Cycling is a great way of keeping fit, is cost-effective and does not damage the environment, so it’s no wonder it’s becoming the chosen mode of transport for more and more people.
But while many bike users may feel confident travelling in busy urban areas, others can find heavy traffic and small streets intimidating. Sharing the roads with cars, buses and large trucks can be dangerous if all parties are not considerate and aware of each other.
Drivers may get frustrated with cyclists who ride in the middle of the road, while cyclists may feel that some vehicles are too close to them. An increase in ‘dash’ and ‘helmet-cams’ means clashes between drivers and cyclists are being recorded and shared online as our roads become increasingly busy.
What are the rules of the road and the best ways to avoid these conflicts?
As a cyclist, it is your responsibility to be as visible as possible. Section 60 of the Highway Code states that at night cyclists must have their white front and red rear lights lit. Their bicycles must also be fitted with a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors.
It is also recommended that you wear a helmet and fluorescent clothing, whether travelling during the day or night. Stay alert by not using your mobile phone or earphones while cycling.
2. Sharing the road
If a cycling lane is available, then cyclists must use it. If you are leaving a cycle lane, then always make other road users aware by signalling and then move across safely. The Highway Code also states that cyclists use advanced stop lines (ASLs), cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless it is unsafe to do so.
Cyclists must always leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and use an obvious signal to make others aware of your intention when moving out into the road.
Do not ride two abreast in busy urban areas. However, it is acceptable to do this on narrow and winding lanes to deter cars from dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.
As a driver, if you are overtaking a bike, always leave plenty of room. Rule 163 of the Highway Code recommends one car’s width, as the rider may need to avoid hazards such as drains, potholes or debris. Leave even more space if the conditions are wet or slippery. Cars should use dipped headlights when approaching cyclists at night so as not to dazzle them.
3. Paying attention
RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) states that 75% of collisions involving a bike happen at junctions. This can often be because a driver has not checked their mirrors and blind spot or is not paying attention. Give cyclists the space they need and do not enter the cyclist boxes or cross the advanced stop lines.
Cyclists should also never assume that a driver has seen them. Keep a safe speed and distance. It is better to be further out into the road and harder to pass than almost in the gutter where a car will assume it can pass you easily. Never use a mobile phone while driving.cycling
Many accidents happen when cars, buses or lorries turn left without seeing a cyclist. Drivers must always check their wing mirror before turning left and make sure they are indicating well before the junction.
Cyclists should stay well back at a junction and not be tempted to whizz down the inside where you may end up in a blind spot. Turning right can be much trickier for cyclists, so again, make sure you should always give a clear signal for drivers and check it’s safe to turn.
Drivers should give cyclists plenty of space and not be tempted to put pressure on a cyclist to speed around the corner. They may not be feeling confident about the manoeuvre if it’s an especially busy junction. Drivers should also take extra care on roundabouts where cyclists may also be approaching from the right-hand side.
5. Staying courteous
Don’t accelerate behind a cyclist, brake too fast around them or follow them too closely as this can lead to collisions or ‘near-misses’. Take time to make eye contact with drivers, so you know they’ve seen you. Thank each other for being respectful and safe on the roads. A little politeness can go a long way when everyone can be in a rush and frustrated with traffic.