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Staying safe on the roads: top tips for cyclists

Staying safe on the roads: top tips for cyclists

Cycling has been a common form of travel for generations and in recent years has enjoyed consistent growth in popularity.

Considering the constant increases in fuel costs, and our heightened awareness of the environmental impact caused by cars inspiring more and more people choosing to cycle rather than drive, it's fair to predict that the number of people cycling on our roads will continue to grow.

Unfortunately, at the same time the amount of motor traffic has increased as well. More drivers and more cyclists has resulted in a heightened number of cycling accidents on the road. Even with new, safer cycling routes, getting on your bike can still be dangerous!

Government research published last year showed that in 2020, 141 pedal cyclists were killed in the UK, whilst 4,215 were reported to be seriously injured and 11,938 slightly injured.

In this article, we look at ways you and your family can stay safe on the roads whilst cycling.
1. Stay visible!

If you are not visible to other road users, an accident is more likely to happen. Legally, cyclists must have working lights on the front and rear of their bike, but you should also consider wearing bright, high visibility clothing and lights on your helmet.

When fitting a bike headlight, you should ensure that it is a clear light visible for 200-300 feet (30-90m).

You should also cycle in a predictable way to other road users so as they can anticipate your movements. In particular, avoid cycling down the left-hand side of high-sided vehicles such as lorries and buses, as they have much larger 'blind spots' than cars and may not see you at all.
2. Avoid distractions

There can be many distractions whilst cycling: your phone, other road users, a bad day in the office; the list is endless. Unfortunately, that can lead to risky behaviour, such as being unaware of other road users and making errors or traffic violations. If you cycle long distances, you may have even found yourself drifting off into an almost hypnotic state! Here's what we suggest to avoid getting distracted whilst on your bike:

• Switch off your phone or set it to silent
• Stay hydrated and keep your body fuelled.
• Don't combine cycling with alcohol.
• Switch your concentration to elements of your cycling. For example, spend a few minutes focussing on your breathing, then switch your focus to your pedalling, then to your pace.
3. Wear a cycle helmet

There is currently no legislation that requires cyclists to wear a helmet. However, we recommend to everyone that they do so because even a minor injury can have a significant impact. Head injuries are one of the leading causes of fatal bike accidents.

An extensive study in 2016 found that wearing a cycle helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury by almost 70% and fatal head injury by 65%.

If you are looking to purchase a helmet, you should check that they comply with the current safety standards, EN 1078 (for adults) or EN 1080 (for children). The helmet should be correctly fitted, free from damage and worn correctly.
4. Stay aware of your positioning in the road

On 29th January 2022, the Government updated the Highway Code. The revised Highway Code clarifies cyclists' safest placement on the road. The Code says you should:

(a) Ride in the centre of your lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or road narrowings.

(b) Keep at least 0.5 metres (just over 1.5 feet) away from the kerb edge (and further where it is safer) when riding on busy roads with vehicles moving faster than you.

(c) Take care when passing parked vehicles, leaving enough room (a door's width or 1 metre) to avoid being hit if a car door is opened

(d) watch out for people walking into your path

Cycling in groups

The revised Highway code says cyclists can ride 2 abreast - and that it can be safer to do so, particularly in larger groups or when accompanying children or less experienced riders

Cyclists are asked to be aware of people driving behind them and allow them to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when it is safe to do so.
5. Be careful at junctions

When turning into or out of a side road, you should give way to people walking who are crossing or waiting to cross.

The Highway Code says cyclists should proceed as if you were driving a vehicle. This includes positioning yourself in the centre of your chosen lane where you feel able to do this safely. This is to:

• make you as visible as possible, and
• avoid being overtaken where this would be dangerous

When going straight ahead at a junction, cyclists have priority over traffic waiting to turn into or out of a side road, unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise.
6. Cycling on roundabouts

As a cyclist you are allowed to stay in the left-hand lane of a roundabout when you intend to continue across or around the roundabout, and motorists must give way to you.

The Highway Code also says that motorists should give priority to cyclists on roundabouts, and should:

• not attempt to overtake people cycling in the same lane, and
• allow cyclists to move across their path as they travel around the roundabout.

But, of course, people all too often do what they're not supposed to, so take extra care!

At Total Cycle Assist, we protect and support you if you are involved in an accident on your bike that isn't your fault. For just £29 a year, we cover all your family and all of the bikes in your household. To find out more about Total Cycle Assist, click here.

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