As 2014 begins, I am sure a lot of you will be starting your new year with resolutions. One of the most popular, which a lot of you are going to be implementing, is to get fitter and healthier through exercise.
Thanks to the Olympics, Tour de France victories and Sir Bradley Wiggins, the popularity of one form of exercise – cycling – has grown dramatically in Britain over the past few years. It is now estimated that 8% of the population now cycle 3 times or more a week.
Despite the increased popularity of cycling and the £77 million pound that the government is investing to improve cycling conditions, care must still be taken when going for a ride.
Every year in this country around 19,000 cyclists are involved in reported road accidents. Around 3,000 of these cyclists are killed or seriously injured.
However, with a few handy tips you can stay safe and have fun on the bike whilst achieving your health and fitness goals.
You want drivers to be able to see you, so wear as much reflective or bright clothing as possible, especially on your back as this is what drivers will see. Dark colours, even blue, will make you blend into the background during poor visibility.
Bike lights are also very important to be seen by drivers. It is imperative that you have both front and rear lights that flash to make a driver aware of your presence. It’s also a good idea to carry a spare set of batteries or even a spare set of lights if possible.
A common misconception is that if a road has streetlights, then drivers can see you. Wrong. Actually, bike lights have to be especially bright to be seen and not just merge into the many lights on the road.
Remember that nighttime is not the only time when visibility is poor. During commuting times of dusk and dawn, or during heavy rain or fog visibility may be obscured and lights/reflective clothing will be needed.
Always wear a helmet
If you do happen to be involved in an accident, then give your head the best chance possible to be protected. When buying a helmet, check that it’s the right size as they can vary. Also, whilst safety comes first, if you’re embarrassed about your helmet you won’t wear it, so buy one that looks good.
Simply wearing a helmet isn’t good though if it’s not fitted well. Whilst it shouldn’t feel restricting on your head or straps tight on your neck, it should feel secure. Shake your head around a bit to check. If it doesn’t move about then great – if not give the straps another pull.
Ride with confidence a comfortable distance away from the kerb
Whilst you may think being tucked into the kerb makes it easier for drivers, remember that they should be giving you plenty of room anyway. So why risk hitting that kerb and coming a cropper?
Ride at a safe distance away from the kerb where you feel comfortable to not steer into it, especially on windy days or on rough surfaces.
Be aware of other road users
When you’re riding on the road, remember that you’re sharing the road with fellow road users that won’t always know where you plan to go.
Make sure that you aren’t making any unexpected movements across lanes by always signaling. If hand signaling is a problem, try to look round (but don’t forget about the road ahead) and always wait for a clearing in traffic to change lanes.
If you have to, stay in the lane and continue – it’s better to take the long route rather than taking unnecessary risks to change lanes.
Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, as you may find yourself in the driver’s blind spot and will not be seen.
Always follow the Highway Code
Although travelling on your own pedal power, it is still important to follow the rules of the road. A ‘stop’ sign is present because it’s a dangerous junction and the traffic won’t be in your favour if you jump a red light. Therefore give yourself the best chance of staying safe by following these rules.
Aside from your safety, following the rules of the road helps reduce the ‘us and them’ attitude between cyclists and motorists. If a motorist can see that you’re a sensible rider, they are more likely to respect you and leave plenty of room when passing.