How to Stay safe in traffic

The single biggest thing that stops people taking up cycling is the fear of traffic!

Cars and trucks zooming by at high speed (and sometimes at close quarters) when you’re trying to wobble along the road on your bike can seem very intimidating – indeed, too intimidating for a lot of people to even give cycling a go!

So what can we do to give people the confidence to take to the roads on their bike?

Well there’s a few things that a novice cyclist can do to help:

Increase your riding confidence where it’s quiet

Just as you wouldn’t jump in the deep end of a pool when you haven’t swum for 20 years, you shouldn’t try to ride on busy roads if you’re still a bit wobbly on you bike. If you haven’t ridden for a few years, then you should get used to the bike again somewhere quiet, like a side street or park.

Be confident in your machine

You don’t want your chain to snap or brakes to seize up in the middle of traffic – so make sure the old bike you found in the shed had a good service before you take to the road. For somewhere in the region of €40-60 you can your bike checked over, and feel confident that it’s safe to ride.

Learn about best practice on road positioning

Most novice cyclists assume that you’re meant to ride in the gutter, as far left as possible on the road, to ensure you’re not inconveniencing traffic. However all cycling advocates advise that you should not be afraid to ‘take the lane’ and cycling down the middle of the lane.

A good book that talks more about road positioning is called Cyclecraft: the complete guide to safe and enjoyable cycling for adults and children, which is recommended by Bikeability, the UK government’s cycling proficiency agency.

Ride in such a way to protect yourself

This relates back to the road positioning, but goes beyond that. All road users can make silly mistakes, and crashes can happen between bikes and cars – the difference being that if a cyclist makes a mistake, it results in a scuffed car/bike, whereas if a motorist makes a mistake, it may result in a hospital stay!

But rather than hoping that a driver is paying attention, you should ride in such a way to demand attention and respect on the road. Always make sure you can be seen at night, always position yourself on the road where you can be seen (away from the gutter), and if the road is too narrow for a car to safely overtake you then position yourself in such a way so that they can’t try. It’s worth the odd beep of a horn from a frustrated driver to make sure you’re safe.

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