In a perfect world, we’d all be riding off-road trails, far from vehicle traffic. Unfortunately, many of us are stuck riding on city streets. Not all is lost. Some of the most interesting sites are along densely populated roadways. The trick is, knowing how to ride safely. I’ve received a number of emails from readers of my LEJOG and London To Paris posts on how to cycle safely on the many busy roads you have to encounter when completing these cycle challenges so here are a few things to remember when riding with cars:
- Just because the road has a designated bike lane, doesn’t mean drivers recognize it. As cycling becomes more popular worldwide, drivers are getting savvier about sharing the road. Yet, we still have a long way to go. Exposed, poorly marked “bike lanes” can be dangerous — particularly for new cyclists – as cars sometimes veer into the bike-way and then blame the cyclist. Stay vigilant or avoid these roads all together.
Image copyright credit: Zebra Lane Blockers.
2. Hug the shoulder, but mind the glass. Riding in the city can feel like walking a tight rope. You want to stay relatively close to the curb so that drivers don’t have to swerve to avoid hitting you. At the same time, be wary of glass, staples, and other sharp debris, which tends to show up close to the curb and can cause flats – and sometimes accidents – almost immediately. Cycling through Glasgow on day 10 of LEJOG was one of the toughest, mainly due to the ever growing number of potholes that seem to litter Glasgow roads as we meandered our way through the city.
3. Ride straight and stay off the sidewalks. New cyclists tend to be hyper-aware of each potential interference and swill swerve to make sure they’re not in the way. Don’t fall into that trap – look straight ahead and own the road. If you’re constantly weaving, drivers can’t predict where you will go next and that makes them nervous. Likewise, cycling on the sidewalk might seem safer, but it actually increases your chances of getting hit because drivers won’t see you coming off the curb. Plus, you can hit a pedestrian or force them onto the road.
4. Dress appropriately and use a night light Bright colors are always a good choice when riding city streets – you want to stay as noticeable as possible. This is particularly true at night when the odds of getting into an accident increase dramatically. Putting a street light on the front and back of your bike is also helpful. It’s worth considering staying as visible as possible when cycling through the more scenic areas of the UK cycling through the Lake District and it’s quaint and picturesque villages where the lanes narrow and the hedgerows surround you.
5. Residential roads are always the safest. Roads marked 32 Kilometers per hour or under are safer for cycling. Generally speaking, drivers traveling through low-speed, residential roads are already on the lookout for children at play and other interferences.
6. Mind the intersections and use hand signals. Many cycle accidents happen in intersections. That’s because drivers will decide to turn without checking for cyclists that come from behind. When approaching an intersection, slow down and look over your shoulder for turning cars. Always remember to put a hand out, before turning, to signal your move to approaching vehicle traffic. Ensuring your using the appropriate hand signals should also be considered when you’re cycling in a pelaton to ensure each of you know what manoeuvre you’re about to take!
7. Mind parked cars. Street parking is also a hazard. A good number of accidents happen because someone getting out of a parked car opens the door on an unsuspecting cyclists. Thankfully, more lanes are being set up contraflow so parked vehicles face oncoming bikers.
Even with all these precautions in mind, the safest streets are still the ones with intentional, well-protected cycle tracks. The London Cycle Campaign’s Love London, Go Dutch! helped bring full redesigns to some of the city’s most dangerous roadways including Royal College Street in Camden County. The project used a new, inexpensive invention called Zebra Lane Blockers (“armadillos”) to add bike lane protection without taking up more space.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my LEJOG Blog. I hope you’ve found it interesting and feel free to post your thoughts and comments. Once again, thank you for visiting Simon’s LEJOG blog
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