It’s a good idea to keep in mind a few key pointers when cycling. Knowing a few basic rules of the road will really help your cycling experience. Not only will knowing the rules of the road help you feel more positive and confident on the road, they will also keep you safe.
Here are some of the most important safety considerations before getting out on the road.
The Highway Code
Firstly, it is of paramount importance to take a look at the Highway Code and see what the rules of the road for cyclists are. I found an online copy here. I will summarise the main points from the highway code for safe biking:
- Keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling
- Stop at traffic lights if you are using the road and cycle paths
- Don’t cycle on the pavement
- Use lights at night (that means both a front white light and a rear red light)
- Wear reflective gear (hi-visibility jacket and/or reflective strips)
Secondly, it is especially important to make sure you have the right gear. This means a good quality helmet designed for cyclists, and you definitely don’t have to break the bank to buy one of these. I found one on the Halfords website for £27.99. There will be many others out there with discounts for students as well.
It is also worth wearing some good trainers for cycling. Rather than wearing slippery, frictionless Converse it is worth checking out the sales in camping shops to find some good quality grip-trainers or cycling shoes. I found a nice pair on Tweeks Cycles for £35.99.
If you want to step it up a notch, you can even get yourself some stretchy, absorbent clothing for easy movement, especially when getting sweaty doing some city uphills. They will keep you warm and well ventilated.
Check Your Bike
Finally, another important safety point is to check over your bike before you set out on the road. This means, most importantly, checking the tyres for any punctures. Press each tyre firmly with your hand to see if they need any more air inside. If they do, grab your pump and pump them up. They should feel hard when you try to push on them, but be careful not to over-inflate them. Be sure to check the recommended Psi of your tyres first.
Check over the brakes, gears, and bell and make sure they are not rusty and that they are still effective. Practice a few stops and starts on the road outside your house. If anything is rusty or the bike is slow to change gear, add a few squirts of WD-40 (or the lubricant of your choice) and then move the pedals round so that the oil spreads over all the components of the bike.
Ring the bell a couple of times, and add some oil to this to improve its sound. Adjust the seat and handlebars so that they are at the right height for you. This should be so that your feet are flat on the ground when sitting on the seat (assuming this is a hybrid bike for city riding), and the handlebars should be slightly lower than your shoulders whilst allowing for a small bend in each elbow.
Once you follow those main points, that is understand and follow the rules of the road, wear the right safety gear, and check over your bike before setting out, you will be perfectly ready to handle the roads and enjoy your cycling experience. Cycling can be the perfect mode of transport, but it is a case of putting your safety first and this will then bring you the freedom. It will also provide you with more confidence on the roads, knowing you are absolutely prepared in the best way possible.
That is not to say that some accidents don’t happen, because they do, and unfortunately there is nothing else you can do to prevent them besides being super vigilant on the roads. It is worth not taking any risks you’re not comfortable taking while cycling, and sticking to cycle paths where they exist.
By Emily James