In order to enhance cycling safety, we need to keep first things first. In this case a focus on the basics of road bike riding techniques would be critical. A lot of what we will discuss is actually common sense, and by putting them all together we will form a safe cycling approach.
Even before you cycle out into the road, preparations must be done first.
Check your bicycle. Are your tyres filled with air properly? Are your brakes functioning well? Is your seat and handlebar fixed firmly, and equally important, in the right position? Do you have rear and front lights, and once you do, are they charged sufficiently for your ride? Is your trip far enough to warrant bringing some emergency tools and spare tube? Do you have the appropriate amount of refreshments as needed?
Check your attire. Is your cycling shirt bright enough to attract attention? Do you have your helmet with you, and are the straps adjusted to give a snug fit? Do you have gloves, and once you do, are they also bright enough to attract attention? Do you have cycling glasses to protect from glare, and equally important, from road dust?
Plan your route, and if possible visualise it beforehand. Before a ride I would take some time to plan and think of my route, anticipating possible risk points, eg junctions, heavy traffic areas, long straight roads where vehicles may be travelling very fast.
If possible, ride in groups. Groups are highly obvious, and motorists tend to be more careful when faced with a group of cyclists. Nonetheless, there are still certain risks in riding in groups and some protocols need to be learnt for this. Look forward to another post for riding safely in groups!
You may not be able to fulfill all the above, however please do consider all these preparatory steps before you begin cycling.
Be Vigilant and Aware
Now that you are ready to cycle out on the road, be in a constant state of awareness and vigilance. You should be able to know in general what is around you – what is in front, beside or behind you. A lot of times you also need to anticipate what might happen next.
Of course, in being aware, you would also need to react and take appropriate action as required to ensure your safety.
To enable this, regularly look around you, and consider potential risks. For example, if you notice a huge truck coming up from behind you, make sure that you are close to side of the road and that you are riding in a controlled manner. Another example could be observing an upcoming side junction and a vehicle approaching that junction to enter the road you are in – slow down and make sure they see you, if possible achieve eye contact with the driver.
In addition, do look at the road ahead of you and watch out for any obstacles such as potholes, hardened cement drippings or even sewage gratings. Going across them might cause you to lose control and pose accident risk with vehicles behind you. It may even cost a blowout of your tyres. Take action to avoid these obstacles.
Do note to enjoy yourself as well though! There will be a lot of things to see and enjoy as you ride out; maintaining safety should enhance your cycling confidence and allow you to enjoy the cycling experience!
Get Your Surroundings to Notice You
Often times despite your vigilance and care, your surroundings do not notice you for whatever reason which can result in accidents. You might be unlucky enough to come across careless drivers while you yourself are riding carefully. It is therefore also important to let everyone know that you are there out on the road!
Using the example of a vehicle approaching the junction, signal the driver by waving or even shouting…catch the driver’s attention and if possible get eye contact. Eye contact is the confirmation that the driver knows you are there and will also be careful.
As mentioned earlier, some preparations suggested are also geared to attract attention, for example, bright clothes and using lights. If using lights consider switching the lights in blinking mode to attract more attention. In addition, if you can afford turn lights and even brake lights, which are a new development now, seriously consider using them. Despite the added weight it certainly adds to safety.
Inform Your Intentions in Advance
Now that people and motorists notice you, this opens the opportunity to keep them informed of your intentions. This helps others to react accordingly to accommodate you which looks after your safety as well!
Use hand signals to indicate a change in direction to the left or right…and give the signal well before you make the turn. Sudden changes in direction, in spite of signaling can be very dangerous or can upset oncoming drivers causing unnecessary aggravation and loss of concentration.
While you should minimise cutting across traffic, it may be unavoidable. In this case be prepared to look behind, again giving hand signal in ample time before actual cutting across.
Should you need to stop or slow down, try to anticipate these actions beforehand as well. This allows you to slow down gradually rather than braking suddenly, which again maybe risky.
On many occasions, if your road bike riding technique for safe riding is done right, you will find motorists are much more careful and also accommodating for you. This will in turn further enhance your own safety, protecting yourself and your bicycle.
Nonetheless, always remember that the only thing you can control is yourself, regardless whether you are riding alone or in a group. In addition, accommodating motorists are in the minority. Coupled with the smaller footprint of the road cyclist and the much slower speed, it is important to adopt safe cycling techniques and minimise or even avoid road bike accidents.
Riding safely will improve your confidence in road bike cycling and enable you to fully enjoy this wonderful experience. There will be future posts where I expand further on the various elements mentioned here, where I hope to further enhance safe cycling. Additionally, we will explore if somehow an accident happens, what actions can we take to minimise the impact.
With this, always stay safe cycling and ride on with confidence. See you soon!