7 Steps To Cycling Safely In London
10th July 2018Bikes Bikes
Although cycling is a lot safer than many non-cyclists appreciate, it’s not entirely risk-free. However, by following our seven simple steps, you can significantly increase your chances of riding happily ever after. And the best news is that your safety really is in your own hands. So here’s what you can do to manage it.
Beware left-turning lorries
By far the most serious risks to cyclists in London or any other busy town or
city centre are large vehicles such as HGVs, lorries, trucks and buses —
especially those turning left. The reason for this is partly due to the huge blind
spots that drivers of these vehicles face. This is something that the
Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police have tried to help cyclists
appreciate with their Exchanging Places scheme, where the public can climb
into the cab of a large vehicle and see for themselves the limits of a driver’s
But the danger posed by such vehicles can be drastically increased by a
cyclist’s poor decision-making or impatience. For example, riding down the
inside of a stationary truck at traffic lights is incredibly risky — the kerb side of
the vehicle features some of the driver’s largest blind spots. If the lights
change to green and the vehicle turns left, any cyclist caught in that kerb-side
area faces a potentially fatal situation. Do not be tempted to under-take big
vehicles — it is too dangerous.
(Also, if you get to the front of a queue of traffic and find yourself waiting in a
cyclist box ahead of a high-cab vehicle, make sure venture far enough
forward so you can turn and catch the driver’s eye. The area in front and
below the cab is another
Side streets – stay vigilant
Not quite as dangerous as left-turning lorries but possibly more prevalent are
vehicles that emerge from side roads into the path of cyclists. This is what has
become popularly known as the ‘Sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ phenomenon,
and is simply due to drivers not looking carefully enough before pulling out.
However, again, there are things that cyclists can do to increase their chances
of being seen. The first is to wear bright or colourful clothing that will attract
attention. The second is to switch on front lights — such as those that come
equipped as standard on most Gazelle bikes .
The third is slightly counter-intuitive but very important. Nervous cyclists often
want to ride near the kerb, out of the way of traffic. This isn’t a good idea at
the best of times but when cars are emerging from side roads it’s even less
sensible. Drivers who only take a cursory glance to see if any other traffic is
approaching as they pull out look at the area of the road where they expect to
see traffic — the middle of the carriageway — not the area near the kerb,
meaning they don’t spot cyclists. So cycle nearer the middle of the
carriageway when you can and try to make eye contact with drivers emerging
from side roads.
Cycle lanes aren’t magic
It’s (almost) always nice to see a cycle lane and off-road or segregated cycling facilities are generally very safe. However, if you use an on-road cycle lane, please recognise it has no invisible shield protecting you from traffic and you still need to employ all your normal cycling safety techniques. Also understand that some cycle lanes aren’t fit for purpose and may be too narrow. In this case, don’t worry about being confined to the lane markings.
Stay a good distance from the kerb even if that means cycling on the outermost edge of a cycle lane.
Potential pedestrian pitfalls
It’s tempting to think that drivers of motor vehicles pose the only threat to a
cyclist’s safety but in busy city centres that’s really not the case: pedestrians
can be just as much of a danger. This is another situation where cycling a
metre or more from the kerb helps, as this will at least give you a split second
to react should somebody step out. The same applies to parked cars: give
them a wide berth in case anybody inside opens a door. Also, be aware of
specific danger areas — pubs in summertime are a particular problem with
well-refreshed pavement drinkers — and if in any doubt, ring your bell to let
others know you’re coming.
Potholes, pavements and other surface dangers
Some dangers aren’t down to human error at all. Potholes are one problem that can upset even the most stable cyclist. If in doubt, go slow, try to avoid them, make a mental note where you spotted it for next time, and report it to Fill That Hole . Again, don’t cycle too near the pavement. Not only might you find yourself running into the kerb and having an accident, but the outer edges of the road are where you are most likely to find glass, water, road debris and poor surfaces.
Behave! Don’t go through red lights
It might seem like the roads of the urban jungle are ruled by the law of the wild, and cyclists can also be seduced by its anarchy. However, for your own safety, it’s always better to stick to the rules of the road. Don’t go through red lights just because you’re on a bike and you think it’s safe — it breeds resentment from other road users, and you might be wrong.
Pick your route
Finally, here’s a really fun element to cycle safety. Take the time to hunt out some enjoyable, relaxing and low-risk routes. You really don’t need to stick to main roads; find parkland paths, backstreets and cycle lanes to make your cycling life more interesting and varied. Don’t forget, the more you ride, the more experience you’ll have, and the safer you’ll be.