Cycling skills and safety - Take Control of your own Safety
Many people are getting back on their bikes or taking up cycling as the most convenient (and cheapest) way to get around - particularly in the coming week...Bike Week.
Cyclists are been advised to take advanced cycling courses been organised by the road safety departments of the local authorities.
Cyclists feel more exposed to risks created by others, but research would indicate that adult commuter cyclists live longer than their non-cycling peers. Cyclists need to see risk in context.
Understanding the risks
Cyclists must be realistic and recognise that like other road users, the risks they face are real but they do not exceed the benefits, and they can learn to manage them.
You should treat traffic speed as a bigger threat than traffic volume, particularly if combined with poor light conditions or wet weather.
High traffic speeds can be encountered anywhere, even on residential streets, so be prepared to adapt your cycling tactics or even dismount if necessary.
Looking for traffic
You should remain aware of what is happening all around you and not just the road in front. Look all around before moving away from the kerb, turning or on manoeuvring, to make sure it is safe to do so.
Look, signal, manoeuvre
Signals warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians, of your intended actions. You should always give clear signals in plenty of time, having checked it is not misleading to signal at that time.
Use signals to advise other road users before:
•changing course or direction
Practise giving clear signals without wobbling or losing control.
•left arm out - I intend to move in to the left or turn left
•right arm out - I intend to move out to the right or turn right
•(right) arm up and down - I intend to slow down or stop
Make bold, clear signals - always make big, exaggerated, hand signals; in good time and after checking your rear.
Make sure your signals will not confuse others. If, for instance, you want to stop after a side road, do not signal until you are passing the road. If you signal earlier it may give the impression that you intend to turn into the road. Remember that signalling does not give you priority.
You should also watch out for signals given by other road users and proceed only when you are satisfied that it is safe. Be aware that an indicator on a vehicle may not have been cancelled or that a signal by another road user may not have been intended for you.
For example, do not assume that flashed lights are intended to allow you to progress across traffic.
Relying on 'rules'
Relying on simple rules such as 'use hand signals', 'always keep left' or 'always use helmets' does not give a cyclist special protection or right of way.
Equally, don't assume others will obey the rules or signal their intentions. Instead, learn to read other road users and anticipate what they might do.
Skilled cyclists actively ensure adequate time and space for any manoeuvre. They read the traffic in advance, communicate with others, give way if necessary, and position themselves appropriately and in good time. On multiple laned roads, be aware of traffic in all lanes
These tips make the roads safer for you, and for other people. Novice and experienced cyclists alike can learn a lot from cycle training, so contact your local council to ask about free or subsidised lessons:
•Be extra careful near large lorries The majority of cyclist fatalities involve HGVs. Read our advice for safer cycling around lorries.
•Cycle away from parked cars Being car 'doored' is one of the most common causes of cycling crashes, and if struck you're in danger from behind run over by cars behind you. Always ride at least a metre, if not more, away from parked cars so you can avoid doors opening in your path.
•Beware of fast-moving traffic Motorbikes and scooters often go much faster than other road users. They can come up behind you very quickly, so always check behind you before moving sideways, even within your own lane.
•Take special care at junctions Most crashes happen at junctions so take extra care, especially when there are multiple lanes and vehicles are moving fast.
•Be an assertive cyclist You have the same right to use the streets as other road users. It's safer to ride at least a metre from the kerb or parked cars so you can avoid opening car doors, and you're more visible to other road users, such as those pulling out from side roads or approaching from behind.
•Try to make eye contact Make positive eye contact with other road users, including those who might turn into your path from side roads, and those driving behind you, or when you're waiting at traffic lights. Don't be afraid to smile, and be sure to thank people when they're courteous.
•Use appropriate hand signals It's safer, and good manners, to signal when turning in the vicinity of other road users, including other cyclists and pedestrians.
•Be considerate to people on foot Slow down and give pedestrians lots of space on shared paths, where they always have priority. When cycling along busy streets, go at a speed that'll allow you to avoid someone who steps off the pavement into your path.
•Use lights at night It's a legal requirement to use lights at night; also consider wearing light or high-visibility clothing or adding reflective material to your bike or luggage.
•Take extra care in bad weather Allow extra room to manoeuvre or stop, and give other road users extra space as they might need more braking time and have reduced visibility.
•Don't ride through red lights or on pavements These actions can be hazardous or frightening to others, especially those on foot. It's also a potential danger to yourself and is against the law. These actions are a major source of conflict with other road users, and unfairly present cyclists as frequent lawbreakers.
•Don't use your phone on your bike Using a mobile phone cycling distracts your attention from the road, which is dangerous for you and other road users.
•Carry baggage sensibly Consider buying panniers, a rack, basket or a rucksack: dangling shopping from handlebars or carrying bags under one arm makes it riding more risky.
•Look after your bike Check your tyre pressure and brakes regularly. Contact your local authority to find out about maintenance courses near you or contact us to organise a Dr Bike for your workplace, school or community group
•Communicate calmly If another road user's actions cause you alarm, by all means explain this to them when it's safe to do so, but do it in a reasonable manner. If you shout at them angrily, they won't listen.