A small guide to ride a bicycle safely in the city.
Generally it is good to wear a helmet, have lights, follow the road traffic etc.
The most important thing of all is that we should avoid a collision or any accident with any vehicle on the road in the first place. It will have not much of importance if the law is on our side. Our primary concern is not to get involved in an accident.
In terms of necessary & basic safety equipment our recommendations are the following:
- Lights back: not one, better two lights to see you. The best is to have a steady red light and a powerful SuperLed in pulse setting. (when we are cycling in team it is better if the last cyclist in row to have his rear light in pulse setting). In this manner it will be a little harder for the coming from behind vehicle to not see you.
- Lights front: To see & be seen (by other vehicles but also by the pedestrians). The rule that applies for the rear lights goes for the front .. ie Good to have the main light you to see the road ahead but it is good to have an additional flashing led in order to catch the eye of pedestrians and vehicle drivers ahead. This is because many times pedestrians & drivers might looking at, but NOT seeing you!
- A good helmet properly fitted and fastened tightly.
- Reflective wheels and generally reflective stripes on the side of your bike.
- A Bell
- Choose roads with low traffic and low speeds. The best is to avoid highways. Cars rightly or wrongly can change lane and see you suddenly in front of them. Then the question is if they have space and time response. Also such high speed roads may not forgive you a simple bike accident.
- Drive as if you're invisible and you no one can see you. By this we mean that very easily can a pedestrian step in front of you .. and so a motorbike or a car. Often pedestrians and vehicle drivers when looking at the road before crossing it, they search if a car or a motorbike comes into their way and they might neglect a bicycle ( in our case..YOUR bicycle!). In addition to this consider that bicycles do not makes noise to notify them.
- Have your hands on brake levers. You may not have the split of a second to put your hands on the handlebar if you have to stop suddenly. On this, and especially when navigating an unfamiliar road think of the chance to come along a pothole and/or a deformed road .. The deformed asphalt as a result of poor construction, heavy loaded vehicles combined with high temperatures that melts asphalt and creates small and large “waves” on road. At his road its easyto lose your balance if you do not at least have both hands on the wheel.
- Keep an eye on cars and motorbikes. Drivers and passengers of a car many times (perhaps most) do not have their minds on bicycles .. we are more quiet and small. When you pass by cars (especially if they have just stopped/parked) remember that they can suddenly open a door while you pass through. That's why we cycle with our bike at a safe distance, the distance of an opened door.
- Do NOT try to pass a bus (or a truck) especially from the inside because they can turn, they can disembarg passengers and also very simply put, not see you.
- Generally do not take for granted where the vehicle in front is heading, when and where it will stop or what maneuvers will do. The might suddenly come turn and park on the sidewalk It happens often. Or think that even they are going to turn right, they may open and come first on the left in order to make the maneuver.
- Also lets say that you are on one way road that intersects other one way street. The cyclist if he intends to continue his/her way straight thenn it will be good to be at the side of the road that will not twist when cars pass the intersection .. ie if at the intersection in front of us, vehicles can either go straight or turn right, then we should stay on the left side of the cars in order that they wont turn on our way.
- Do signals with your hands when you change course .. but the best is to wait for all cars to pass and then change your course.
- If you experience a flat tire or anything do not stop where you realized this problem but move your way where you do not disturb the other vehicles. Its for your sagety to do this.
- Don't use mobile phone & loud mp3 players while you are cycling in the city. You have to have a sense of what is going on the road around us and behind us.
- When you pass an intersection is advisable to check if the driver sees you .. MAKE EYE CONTACT and confirm with the eyes, make sure he sees you and then go ahead .. if not then you better stop and wait.
- Most importantly: Bicycles are vehicles too. We must respect traffic law and should behave like a vehicle. This also means that we need a sufficient part of the road in order to move safely. We should NOT be driven at the edge of the road. We must have enough space to be able to slightly maneuver if needed ... we may find a puddle-sinkhole in front of us (it's not so unlikely) or the roadside might be a deep ditch and abnormal and this might lead us to lose our balance. So take your sufficient part of the road and if necessary (in case you are cycling in a narrow road) and use all the road and stay in the middle. We are not saying to occupy the road for a long time (afterall this is not polite or socially appropriate behaviour) But if it is inevitable to be seen by the car drivers as moving obstacles for a while, at least do it safely for you.
Some common accidents and how to prevent them from happening:
Given that usually the cyclist moves on the right side of the road one of the most common accidents is to either go right and the car hit you from behind when you turn, or turn in front of you, close you the road and fall on the car. The most important prevention is to ensure that you have be seen by the driver.
Therefore as mentioned above to get intense and pulsating lights is grabbing attention.
Move slightly more in the middle to register your presence (this applies to the slow streets and certainly not in the streets that cars are in high speed)
You re moving ahead and suddenly someone opens the door of the car in front of your way.. In order not to fall over first of all you have your mind that this can happen. Very important is to have a safe distance a little way away from the car (about 70 cm) that if someone opens the door, the door wont cut your way.. Think that even if you have time to change course may follow car behind you and this might prove even more dangerous than hitting the door. So you better keep this safe distance from the side and always have a look inside the front or rear of the cars for any movement that signals you the chance that someone might open the door. Needless to say this stands far more expected to happen from passengers or drivers of cars that have just stopped/parked.
Across the street from sidewalk to sidewalk
While doing this move can a car might turn the corner towards you. To prevent this case, we must first of all not move onto the sidewalk because anyway you can fall on a pedestrian coming out of the house or a car that exiting home parking. Then again you have to have bright lights to see you. Thirdly should the speed decrease when you have to move onto the pavement when trying to cross over from sidewalk to sidewalk.
Contary to one-way street
First of all, you have not to go in opposite direction on one way streets. Drivers do not have in their minds that any other vehicle will come in oposite direction on the road. We all have seen drivers when turning in order to enter the one-way road that they turn their heads and look back if another car comes while they are in motion (and sometimes even when they have already just entered the road they continue to look at their mirror) .. What we mean is that they might not see you approaching quickly. So, first of all do not enter oppositely is a must. It would be better to get off the bike and go from the sidewalk if you have to go somewhere in between the narrow one-way streets. In no way you can't go opposite the one way. A quarter of accidents involving bicycles have this as cause.. the movement opposed to one-way. Unfortunately enough of them are involving small children ..
The accident at the start of the traffic light
The scenario is as follows. The traffic light turns from red to green you begin cycling when the car or bus besides you starts turning on you and hit you. The solution is as follows:
It is best to not stand exactly at the side of the car / truck because it is very likely that they won't see you, especially the truck which is tall and has a greater blind spot area. Additionaly the driver of the vehicle may have turn the change direction flash light when you're already beside him and you might not notice at all that he is going to change course. It is best to stand back, in front of the second car, and have a small safe distance from the vehicle in front, especially if it is uphill since the vehicle might go back slightly when it starts. . When lit green to stay behind the first and second front by up to cross the intersection.
Also have in mind that the car in front of you might at any time turn right for any reason; there may be a gas station, a parking lot, a parking space.. Here an important observation. An empty parking lot in front of you might be at the time the “holly graal” for the driver of a car that may make dangerous manouver. He/she can stop abruptly and then put parking alarms (if he/she put them at all). Then when he/she starts the reverse course in order to park you might stand at "blind" spot for him and then the thing can get even uglier ..
Conclusion: Do not pass from the right BIG VEHICLES. Not keep moving or standing exactly on the parallel with no vehicle. Expect the unexpected. IF NEEDED SHOUT ON HIM in order to let him know you are there.
Coalition from behind
It is the greatest fear of most cyclists. Fall upon you a car or a motorcycle. What should we do:
- Have clear and bright rear lights.
- Do not change direction without checking behind you and use your mirror(s).
- Have Mirror(s)
- Keep a steady course and not go in and out between parked cars when you find empty parking space .. ie we are right and there is a gap 3-4 cars .. Best bike to consistently straight without changes and not tempted to go further right to enter in a vacuum and then grow again when finished outside without control.
- Do select roads of low traffic and low speeds with adequate lighting especially on weekends when many drivers might have drink (some or even more) alcohol and they have slower reflexes.
- Notify upcoming vehicles about your route change by making signal with your hands.
Although we do not have statistics for Greece but for the United Kingdom estimated that each year are involved in fatal accident 10 to 15 cyclists when approximately 200 people are killed simply when the fall down while walking. Certainly those who walk are many more but simply shows that there is proof (at least) that cycling is not more dangerous than simply walking.
But be careful. Among the following vehicles Bus-Truck-Car-Motorcycle and Bicycle, the latest is the weakest in terms of passive safety. So if you use your bicycle as a means of transportation while you rejoice all the positives (the feeling of freedom, tranquility, that we do not getstuck in the traffic jam, that we simultaneously are working out - and all other things that creates the bike culture anyone can find more and more positives) but on the other hand we have to face bicycle as a moving vehicle on a public road, we have to follow road safety rules and be careful; first of all we owe this to ourselves.
Important: Maybe nothing of all of the above have happened to you, but these are threats that exist in everyday cycling. So you have to keep alert for any dangerous situations that might evolve in your everyday routes.
Closing this everyday city-cycling-safety-guide we would like to wish you a happy & safe and calm cycling around town accompanied by your camera .. because while cycling you see your city in a different and positive perspective and you discover city beauties everyday.
These are only tips on how you can avoid the collision with a vehicle and cycling with more safety. It does not mean that if you follow them you will completely eliminate risks but certainly you will reduce them. The primary responsibility to bike safety lies on one person. Yourself! (It is most likely that there are other practical tips that we have not thought of. So it will be good to share our experiences with other cyclists and other motorists in order to commute with as much security as possible)
In preparing this article we used the following sources:
- Our personal everyday exprience