How not to die: My guide to safe cycling
The Independent and i have launched Save our Cyclists, a campaign to cut the number of deaths and accidents, particularly those caused in collisions with lorries.
While much can be done to improve safety, it’s easy to be put off by news of death and maiming. Yet, statistically speaking, cycling is safe and getting safer.
Meanwhile, there is much riders can do to avoid sticky situations. Here’s my guide to bike safety, which is due to appear in tomorrow’s Independent.
#1 Avoid lorries
Never wait between the kerb and a lorry at a junction. If it turns left, the driver may not see you. Stay well behind or, preferably, in front, where you can be seen.
#2 Don’t kerb-crawl
The kerb is not your friend. Keep a line towards the middle of the lane so that drivers have to steer around you. Hugging the pavement only invites them to scrape past.
#3 Show your face
Eyeballing drivers at junctions helps them to view you as a fellow road user they would rather not run over. Do the same to vehicles on your tail. Smiling helps, too.
#4 Use your neck
Learn how to look over your shoulder without wobbling and do so regularly – and always before making a manoeuvre, when you should also stick out an arm.
#5 Obey the code
It can be safer, say, to jump a red light than wait in the shadow of a lorry but egregious violation of the Highway Code can damage you – and the image of cyclists.
#6 Overtake buses
If you’re approaching a bus at a stop, look over your shoulder, eyeball drivers, and move to overtake. If you can’t, wait a good distance behind the bus. Never undertake.
#7 Be bright
It’s more important to show your face and position yourself well, but bright clothing, strong lights and reflectors, while rarely cool, will also help you get noticed.
#8 Wear a helmet
You may look like a dork but, on balance, you’re better off with a helmet. Just don’t think it will protect anything else – or do anything to resist a 40-tonne truck.
#9 Don’t get cross
Sure, drivers can be infuriating but banging on windows or cursing across junctions will only reinforce the view held by a dangerous minority that cyclists are enemies.
#10 Keep it clean
And well-oiled. Regular services will not only make your bike last longer but also reduce the chances of, say, a chain jam at 20mph when there’s a bus on your tail.
Bonus #1 Plan your route
It stands to reason that you’re probably more vulnerable in three lanes of traffic doing 40mph than on a residential side street.
Bonus #2 Find a friend
If you’re a new or lapsed cyclist, venture out first with a more experienced friend. Keep a good distance behind and watch what he does. Then let him follow you and take his advice.
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