Cycling is a great way to avoid public transport and is a beneficial form of exercise but the fear of road traffic can be a barrier to some. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more you will be able to navigate the road confidently. If you haven’t already opted to commute by bike and are considering riding your bike to work, here are our top tips to provide you with that confidence boost to go out and navigate safely in traffic!
Your top priority is to make sure you ride in a visible position on the road at all times. Try to avoid a situation where you do not have a clear exit or can be trapped between two vehicles. If you find yourself in a position where it would be dangerous for a driver to overtake you, it is safest to move into the centre of the road. Doing so is called taking the lane or ‘primary position. Riding assertively in your lane will increase your visibility to other road users. Another frequent error is riding too close to the curb. Maintaining a safe distance from the gutter will not only give you more room to navigate but will help you avoid slippery manhole covers and other road debris.
Anticipate road hazards
Becoming a safer rider is about developing skills to anticipate road hazards. This means looking ahead for potholes, bumps, other road users, car doors, hidden driveways, etc. You need to have a high level of awareness at all times to anticipate potential problems at junctions, traffic lights and roundabouts to prevent you from sudden manoeuvres. The further ahead you look, the more time you have to recognise and respond to hazards and avoid abrupt manoeuvres.
Keep your distance
The more aware you are of your surroundings, the more safely you will be able to ride and stop in time if you need to. Keeping your distance amongst other road users will give you more time to identify hazards early on and give you enough time to safely respond to them. It might seem tempting to cycle out of the way of traffic, however, it is essential to stay at least a car door’s length from parked vehicles as a driver might open their door into the road at any time without seeing you.
Make eye contact with other road users
It’s important to not assume that a driver has spotted you. The best way of ensuring you have been seen is to make eye contact. Do not hesitate to check behind you that you aren’t going to be overtaken.
Signal your intentions
Before making any manoeuvre, it is key to signal your intentions clearly with your hands to other road users when you want to turn at a junction. When turning, extend your arm horizontally pointing in the direction you are about to turn. Extend your arm vertically upwards when you are about to stop.
Be careful around large vehicles
Your positioning in relation to a driver’s blind spot is crucial when riding near long vehicles as they can be a significant risk for your safety. Passing lorries and buses on the left when moving is riskier as you will evolve in the driver’s blind spot who may have not seen you. If you can’t see the driver in the vehicle’s side-view mirrors, the driver can’t see you so you want to stay back behind them.
You should always take precautions to make yourself visible before going out on your bike. Protecting yourself starts by ensuring you are maintaining high visibility when on the road to be seen in any circumstances. Maximize your visibility by wearing bright coloured clothing and high visibility or reflective accessories to make sure you get noticed by other road users to see you. Other essential pieces of your kit will include a helmet and a complete light kit.
It is important to conduct the following checks on your e-bike before each ride to help avoid any unwanted surprises.
- Ensure that your tyres are up to the pressure and properly inflated
- Check that your battery is fully charged
- Always bring your tool bag with a few spares. Your tool bag should include a hand pump, a multi-tool and a puncture kit.
- Check that your quick-release levers are fully closed to ensure safety.
- Make sure your chain is clean and lubricated
- Give your front and rear brakes a squeeze to ensure they are working correctly
Plan your route before you set off
Riding in fast-moving traffic and busy junctions can be tricky and intimidating. Planning your route ahead is a great way to make you feel more confident on your bike. A number of apps are available to help you plan the best route. This may mean using quiet roads, using paths specifically for cyclists to avoid congestion and traffic lights, allowing you to feel safe and in control.