Tips for cycling safety
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Tips for cycling safety

The Bicycling Advocacy Group welcomes the inclusion of properly designed bicycle lanes alongside the proposed improvements of the coast road, particularly as on-road infrastructures are always preferable to off-road infrastructures, as the latter tend to take up even more space and to amplify the hazards to cyclists and other road users elsewhere. The group would, however, encourage the authorities to go much further and link cycle-lane sections, at the very least with advisory (dashed) cycle lane markings.

The group also appreciates the publication of the guidelines to drivers on how to negotiate cyclists, which are fair and based upon current best practice. In order to encourage safer cycling, the group would also like to pass on the following ‘best practice’ tips to cyclists about driving in traffic, published by Alan Anderson (2011) as “statistically verified ways to encourage other road users to treat you with respect”.

1. Don’t ride in the gutter in the belief that you should avoid traffic there. Not only does this expose you to the broken glass and other rubbish that will punish your tyres, it puts you more at risk of collision with pedestrians and it actually decreases the leeway that passing cars will grant you. A study by Cycle Training (UK) shows that passing drivers note how far into the roadway a cyclist is, then passes them with the same clearance.

2. Pass parked cars by at least a door’s width; watch for movement inside the car and faces in the wing-mirrors, which may give you early warning of a door opening in your path.

3. Check behind you frequently. It not only tells you what’s approaching, it also makes the rest of the traffic more alert and responsive to your presence.

4. Communicate with the traffic – hand signals and head movements. Be predictable.

5. Make eye contact with drivers, ahead and behind alike.

6. When large vehicles are stopped at (traffic) lights, never pull up beside them. A high proportion of fatal accidents are caused by trucks and similar large vehicles moving off and colliding with cyclists whom they haven’t seen. Stay well behind or, where practical, well in front.

7. Don’t listen to music on headphones: remain fully aware of your environment using all your senses.

8. Wear highly visible clothing so you can be easily seen.

Regarding the last point, the group would also strongly encourage all cyclists to use front and rear lights at night, and acquaint themselves with the ‘pedal-powered regulations’ not just the Highway Code.

Unfortunately much of modern cycling safety is counter-intuitive, sometimes clouded by uninformed advice, myth and half-truths. For instance, riding further out from the curb is safer particularly on blind bends offering far more visibility and earlier warning for car drivers, is quite legal on the basis that “it is safer to do so”. Other ‘defensive’ measures such as jumping red lights (although illegal and highly dangerous) to counter the number of HGV fatalities at traffic lights in the UK was actually the precursor of the advanced stop-line.

Equally, riding facing oncoming traffic, as erroneously suggested by some bloggers, a corruption of the pedestrian Highway Code rule, again quite obviously illegal and somewhat rather stupid advice, is however the basis of bicycle contra-flows. Clearly some form of national training scheme, not just aimed at schoolchildren, as in other EU countries, would help clarify some of the cycling myths.

As a voluntary organisation there is a limit to what th group can do. But somewhat proactively, the group runs a monthly road and cycling safety poster programme, posting this on local cycling web pages and e-mailing these to all local councils. We would ask both responsible cyclists and drivers to encourage their local councils to ensure that these are prominently displayed to foster safer riding in their own locality.

The group would also like to encourage cyclists to ride responsibly and within the law at all times. Use all five senses. Remember that very often, through no fault of their own, car drivers are limited to just one – vision. The days of car drivers being able to hear the polite ‘ding’ of a bike bell in modern traffic, with the windows up, air-conditioning and radio on are unfortunately long gone. The way we drive cars has changed. The way we ride bikes has changed too.

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