Minimising risk while cycling in London

These tips make the roads safer for you, and for other people. Novice and experienced cyclists alike can learn a lot from cycle training, so contact your local council to ask about free or subsidised lessons:

  • Be extra careful near large lorries The majority of cyclist fatalities involve HGVs. Read our advice for safer cycling around lorries.
  • Cycle away from parked cars Being car 'doored' is one of the most common causes of cycling crashes, and if struck you're in danger from behind run over by cars behind you. Always ride at least a metre, if not more, away from parked cars so you can avoid doors opening in your path.
  • Beware of fast-moving traffic Motorbikes and scooters often go much faster than other road users. They can come up behind you very quickly, so always check behind you before moving sideways, even within your own lane.
  • Take special care at junctions Most crashes happen at junctions so take extra care, especially when there are multiple lanes and vehicles are moving fast.
  • Don't use poor cycle lanes or tracks Cycle lanes (part of the roadway) or cycle tracks (segregated) can increase safety, but many in London are of poor quality: too short, give way to side streets, too narrow, put you in an unsafe riding position, blocked by parked cars or rubbish, and so on. Don't see them as an automatic route to reducing risk.
  • Be an assertive cyclist You have the same right to use the streets as other road users. It's safer to ride at least a metre from the kerb or parked cars so you can avoid opening car doors, and you're more visible to other road users, such as those pulling out from side roads or approaching from behind.
  • Try to make eye contact Make positive eye contact with other road users, including those who might turn into your path from side roads, and those driving behind you, or when you're waiting at traffic lights. Don't be afraid to smile, and be sure to thank people when they're courteous.
  • Use appropriate hand signals It's safer, and good manners, to signal when turning in the vicinity of other road users, including other cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Be considerate to people on foot Slow down and give pedestrians lots of space on shared paths, where they always have priority. When cycling along busy streets, go at a speed that'll allow you to avoid someone who steps off the pavement into your path.
  • Use lights at night It's a legal requirement to use lights at night; also consider wearing light or high-visibility clothing or adding reflective material to your bike or luggage.
  • Take extra care in bad weather Allow extra room to manoeuvre or stop, and give other road users extra space as they might need more braking time and have reduced visibility.
  • Don't ride through red lights This can be hazardous or frightening to others, especially those on foot. It's also a potential danger to yourself and is against the law. These actions are a major source of conflict with other road users, and unfairly present cyclists as frequent lawbreakers.
  • Don't ride on pavements unless it is a shared use space. Always give way to pedestrians as they are often not aware that many pavements allow cycling and they can be intimidated by close passing or fast cycling.
  • Don't use your phone on your bike Using a mobile phone cycling distracts your attention from the road, which is dangerous for you and other road users.
  • Carry baggage sensibly Consider buying panniers, a rack, basket or a rucksack: dangling shopping from handlebars or carrying bags under one arm makes it riding more risky.
  • Look after your bike Check your tyre pressure and brakes regularly. Contact your local group to find out about maintenance courses near you or contact us to organise a Dr Bike for your workplace, school or community group
  • Communicate calmly If another road user's actions cause you alarm, by all means explain this to them when it's safe to do so, but do it in a reasonable manner. If you shout at them angrily, they won't listen.

 

Replies

Other than cycle specific ideas, e.g hand signals these apply to all road usera.

  • By tomcat at 4:23pm 9 April 2012

These are good hints particularly for any newcomers or returnees to the bike. At 75 I am still using my Falcon 4 to 5 times a week all local runs mostly of a 10 mile duration in the Barking/Ilford area and have panniers to carry anything needed (my tennis gear often enough) but always have a hand pump and enough tools to cope with most things. Yes it has changed on the roads since my main riding in the 1950-70's but the bike is still an excellant means of transport. I do however loathe the practice of riding through red lights and those who race along on the pavements when there are often marked off areas on the same road, but doubt that will change there are many who have a complete dis regard for th rules of the road, oh I know the car drivers are just as bad but we cyclists are meant to set a good example!

Tomcat (Barking/Dagenham)

Don't cycle drunk, and don't let your friend cycle drunk either. Lots of people do, lots of people get injured, in the end it's not worth the risk.

Lights, lights and more lights ! 

Autumn is fast approaching and so many people don't seem aware of how difficult it can be to see cyclists without adequate lighting. 

Don't put them on your bike to be within the law  - put them on so you can be seen !

(clothing that does't blend in with the road helps too)

Got "doored" on Sunday, a car door opened and threw me on the street, I have been in pain and barely able to take a few steps since. What can be done to educate car users?

LOOK! Drivers have "mirror, signal, manuvour" and cyclists should do the same.

 

Before changing road position; before overtaking; at side roads; at junctions; approaching bus stops; everywhere.

 

Knowledge is power.

  • By Maudey at 6:58pm 15 November 2013
I'm a road cyclist and a car driver in London so feel I can speak for both sides when I say this - I was absolutely shocked to hear a good friend of mine recently admit he "should get round to getting a helmet and some bike lights". We all know people (or ourselves) who run a few risks or get a bit chippy at lights but this made me realise that a campaign targeting these "invisible cyclists" is required. The problem with my friend is that he doesn't realise he's invisible to a motorist, not being a car driver. A hard hitting tv campaign whereby the cyclists are invisible could help to educate cyclists about this situation (as I hadn't realised that I thought it was a really obvious thing but clearly isn't) . I know these poor cyclists who have lost their lives may not be at fault but there are too many arrogant crazy fools out there, like my friend, who bizarrely at 37 years old need educating.

Good advice! I particulalrly like 'Don't be afraid to smile, and be sure to thank people when they're courteous.' Also, it may be helpful to point out that in wet weather, your brakes may not work so well.

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Riding a bike can be an hours-long activity for many people, particularly individuals riding road bikes. This can be a good approach to fitness and overall physical health when all parts of you are functioning properly. But the back is one area of the body that can be very susceptible to developing problems resulting from long bike rides. In order to avoid these back problems, a specific riding stylemust be adopted that practices proper riding posture. This posture can alleviate back pain and prevent other problems from developing when used correctly.
 

Step 1

Mount your bicycle with one foot on the pedals and the other foot on the ground to steady you. Hold both ends of the handlebars with your hands. If your elbows are slightly bent and your hands rest on the handlebars or brakes without having to stretch to reach them, your handlebars are in the correct position. However, if you feel you are reaching too far to reach the handlebars, consider moving your seat forward or lowering your handebars. If your back arches into a "C" to reach the handlebars, you may need to lower or move back your bike seat.

Step 2

Place your feet on the pedals slightly below the pad of your foot that rests underneath your toes. This area is known as the metatarsal arch. When your foot is placed properly, your alignment should be correct at your knees and hips, which then leads to correct positioning of the back. Without proper foot placement, you may experience knee and lower back pain, according to Dr. Troy Smurawa, a contributor to Hub Names.

Step 3

Arch your back so that it curves upward toward the sky and resembles a bridge. Some people relax their stomach muscles and cause the back to droop between the hips and shoulders, and this can cause back pain and other problems. Arching creates cushioning between the segments of the spine, working as shock absorbers.

Step 4

Bend your elbows slightly so that they can shift and move as needed while riding the bike. An elbow that is locked into a position can transfer energy and shocks up through the body and into the back. Bending your elbow uses it as a shock absorber.

Step 5

Adjust your shoulders slightly forward to where your shoulders help to support the weight of your chest. This takes the pressure off your collar bones and spine and places it on the muscles in your body, which are much more resilient and less likely to develop long-lasting pain that inhibits your ability to ride. This position will alsohelp to take pressure off your neck, wrists and hands by distributing the weight more evenly.

Step 6

Lift your head forward just enough that you can see the road ahead of you. Lifting the head too much can cause strain to your body and especially neck and shoulders, but you also want to be able to see what's coming up. 

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