It’s the single biggest issue facing each one of us – safety while out there enjoying our sport, maintaining or improving our health, fitness and wellbeing and doing what we love most. Riding our bikes.
Here we list five of the six critical factors that contribute to safer cycling and getting home in one piece. “Five out of the six?” you may ask. The sixth, to a large degree, is out of our hands. It rests with drivers, pedestrians and all other road users paying attention, avoiding distraction, remaining vigilant and sharing the road.
1: Be Seen. It sounds completely obvious doesn’t it, but sadly we often see (or should that be barely see?) bicycle riders out there without front or rear lights. Whether you are riding at dawn, through the day, around dusk or into the night, high quality front and rear lights should be on each and every bike. There’s a strong argument for daytime running lights. With improved LED and battery technology, better quality lights and lower prices, there’s no excuse to not have lights on your bike, night and day.
2: Remain Visible: Continuing on the most important point (above), as slick, thinning, stylish and popular black kit might be, it’s arguably nowhere near as visible as brighter and more commonsense colours. Darker kits may be great for racing, Gran Fondo or mass participation events, but for day-to-day riding, and particularly commuting, it really does pay to be seen.
Bright colours, and even flouro, can be stylish! Bicycling Australia are currently road testing the new long-sleeved winter jersey from Italian company Ale. In hi-vis orange this jersey not only looks sharp but also stands out.
Helmet colour is also an important factor. As much as I adore my matt black Kask Protone, I’ll ride with the bright white Kask Valegro whenever out on the open road. Take a look for yourself next time your in the car and see cyclists up ahead – helmets do standout and should be taken into serious consideration when visibility is your key priority.
3: Be Aware: Constant vigilance should be part and parcel of each and every ride. Scan the road ahead and constantly plan for the unexpected. Make eye contact with drivers, particularly those at intersections ahead, and see if they can see you.
Concentrate, remain focussed on the task at hand, and keep your eyes and ears open. Some like to listen to music when they ride, and occasionally I’m in that category. But use the left earbud only and at a moderate volume, keeping your right ear open and aware of vehicles behind, beside and ahead.
4: Prevent Doorings: While the dreaded doorings may never be entirely eliminated, riders can take steps to minimise this sickening occurrence. Scan parked cars and even mirrors ahead looking for vehicle occupants. Ride outside the door zone, but remaining aware of traffic behind.
Remember it’s not only right side doors that may spring open unexpectedly. Left doors, particularly left front and rear doors in taxis and unmarked Uber vehicles, are often opened at traffic lights, in traffic jams and the like. Just because it’s illegal for a passenger to exit a vehicle in traffic, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Be prepared for anything.
5: Ride Smart: Plan to ride at times of less traffic – early mornings, evenings, Sunday mornings and the like.
Similarly, busy, built up and high-traffic areas such as shopping precincts and school zones, are best avoided at peak times. Obviously sometimes there may not be an option, you may need to ride through these areas – if so remain extra vigilant being prepared for absolutely anything.
Riding smart includes a hairy one that some cyclists may dispute or not want to hear. While we’ll never give up our legal right to ride on the road, sometimes it does make sense to utilise alternate infrastructure such as a bike path alongside a major thoroughfare. It can pay to swallow some pride, get off a busy road, and enjoy a hit out on an otherwise empty bike path. I did this just yesterday while riding home and absolutely loved the feeling of pumping some watts while passing around 600 cars stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.
It can be a battlefield out there. What’s your advice for staying seen, remaining safe, and returning home after each and every ride? We’d like to hear from you – have your say below.