Bicycling benefits your health so much that researchers have found its benefits outweigh its risks. In other words, bicycling should extend your life span, not shorten it. Additionally, you should feel healthier and more fit bicycling than not. Plus, it’s fun, as 103-year-old Octavio Orduño, who still bikes nearly every day, will tell you.
Nonetheless, everyone can see that bicyclists are less protected than others on the road. The risk of being hit or crashing is something that deters a lot of people. Furthermore, people do get hit and killed bicycling (don’t forget, though, that millions of people get injured and killed in car accidents, too — and more bicyclists on the road actually makes the road safer for everyone). I don’t know if there are more bicycle accidents on Friday the 13th or not, but it seemed like a good day to write about bicycling safely.
Bicycling experts over at BikeRadar recently came up with a good list of ways to stay safe on the road. If you are bicycling safely and cautiously, you really should never have an incident.
Here are 7 bicycling safety tips Dan Joyce and John Whitney came up with [they’re British, so enjoy some of the British lingo and see my notes in brackets if you’re a U.S. rider]:
1 Learn the skills
Cycling training today isn’t aimed solely at kids. National Standards training is a three-tier programme covering everything from basic bike control to complicated urban journeys. To find out more or locate an instructor, see www.ctc.org.uk/cycletraining. The bible for safe, skilled cycling is John Franklin’s Cyclecraft (£13, www.tso.co.uk).
[Note: In the U.S., bike safety course are taught around the country as well. Contact the League of American Bicyclists for more info.]
2 Get out of the gutter
You should always be at least 50cm [20 inches] from the kerb, and sometimes further. Positioning yourself in the middle of the lane is called ‘the primary position’ or ‘taking the lane’. It makes you more visible and forces cars to overtake properly or wait until it is safe to do so.
3 Eyeball drivers
Eye contact with a driver lets you know they have seen you. Look purposefully right at them. Have they clocked you? Good. There’ll be no “sorry, mate, I didn’t see you” moment. It’s useful for almost any manoeuvre, whether you’re turning right or approaching a junction.
4 Signal like you mean it
Signalling broadcasts your intentions to other road users. You’re not asking their permission; you are telling them unambiguously where you’re going. Check over your shoulder early so you can change position smoothly and predictably. If there’s following traffic, eyeball the lead driver, signal clearly and begin your manoeuvre.
5 Magic roundabouts
Highway Code rule 62 says “you may feel safer keeping to the left”. Rubbish, you won’t. You’re less visible to traffic on or entering the roundabout. Take your lane as you approach. Take it on the roundabout too, even if you’re going left. Check, signal, then peel off the roundabout at your exit.
6 Traffic light tactics
Don’t jump red lights. It infuriates drivers and you may get T-boned by someone accelerating for an amber. Wait, behind the advance stop line if there is one, and not in the gutter. Take your lane. That way nothing can squeeze dangerously past or left hook you.
7 Filter tips
Overtaking on the right is best for visibility. Only filter up the inside if the traffic is stationary – watch for doors opening and pedestrians crossing – or moving at walking pace. Never go up the inside of a long vehicle: you could die. Once you’re past, get back in your lane.
There’s much more that can be done to bike more safely, but those are 7 great tips. Bike safely! (But don’t be scared to bike, it’s good for you!)
- Bike Month: Best Bike for Bicycle Commuting
- Riding a Bike: Superhero Bike Tour of Missouri
- Cycling Shorts? Not For These Sexy Riders!
- How to Fix Your Bike in an On-Street Emergency
- National Bike Month is Here
Photo via Ben Amstutz