Most mountain bikers and roadies will end up urban riding at some point. It might be to pop to the shops, a daily commute or your route to offroad trails. Riding on roads in towns and cities can be dangerous, so here are 7 things cyclists never do, all of which would make them safer.
To say that there’s a tension on the road between cyclists and other road users is an understatement. At times it feels like Mad Max out there!
For us cyclists the roads can be an intimidating place. It often feels as if it’s only a matter of time before someone drives too close, cuts us up, squeezes us in or vents some violence in our direction.
But to be fair, an equal amount of the blame lies on the cyclist. There will be plenty of whinges about this post, but as a cyclist trained to teach others to ride safely in the city, I can assure you cyclists need to wise up!
7 things cyclists never do
There are easy ways to make urban riding safer. OK so some of you will already do some of the things below, and a few will do all of them, but the majority of cyclists I see in the city fail on quite a few counts.
So here’s 7 things cyclists never do:
Even some of the better riders pay little attention to what’s going on behind them. In a car you have mirrors and you need to check them before you manoeuvre; well on a bike you’ve got your eyes and you better start using them!
With a road narrowing ahead, or even just approaching a junction you should be having a long look over your shoulder. This helps you assess the stream of traffic to your rear and indicate in time to then get into the flow to go around any obstacle.
Wait at the lights
I don’t care what you say: It’s a road, you are road users, not children playing around outside your house on your Christmas present.
Each time you jump a red light you wind up drivers. The same drivers you want to be patient with you when the road narrows. The same drivers you need to back off a touch and respect how vulnerable you are. And the same drivers who we need to share the road with on an equal footing.
Next time you cycle into town observe the cyclist in front. Chances are they’ll weave in and out of all vehicles parked on the kerb. In most cases it’s because they feel intimidated by passing traffic and hug the roadside. But it’s not the safest way to go about urban riding.
Yes, when there are long gaps between parked vehicles you should pull closer to the side (known as the secondary riding position). However, coming and going from the stream of traffic is dangerous and you are often better to keep to your line.
Use cycle lanes
These days there are cycle lanes crisscrossing most urban areas to help keep bikes away from other road users. Cycle lanes are often placed in areas where urban riding can be dangerous, so by not using it you are putting yourself in a more dangerous situation with less space and without cycle specific safety measures.
Not only that, but in areas with cycle lanes drivers are more likely to be surprised and annoyed by you taking up the road. This leads to them giving you less space and getting more angry, which is never a good combination.
Put their lights on
Inexcusable! Cars use lights, motorbikes use lights, yet every night roughly half the cyclists I see don’t bother. From early evening onwards to cycle without lights is deadly – you merge into the background when you should stand out for your own safety.
Lights are inexpensive. In top spec they are powerful and the rear ones are rubberised and fit easily to the seat post. Get yourself rechargeable batteries and use them in all conditions – it can only help get you seen.
Why not make it a legal requirement to sell every new bike with lights? Afterall, rule 60 of the Highway Code makes it clear that it’s a legal requirement for cyclists to use lights on the road at night.
Take their headphones out
Riding in the city you need every sense you have to survive. Listening to music not only takes one away, I’m sure it also affects the other senses by leading you to switch off a little when you should be completely focused.
Wear a helmet
You might have been riding a bike for many years and have never fallen off. But it only takes one mistake by a driver or pedestrian, and you could be hitting a vehicle or the floor head first. Helmets are proven to reduce serious head injuries by 70%, so it could save your life.
Of the 7 things cyclists never do, helmet wearing is probably the most contentious. At the end of the day it is a personal choice, but I know I will lid up both on and off-road.
Urban riding conclusions
I love riding in the city. It’s unpredictable, difficult, tense but massively rewarding if you make it through and feel you’ve cracked it. And I don’t always get it right – there’s a lot going on and any cyclist who is honest will tell you they make mistakes.
But it’s not a fun ride either. It’s a road, it’s dangerous and there are some nutters out there. Don’t be one of them by avoiding the these things cyclists never do!
One final thought is to get some cycle training. It’s not just for kids, and it’s not about riding round cones. The Bikeability scheme is an excellent way to get the skills needed to ride safely in towns and cities.
How many of the 7 things cyclists never do are you guilty of when urban riding? Let us know in the comments. Also be sure to check out our cycling holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.