Cyclists Survival Guide

Written by Andrew Barrett
Stay safe on Britain’s road by adhering to our comprehensive cycling survival guide!

Common Sense

The cyclist’s greatest ally! Cycling under the influence of drink or drugs is not only illegal, but also increases the likelihood of having an accident. According to a Cycle Training UK (CTUK) report 21% of the 53 cycling fatalities tested in 2011 were found to have alcohol in their blood.

Never use a mobile phone or headphones whilst cycling as these too affect overall awareness and reaction time.

Wear a helmet

Wearing a helmet is not compulsory by law but is strongly recommended. A high proportion of cycling fatalities/serious injuries involve severe head trauma. According to HelmetsOnHeads, 9 out of 10 cycling fatalities in 2009 caused by head traumas were due to cyclists not wearing helmets. Regardless of age or experience wear a helmet; it could save your life.

Make yourself visible

In daylight wear light coloured/reflective clothing to make your presence obvious to other road users. Reflective clothing, pedal lights and front/rear lights are essential when cycling in the dark.

Remember to carry a spare light or battery, and watch your speed in the dark, as your reaction time will be greatly reduced.

Don’t ride in the gutter!

There is a temptation to cycle as close to the kerb as possible, putting a greater distance between yourself and motor vehicles. Avoid this temptation.

Cycling in the gutter means you are more likely to fall as a result of hitting roadside debris or drain covers. By cycling in the center of the lane you not only avoid this, but you make drivers think twice about attempting a risky overtake.

Don’t be afraid to claim your road space!

Surviving Junctions and roundabouts

A Department for Transport (DFT) report suggests that 2/3rds of all collisions involving cyclists occur at, or near, junctions. In order to stay safe at a junction, position yourself in the middle of your lane, using the cycling stop zones ahead of the traffic where possible. Do not position yourself at the side of motor vehicles: when you move off you will be trapped with little room to manoeuver safely.

The same rules apply to roundabouts: establish yourself in the middle of the appropriate lane to prevent dangerous overtaking.

Never enter the road from the pavement

Never cycle on pavements unless indicated to do so. Data analyzed from 2005 to 2007 by the Transport Research laboratory showed that 17% of fatal cycling collision were caused by cyclists entering the road from the pavement.

Use the road you’re not a pedestrian!

HGV’s (Heavy Goods Vehicles)

With a number of fatalities reported in the news involving HGVs, it is unsurprising that these huge beasts intimidate cyclists. Try to avoid overtaking HGVs where possible; stay sufficiently behind them so you can be seen. If you have to pass a HGV, never do so from the left as you will be in the driver’s blind spot. Instead do so from the right in order to be seen.

Better still avoid overtaking HGVs altogether!

Signal with conviction/eye contact

Be positive. Let other road users know your intentions. If possible make eye contact with drivers to ensure they have seen you.

Make your hand gestures convincing not confusing!

Don’t jump the lights!

A common vice amongst cyclists. Not only does it infuriate drivers, but also it increases the likelihood of a collision.

Red lights mean you too!

Earn the skills – cycling courses

All cyclists can benefit from cycle safety courses, not just beginners. Cycle Training UK (CTUK) offers training from UK qualified cycling instructors, with courses ranging from intermediate to advanced training. Residents of the City of London, Lewisham and Ealing Borough’s are entitled to free training owing to government subsidies. Follow the link here to check availability and enroll.

Consider purchasing a camera to record your journeys

Frequent cyclists might want to consider purchasing a mountable camera to record their journeys. If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a non-fault accident, the recording may help to speed up the claiming process.