Most of cycling safely is common sense. If you had a new bike and I told you to take it out on a very quiet section of road to get used to it first, that you should ensure it is kept well maintained, that you must know your Highway code, that you should ensure loads are securely fastened, that you can be seen in the dark and that you should use quieter roads - all that you can work out for yourself. The person most responsible for your safety is you. When you are riding, assess the risks ahead, think what evasive action you might need to take. Very soon you will learn the best way to deal with the situations that arise. The discussion below gives some pointers on cycling on roads and is not meant to cover all safety issues or to be a substitute for the Highway code.
The key things you need to think of as a cyclist:
Road position - be a presence on the road avoid driver's blind spots; position yourself at junctions where they can see you; avoid cycling between two moving lanes of traffic unless it is a marked cycle lane; don't get stuck on the inside of left-turning vehicles, be aware drivers don't always signal.
Act predictably - make it easy for other drivers to know you intentions, act like a vehicle not like a pedestrian on wheels; start preparing well in advance for an intended manoeuvre.
Anticipate - assume the driver in front is unaware of your presence and is about to do anything; scan the road ahead for possible events such as pedestrians stepping into your path, cars pulling into the road without looking; predict other road users needs and try to make it easy for them as well. Don't go too fast, cyclists have been know to crash into the back of stationary vehicles.
The most dangerous thing cyclists do is to get in the way of long vehicles turning. There were 20 cycle fatalities last year in London and most involved a heavy goods vehicle. Lorries need a wide turning circle and initially move out in the opposite direction to the way they intend to turn. This can confuse the cyclist. Don't get in the way of lorries turning, either stay behind or get in front where the driver can see you. Avoid undertaking a lorry that is about to move particularly when there is very little space.
The most frequent accident is a collision with a car door opening. Get into the habit of giving parked cars sufficient room for a door to open. Look as well, does the car have an occupant or has it just pulled in? In which case there is a high chance of a door opening.
Most other accidents occur near junctions, if you adopt the correct road position you will be able to take effective evasive action when another road user makes a mistake. Other accidents are the cyclist's fault, if you want to avoid this category of accident it is up to you to ensure you ride with consideration for others.
Be clear about what you want to do. Hold you hand signal long enough for others to see - count to about 5. Be decisive if there is a narrow bit of road ahead where you might be squeezed off the road either decide to pull in early or get into a central lane position and when safe to do so. This avoids setting up an ambiguity to who should go first near the restriction. Don't allow yourself to be pushed off the road. Acting decisively makes it easier for drivers.
Riding on main roads does requires concentration, if all this sounds a bit daunting be assured that riding on quiet roads is much easier. Be aware there is a chance that car doors might open, don't ride too close to the kerb and stop and look properly at junctions.
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