8 tips for safe cycling

Wear a helmet

This is the most essential piece of kit you can own when cycling. I cannot stress this enough. They are cheap enough, starting at about £15 from any bike store or major supermarket. If you are unfortunate enough to fall, it might just save your life.

Adhere to traffic regulations

Contrary to popular belief, cyclists do have to abide by traffic regulations. When a light is red, stop.  Simple! The same goes for any road signs: they're there for a reason, use them - it might just save you from an accident. 

Don't ride on the pavement

It can be more comfortable than riding on the road, but in general, when you're pavement hopping you're crossing roads at speed which can be dangerous in itself. It is discourteous to pedestrians and most importantly, it is illegal to do so. In some areas, you can be given an on-the-spot fine, not to mention a caution by the police.

Be observant

When you're beating the traffic and undertaking, watch out for the unexpected. It sounds trivial, but there might be a car door opening without the occupant looking, or a car taking a rogue turn across your path. Large long vehicles such as buses or lorries all share the same driving characteristics. When turning, they may need to swing out further than a car. So when following or undertaking, allow more room than usual. Always remember, if you can't see the driver in their mirror, they cannot see you. 

Be prepared

Keep a few essential items with you. You don’t want to use the excuse that you were late because you had a puncture! A simple tool kit is every commuter's best friend.  Allen keys, puncture kit, a spare inner tube, two tyre levers and a pump are absolute musts. Also keep a cloth to clean your hands if you've got the space.

Safety first

Being seen and heard is one of the most vital parts of a safe commute. Your bike should be fitted with a bell as standard (it's a legal requirement to be sold with one) so you can use this as a warning to other road users. In times of poor visibility, you are obliged to have a front white light fitted, a rear red light and solid reflector, you can have a flashing front and rear light when riding, and you have been able to do so since 2005 (despite the rumours!). Your pedals should also have four amber reflectors. This is mandatory, and also a very good way to be seen by other road users. Always try and wear some sort of high-viz jacket or bag cover as well if riding at night for added peace of mind.

Insurance

A bicycle can mean the difference between shuffling into work ten minutes late due to traffic, or getting there with time to spare. Should your bicycle get stolen or damaged, it could have a large effect on your timekeeping and your mobility, so it’s important to make sure you have suitable insurance in place.

Get a lock

Firstly make a note of your bikes serial number, this is often stamped into the underside of the frame on the bottom bracket shell. If you ever need to report the cycle as stolen, the police will require this number. However, to prevent this from happening, invest in a good quality lock. There are many available for any budget. Try and find one with either a 'Solid Gold, Silver or Bronze' rating as these will be the most secure. Securely lock your cycle to a fixed object, preferably a purpose built cycle shed or stand, but not a signpost/fence.

However, even with a strong lock sometimes the unexpected does happen, and bikes do sometimes get stolen even when they’re in a secure location. Be sure to check with your insurance provider on the type of lock to use, to ensure it is covered as part of the policy should you need to make a claim.

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Ian Starkings

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