 1pm on 15/10/16 into (and perhaps) under the cars on my right by a cyclist who decided he would return from the parking lane to the road without looking. Did this make him a dangerous cyclist? Perhaps not, we all make mistakes and it is possible to learn from them However, cyclists who ride like this and then shout people down with offensive, sexist, ageist language and blame their road victims for their mistakes present a danger in my view. Abusive, aggressive, obnoxious behaviour by cyclists makes cycling dangerous and spoils things for everyone. Hopefully they are the few and not the many.

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