Cycling is on the increase for pleasure and for commuting, but stay safe!
Get your bike checked and serviced regularly. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
Observe “stop” & “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finally, 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.