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Cyclists - How to stay safe on London roads

View profile for Kate Sweeney
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Earlier this year it was reported that London cyclists had been involved in almost 23,000 road traffic accidents since 2010, and 80 had died over that time. This has fuelled the perception amongst many people that cyclists are taking their lives in their own hands when they venture onto the capital’s roads. However this is not really the case and some simple measures could dramatically lower the risk of cyclists being involved in an accident.

With this in mind, here are 5 ways in which cyclists can minimise the risks of being involved in a road traffic accident.

Position yourself away from the kerb

One of the worst things that a cyclist can do for their safety is precisely the thing that many do in the belief that they are minimising the risk of being hit by another vehicle. This is one of the most common mistakes for new cyclists: riding in the gutter or close to the kerb.

New cyclists can initially feel safer by staying to the left of traffic, but this is actually far more dangerous. By taking up a position too close to the kerb, some irresponsible drivers are encouraged to attempt potentially dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. Cyclists could also be hidden from the view of traffic beside them and hidden from the view of crossing pedestrians on their left.

In general, cyclists should attempt to take up a position away from the kerb, nearer the centre of the lane, moving to the left only when it is suitable to allow cars to overtake.

In addition, from a position in the centre of the lane, cyclists are safe to stop ahead of the traffic and then proceed at a junction. If they position themselves at a kerb they allow a following car to pull alongside them at the junction, leaving them in a narrow and dangerous position.

Watch those car doors

One of the most common cycling accidents in an urban environment is the infamous car door accident. As with the advice above about cycling away from the kerb this is something new cyclists sometimes have a little difficulty with at first. When cycling down streets with cars parked to your left you should cycle at least a cars door away from the parked cars. This means, on our narrow roads, that on many occasions this will be right in the centre, however bear in mind the annoyance you are causing the driver behind is nothing compared to being hit with a plank of metal at speed which is the effect of being car doored. Cycle in the centre and keep an eye on people exiting cars and this common accident is no longer a serious risk.

No overtaking on the left

Many cyclists get into difficulty while overtaking on the left of traffic, where drivers do not expect to see a cyclist. All drivers on UK roads expect to be overtaken on the right and are aware of approaching traffic on their right. Cyclists might approach a line of static traffic on the left of the road, but in actual fact cyclists should take a cue from motorcyclists and move to the right of the traffic or just take your place in the centre behind the car in front.

If the lights change and traffic moves off, the cyclist trapped in a narrow lane to the left is stuck in a precarious position where they may not be seen by a driver. That driver might also be turning left up ahead and if they enter the road they could collide with the rider or create other difficulties. This is a very notable cause of cycling fatalities in London with many HGV’s and other large vehicles having blinds spots on their left. This is not the fault of the cyclist at all but awareness of this and action to remove this particular risk could be a life saver.

Are you and your bike road worthy?

If you are a new cyclist don’t be afraid to go on a training course to refresh those skills that you may not have used since a child. This will give you skills to hit those city streets and regain the composure and confidence that is the greatest factor in keeping any cyclist safe. Also go on a quick course to brush up your bike maintenance skills, not only will this save you money it will mean that your bike is in good enough condition, even if that’s just so the tyres are pumped up properly. Small details like this can minimise the risk of your bike failing mechanically when out on the road.

Using hands correctly and eye contact

In order to inform drivers of the direction you intend to turn, cyclists must perform a clear, confident and authoritative gesture with their arm.

Unless indicating to turn, a cyclist’s hands should be positioned on the handlebars of the bike with their fingers over the brake levers at all times. This is absolutely essential and provides the rider with the best possible chance of braking and reacting to their environment.

Communication with drivers is also not just with hand signals, glancing back and making eye contact with drivers is one of the best ways to make sure drivers behind you will overtake you in a considerate manner. When they do, and it’s safe give them a little acknowledgement of their good driving, this positive re-enforcement will make the driver approach the next cyclist safely and make the environment on the road a safer and more pleasant environment.

Our solicitors have helped many cyclists all over the country to claim compensation after being involved in a cycling accident. If you have been involved in a road traffic accident which wasn’t your fault, as a cyclist, a driver or a pedestrian, call Stephensons today and talk to a legal adviser on 0175 321 6399.

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