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
- 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!”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Get yourself out of dangers – if you are unable to move then aim to make yourself visible.
- In injured seek medical attention, or get someone to call an ambulance for you.
- 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.
- Exchange details with the driver, making a note of vehicle registration plates, make, colour and model.
- 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.
- Keep copes of everything – police reports, ambulance reports, names of officers attending the scene.
- 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.
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.