Figures released yesterday showed there had been a worrying increase in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Wales’ roads, with an increase of 74% between 2010 and 2011. One fifth of those accidents happen in Cardiff. Here Sally Thomas from Cardiff bike shop Tredz gives her tips for staying safe while cycling in the city.
With a boom in cycling anticipated after London 2012 and more and more people cycling to work, it’s important for investment in the safety of cyclists to be made and for bike users themselves to make sure they cycle as safely as possible.
Cardiff Council are taking heed of this with their Strategic Cycle Network Plan which includes provisions for more traffic-free cycling facilities, measures to make roads safer for cycling, better cycle lanes and changes to road junctions.
Whilst it may be some time before Cardiff rivals Copenhagen as the world’s most bike-friendly city, there are many ways for cyclists to keep safe on the road. Cycling positively and decisively is a good start, along with staying alert, focussed and aware of your surroundings whilst clearly communicating with other road users.
Tips for safer cycling
Cycling is as safe as you make it and should still be enjoyable, but here are a few tips and products that might make a difference.
Primarily, you need to be aware of other traffic on the road but you also need to look at the road itself and be aware of any rubbish, sneaky potholes, gaps in traffic and side roads. Check your blind spot over one shoulder, avoid listening to music whilst cycling and remember that red lights apply to all road users.
- The “primary position” in the middle of the left-hand lane is generally the safest to cycle in. When reverting to the “secondary position”, you should aim to ride in the left-hand third of the lane in line with the off-side of a car in the same position, but not closer than 50cms to the edge of the road.
- Avoid riding in the road gutter or too close to the doors of parked cars
- Be very aware of being cut off by vehicles turning left.
- Making eye contact whilst looking over your shoulder can emphasise your presence to drivers behind you and influence their actions.
Another valuable tip is to hover your fingers over the brakes when approaching junctions in case you need to perform an emergency stop (of course, you should always have your hands on your handlebars except when signalling or changing gears).
Products for safer cycling
Always see and be seen – although black might appeal as a slimming option a bit of colour and/or high-vis will go a long way. Wear fluorescent or light coloured clothing in daylight and reflective clothing and/or belts, arm or ankle bands in the dark.
By law, bike lights need to be used when visibility is poor, including a white front light, a red rear light, white front reflector, red rear reflector and amber/yellow pedal reflectors – front and back on each pedal. Extras can include spoke reflectors and sidewalls on tyres.
Helmets are a must-have safety item for any cyclist and there’s no sensible argument against using one. Helmets should be brand new, changed every three to five years (check the manufacturer’s guidelines) and meet BS EN 1078:1997 standards.
It’s also important to help children understand the dangers of cycling on the road. It’s a common misconception that cycling ahead of your child is safer – in fact it’s better to follow close behind and direct them verbally. Most schools run Bikeability’s “Cycling Proficiency for the 21 st Century” course which is also available for adults as well.
Finally, keep your bike in good working order including brakes, chain and tyres. Above all, have fun whilst cycling, but always be safety conscious.
Tredz on Penarth Road will celebrate its 5th birthday this Saturday. The store will hold a special birthday party from 9am to 6pm, with in-store discounts, prize draws, bikes to test, a kids’ climbing wall and face painting.