Ride safe. Our tips for keeping safe on the road
It seems that every day the cycling community is faced with news of another death of a fellow rider on the roads.
I've no intention of this article becoming a who's to blame, or a what should the government be doing about it style rant, it's intention is to help you as riders remain safe while you're out an about on our ever busier roads.
Here are our simple and practical tips for riding safe. As with all the best things in life, this one goes up to eleven...
1. Be responsible for your own safety.
You're already reading this. Good start. We each have a responsibility to look after ourselves and our fellow road users, not matter what mode of transport we choose to adopt. Riding safely within the rules of the road encourages other road users to do the same.
2. You are squashy.
As a cyclist you are naturally more vulnerable than anything a. Heavier than you and b. made of metal. Never take unnecessary risks with other traffic, you will always come off worse. If you're not 100% sure you can't make the gap, wait until you can. Better to arrive late than not at all.
3. Undertake with extreme caution
NEVER undertake long vehicles. Undertaking, even in a stationary queue of traffic needs to be done carefully. Be especially careful of drivers turning left in front of you or turning right through a gap in traffic from the opposite side of the road. Be on the look out for pedestrians too. They've no reason to suspect that you're tearing up the inside of a stationary queue of traffic. Take your time and be ready to stop quickly if necessary.
Never undertake anything longer than you can get past the full length of the vehicle in a split second. Bendy buses and articulated lorries are a complete no go area. It's just not worth the risk.
If a vehicle half overtakes you and then slows leaving you stuck on the inside, do whatever you possibly can to get out as soon as physically possible. They could pull in or turn left at any moment, GET OUT OF THERE. Dropping behind is often the best option. Do it FAST.
4. Leave something in the tank
Try not to go flat out on your commute. If you need some extra speed to get out of a tight spot, you're stuck. Relax, ride at a controlled speed and you'll make better judgments, more of the time.
5. Eye contact
Here's one that's often under rated, but key to keeping safe, taught to me by mad dad on my first day out on a road bike. When ever possible, make eye contact with drivers. If you look a driver straight in the eyes and they don't look back at you, best to assume they haven't seen you. As a general rule drivers really, really don't want to hit you and certainly not out to kill you. Do what you can to make them realise that there's a person on the bike and you're not just another obstacle.
As an addition to this I'd only ever recommend mirrored or dark eyewear when sun conditions are such as to make it completely necessary. Wearing clear specs makes it easier to make proper eye contact and get the message across that you're just another road user not a skittle.
6. Wear a helmet
I don't give a monkeys uncle what the for and against arguments are and It's not my intention to start a debate on compulsory helmet wearing. Tarmac, kerb stones and cars are hard, your head isn't. While a helmet may not help in all situations, it will in lots of others. Get a helmet, wear it, make sure it fits and is well adjusted.
7. Be seen
Riding without really good lights in the dark is asking for trouble (as well as being illegal of course). Lights are reliable, cheap and bright. No excuses. It's worth investing in small, bright battery powered lights for daytime riding too. Why not?
8. Obey the rules of the road, all of them
That means stopping at red lights, not riding on pavements, obeying one way systems, the lot. Breaking the rules shows disrespect for other road users, annoys drivers and puts not only yourself, but other cyclists at risk.
9. Look out for the slippy stuff
This time of year the roads can be slippy and slipping in high traffic conditions can be fatal. Look out for wet leaves, wet man hole covers, drains. When wet, it's also worth observing the road surface. A rainbow colouration on wet ground often means spilled diesel which can leave the surface as slippy as ice. Stay off the brakes and try not to turn until you're past the affected area.
10. Use your senses
Wearing headphones on the bike robs you of one of your key senses. Unless you're equipped with eyes in the back of your head, then leave the I-Pod at home.
11. Be nice
Thanking a careful driver when they've had the patience to over take you in a thoughtful way will not only increase the likelihood of them continuing to drive like that, but also remind the drivers who are still to overtake to do the same. How many times have you been overtaken by "Mr Careful" only for the next half dozen or so drivers to give you a close shave because they're annoyed for having to wait a few seconds. Spread the love, be polite and friendly to your fellow road users whenever possible!