Many cities now try to encourage people to use bikes, but even if you use cycle paths it's essential to follow tips for safe cycling. Cyclists need to be very aware of traffic, pedestrians and other potential hazards. You need to look out for your own safety, as well as making sure you don't put anyone else at risk. So here are some tips for safe cycling that will help protect you on the roads …
The most important of all tips for safe cycling is to be constantly aware. Yes, it would be nice if you could just pedal along in a relaxed state, but this is 2013, not 1913. You're likely to be sharing the roads with a lot of traffic and people in a hurry. So always watch out for any potential dangers.
This piece of advice was given to me in the context of motorbikes, but I think it applies just as well to cycling. Cars should watch out for you, but won't always do so. Being in the right won't be much consolation if you're in hospital. So behave as though nobody can see you - always take the utmost care.
When cycling, try to anticipate what other people might do. This can give you time to react if, for example, someone steps out into the road. Looking ahead means that you may decide that they're likely to do that, thus giving you time to slow down. And be especially wary of what cars may do.
Make sure that you can be seen by vehicles. Always use lights when cycling in the dark, and wearing reflective clothing will increase your visibility. Also try to ensure that vehicles can see you before you execute a maneuver. Having a bell can also make you more "visible."
Cycle lanes are there to be used, so make the most of them. Not all cities are bike-friendly, so don't waste the opportunity if yours provides them. Cycle lanes are unlikely to cover all your journey, but will keep you safer for at least part of it. But do watch out for drivers who think that the cycle lane is their parking space!
Since I got a bike, I have discovered how useful a bell can be. Pedestrians have a habit of stepping into the cycle lanes without checking to see if a bike is coming (they're usually engrossed in looking at their cellphone). A loud ring of the bell wakes them up (they can usually move out of the way more quickly than you can slow down).
Sometimes, reducing your speed can be the smart thing to do. For example, it may be tempting to try to get through the lights, but this could be risky. You may not have enough time to clear the junction before cars start moving through. Also slow down if you see children or someone who cannot move fast.
Learning some basic bike maintenance can be an excellent way of helping to boost your chances of staying safe on your bike. You don't want to find out that your brakes have failed when you're sailing down a steep hill! Keep your tires and brakes in good shape, and this can help prevent accidents.
Cycling is a great way of travelling about, and also helps you keep fit. Sadly every cyclist has to face dangers - you can't control how other people behave on the roads. There are also drivers who seem to take personal offence at anyone who uses a bike. So the onus is on you to be aware, cycle sensibly, and help keep yourself safe. What other tips would you add - do you think a helmet is essential?
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