Before jumping onto your bike it’s worth remembering that some road users just aren’t looking out for us cyclists. But don’t panic – we’ve got some handy and quick tips to keep you safe and seen out on the road.
These are a few helpful tidbits for beginner cyclists.
1. Be alert
It’s amazing what you will encounter as a cyclist on the road, you need to have your wits about you and be attentive to both the road and it’s other users. Keep your eyes peeled for fellow cyclists, motorists, parked cars and pedestrians with their unruly dogs, prams and children – at all times.
2. Have confidence
Always remember that us cyclists have as much right to be on the road as motorists, so be confident in your abilities and bike positioning. Pay attention to vehicle blind spots; don’t hide to the side or behind vehicles. In particular, try not to cycle up the inside of big vehicles; HGV’s turning left are notorious for their involvement in cycling accidents.
Being assertive, and letting other road users know your intentions is incredibly important. It helps keep traffic flowing so don’t forget to signal early and clearly.
3. Road rules
As a road user it is important you are aware of the Highway Code, give yourself a quick refresher of the regulations applicable to cycling.
Try to cycle about half a metre out from the curb, as this will give you enough space to avoid the majority of drains that can cause a wobble if hit at speed, and you'll avoid the debris that accumulates there like puncture-causing broken glass.
Avoid cycling close to parked vehicles; car doors have a habit of being swung open at the most inopportune moment. It’s always best to give them some room, just in case.
When navigating junctions always try to catch the eye of the driver at the front of the queue, once you’ve ‘connected’ with them – they are less likely to pull out in to your path.
4. Be seen and heard
It’s simple, the brighter the clothing, the more you will stand out, so high-visibility gear is a really good idea. The market is awash with jackets and jerseys for us girls, but remember to look for ones that are both breathable and reflective.
If you’re carrying a rucksack, it will cover the majority of your back, obliterating the view of your high-vis jacket. Investing in a reflective backpack cover is a relatively cheap but incredibly effective way to help keep you visible from behind.
Popping a bell or comedy horn on your handlebars doesn't just help you pick your bike out from the crowd. It’s also a sure fire way to let pedestrians know you are approaching and can also help alert other cyclists to oncoming dangers.
Last, but by no means least, LIGHTS. Even if you just cycle in the daytime, it’s worth having a set of lights with you at all times. That last minute coffee with a mate could see you set off after lighting-up hours and no one should ever be caught riding in the dark lightless. Between sunset and sunrise they are a legal requirement.
For how little you can pick them up nowadays it’s worth it - just remember to take them off when you lock-up. You can also get small back-up LED lights, which take up no room at all, are cheap, and handy to have in case your main lights fail.
5. Think about your noggin
There's a lot of discussion around helmets for cycling. It's not a legal requirement to wear one, but if it makes you feel safer and more confident, then do wear one.
6. Plan ahead
If you’re aiming to commute, plot a route in advance; Sustrans have developed a nifty tool that can map routes incorporating cycling networks, helping to avoid busy, arterial roads.
It’s also worth giving the route a trial run over the weekend, outside of rush hour. There will be fewer cars to navigate meaning you can focus on learning the route.
A final note to remember is security; don’t forget to pack your lock. The last thing you want is your trusty stead being stolen. If you are stuck on which lock to buy, Sold Secure provide reviews, offering a three tier security grading system that helps you pick which lock is most suitable for your needs.