1. Make sure your bike is safe and roadworthy
Looking after your bike is crucial to staying safe. Get your bike checked and serviced regularly at a cycle shop. You should also carry out regular checks yourself to ensure your bike is in roadworthy condition. rospa.com have some useful video guides and a handy checklist which you can download. Perhaps the two most important things to keep a check on are tyres and brakes. Poorly inflated tyres are prone to punctures. Forget flimsy hand pumps – you need a standing track pump with a pressure gauge to do the job. A good bike shop will let you borrow theirs. Look on the side of your tyre for a number followed by the letters PSI. That tells you how much air to put in. Worn brake pads won’t work effectively. You can tell they are worn if you can hardly see the grooves any more.
2. Wear a bike helmet
A correctly fitted cycling helmet can save your life. Around 75% of all cycling fatalities are a direct result of head injuries. However, wearing a helmet reduces the risk of brain injury by 85% in the event of a crash. Make sure that your helmet is new and meets British Standard (BS EN 1078:1997). Ensure it is securely fastened with only enough room for 2 fingers between your chin and the strap. It should be a snug fit and positioned squarely on your head. It should sit just above your eyebrows, not tilted back or tipped forwards. You should replace your helmet every five years and sooner if it has been damaged in anyway.
3. Follow the highway code
Observe “stop” and “give way” signs as well as traffic lights. Many accidents occur as cyclists go through red lights. Make your intentions clear to other road users with decisive hand signals and avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles such as lorries and buses, where you might not be seen. Try to make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians. If the other road user is not looking at you, they may not have seen you.
4. Be seen
Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark to increase your visibility. Consider reflective vests, belts, arm or ankle bands. Make sure you know the Highway Code regarding lights and reflectors – it is a legal requirement for you to have a white front and red rear light lit at night and to have a red rear reflector attached (in addition, amber pedal reflectors must be fitted if the bike was manufactured after 01/10/1985).
5. Bikeability training
You may well have undergone cycling proficiency training as a child (now known as Bikeability) but cycling training isn’t just for kids, especially if the majority of cycling that you do is on roads rather than cycle paths. Contact your local authority for details of any subsidised or even free courses in your area.
6. Ride at a safe speed
As crazy as it might sound, cyclists should avoid speeding, particularly in wet or icy weather. Road surfaces can be slippery and it will take you longer to stop. In heavy traffic, you should also slow down to match the speed of other vehicles. Other road users will struggle to see a cyclist who weaves in and out of slow moving traffic or who changes direction suddenly without signalling.
7. Avoid wearing headphones
Your ears are an important sense when you are on the road. Listening to music can impair your ability to hear other road users and in particular from detecting what vehicles might be approaching you from behind.
8. Road positioning
Avoid riding in the gutter or too close to the pavement. This can encourage drivers to attempt risky manoeuvres when there is clearly not enough space to overtake to you. You are also less visible, not only to cars, but also to pedestrians who might step out into the road. Remember to stay at least a car-door’s width away from any parked vehicles. Lastly, you are more likely to hit a pothole, puddle, drain cover or broken-up road surface, if you cling to the edge of the road.
9. Cycle lanes
There are different types of cycle lanes and it is advised that you use these when available and when safe to do so. Mandatory lanes will be indicated by a solid white line which means that other vehicles are excluded, at least for part of the day. Advisory lanes are indicated by broken white lines. Other road users can use these lanes and may be allowed to park in them at certain times.
10. What to do if you have an accident
It’s unfortunate if you do end up having an accident, but equally important to know what to do. As with any road accident, note the registration number and details of any other vehicles involved. Take the drivers’ details and those of any witnesses and note the time, date and location of the incident. Report the incident to the police as soon as possible and take the details of the officer that you spoke to. If you are able to get up, move out of the path of other traffic but don’t cycle off immediately even if you think you’re completely uninjured.
Finally, a top tip from A-Plan on security: make sure that you secure your bike safely with a good quality solid metal U-lock or cable-chain lock. Alternatively, keep your bike in a locked place such as a shed or garage. Lastly, check if your bike is covered by your home contents insurance and if that still applies when you are away from home. Your local A-Plan branch can advise you.