Many people are put off cycling because they don’t like cycling in traffic. In fact, cycling is generally a very safe activity with little risk either to cyclists themselves or to other road users.
It is estimated that the number of life years gained due to the health and fitness benefits of cycling in Britain outweigh the life-years lost through injuries by a factor of around 20:1.
That said, it is important to remember some simple things to help you stay safe whilst cycling.
Staying safe on the road
Plan your journey beforehand to avoid the busiest routes. If you are going to be cycling at night, it may be useful to test the route out in the daytime first.
- Look ahead and identify the course needed to avoid hazards and make manoeuvres.
- Observe all around for other road users (including pedestrians) who may cause obstruction in your course.
- Signal your intentions clearly and well in advance of making your move.
- Try to make eye-contact with drivers at junctions to be sure they have seen you or watch the car wheels in case they begin to move.
- Ride in a strong and confident position well clear of the kerb. This makes you part of the traffic and easier for you to see and be seen.
- Be assertive and prepared to ride in the middle of the lane, also known as primary position, if you need to.
- This encourages vehicles to stay behind you when it may be unsafe for them to pass.
- Be wary of passing large vehicles such as lorries and buses to the left (undertaking), especially at junctions.
- If they turn left, the driver may not be able to see you if you are in a blind spot.
- Above all, follow the Highway Code – don’t jump red lights and don’t cycle on the pavement unless it is a designated cycle-way.
- A little wave or thumbs up, thanking other road users for giving way to you or for giving you room never goes amiss.
Your confidence and assertiveness will grow the more you cycle in traffic, but if you would like to learn more about cycling with confidence, visit our cycle training pages.
Wearing a helmet is a matter of personal choice. Whilst a helmet won't prevent accidents from happening, it can provide protection if you do fall off your bike. They are particularly recommended for young children.
What is important if you do wear a helmet is to ensure it is fitted correctly. This guide explains how a helmet should be worn:
Wiggle guide to helmets
Using shared-use routes
Many towns within Northamptonshire have shared-use cycle/footways that allow cycling alongside pedestrians. These are usually along key routes or alongside busy roads that may be less suitable for more inexperienced riders. They should usually be clearly signed.
While these routes can be very useful for many cyclists, it is important that you are considerate to all users and remember you may have to cycle slower than you would on the road.
- Ring your bell
- Pass slowly
- Say thanks
Download our cycling courtesy leaflet (2.56MB) for more information on etiquette when using shared-use routes.
The Sustrans website also offers further advice here:Sustrans
When riding at night, it’s just as important to ensure you make yourself seen by other road users as being able to see the actual road. You are required by law to fit a front white light, a red rear light and a red rear reflector at night. Amber pedal reflectors are also required.
So what type of lights should you choose? It largely depends on what type of cycling you are doing, but generally speaking there are two types of lights: those that help you be seen by others and those that help you see where you are going. For most urban situations, the former should be sufficient, but in areas that are very dark, such as country lanes, you will need a more powerful front light to help you see the road ahead of you.Wiggle guide to lights
There are some very useful guides online to help you decide which lights are best for you such as on the Wiggle website:
Clothing and visibility
You don’t have to wear cycle-specific clothing to be able to ride a bike. Normal day-to-day clothing is fine for most situations as long as you are comfortable and have the freedom to pedal.
There are, however, a number of things you should consider to help keep you safe and comfortable on your bike all year round:
- When cycling in the dark, it is a good idea to wear clothing or accessories that help you to be seen more easily by other road users. Especially important at night is to include a reflective component that will make you stand out in the beam of car headlights.
- Many cycling clothes have amazingly effective reflective elements such as piping on the seams or flaps on pockets that are discreet and so can pass as normal and often quite stylish clothes in the daytime.
- It is also worth considering high-vis or fluorescent colours, especially at dawn and dusk when the light is flat and not all cars will have their lights on. A brightly coloured rucksack or bag cover will help to add extra visibility.
- The weather will also be a factor in what you choose to wear in order to stay comfortable whilst cycling.
For a great website with lots of ideas and advice on suitable cycle clothing for all occasions please visit:The Discerning Cyclist
- The thought of bad weather is often enough to put many people off cycling, but in reality, the likelihood of it raining when you are out on your bike is very low.
- Even in the event of bad weather, there are a few things you can do to ensure your ride is comfortable and enjoyable all year round.
- Dressing for the weather
- Carry waterproofs in case of wet weather – a lightweight jacket and over-trousers should be sufficient for most journeys.
- In colder weather layers are key, keeping you warm but that can also be removed to stop you overheating.
Don’t forget gloves when cycling in cold conditions.
- Gloves can also help stop your hands slipping on the handlebars when it is wet.
- Sunglasses – essential in bright sun, particularly when it is low in the sky and can impair your visibility.
As has so often been said, there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.
- Get mudguards to keep both you and your bike clean and dry in damp or muddy conditions.
- Invest in a set of bike cleaning brushes to remove any dirt after riding in bad conditions.
- A maintenance spray (such as GT85) sprayed on your chain after a wet ride is one of the simplest and most important things you can do to prolong its life.
- In wet weather watch your speed as surfaces may be slippery and it will take you longer to stop.
- Beware of standing water as there could be hazards such as pot-holes or drain covers below the surface.
- Take extra care when cycling in fog, snow and icy conditions.
- Here are just two very useful guides full of tips on how to survive (and enjoy) cycling when the weather is at its worst: