Commuting by Bike: Things to Know, Part 1.
With offices and schools reopening across the country, and roads starting to get noticeably busier, the difficulties of commuting are back on the agenda. Trains and buses are edging back to normal service but are facing the enormous problem of maintaining social distance. In light of this, many people have decided to cycle instead.
Indeed, despite fears that the spike of interest in bikes over lockdown would start to drop off as the country goes back to work, cycling numbers remain high. As discussed in our post about cycle infrastructure, city councils across the nation are investing in temporary and permanent measures to encourage this trend. But even with these new measures in place, there are important things to keep in mind if you are thinking of getting on your bike. Here are a few of them.
Know your rights
As per the Highway Code, a cyclist has the same right to use the road as any other vehicle, whether that be a lorry, bus or a taxi. This means that, if you are cycling and there are much bigger vehicles around, you do not need to give way to them all the time. It may seem as if you are being extra cautious if you do, but you are actually increasing your danger. Deferring to other road users by hugging the gutter or riding close to parked cars is where all the dirt, glass and grit of the road accumulates, and there is the added threat of car doors suddenly swinging open in your path.
Instead, you should keep your distance from the shoulder of the road, practicing assertive cycling near the middle of the lane, and moving with the flow of traffic. This importantly lets road users know you are there and also makes them less likely to attempt to overtake you.
Making it easier for road users to see you will naturally make them more conscious to avoid you. It is therefore recommended that you wear high-visibility clothing whenever you get on your bike. High-vis jackets are very good for this, but light-coloured clothing will work too. Likewise, LED lights should always be on your bike, but are essential at night. The best ones to use are the lights that do not dazzle, but flash or produce a constant dipped beam.
While not always deferring to them, avoid large vehicles wherever possible, especially lorries. Large vehicles have lots of blind spots, particularly on the kerbside angle. Never ride in this space - turning angles on such vehicles are difficult to predict and so this is an extremely dangerous area for cyclists. Instead, pass on the right, and only if it is safe to do so, or better yet, wait behind.
Being aware of other road users and your environment is essential as a cyclist. Do not impair your ability to recognise this by listening to music or podcasts or by cycling whilst intoxicated. Look behind you regularly and get into the habit of making eye contact before you indicate your movements, i.e. do not assume that a hand gesture is enough for cars to know you are about to turn and give way, confirm this by at least turning to look, as this alone gives notice you are about to do something.
Be mindful of corners and pre-empt potential hazards, such as being aware of pedestrians suddenly walking out. Additionally, if you live in the countryside, your commute must be especially vigilant - with large agricultural vehicles and a faster, on average, traffic flow, dangerous overtakes are more frequent.
Alongside this, there are obvious measures to take for protecting yourself on your commute, including wearing a helmet and ensuring your tyres are inflated. Other such important considerations will be highlighted next week.
Photo credits: @adamhusler and @yogaandphoto