Many road cyclists these days are starting to avoid cycling on the road, and with good reason!
Cyclists are vulnerable and at the mercy of other road users travelling in vehicles or other dangerous “weapons”.
We, as cyclists, are at a disadvantage in South Africa as the average driver of a vehicle and/or otherwise are generally prone to a negative reaction towards cyclists and unfortunately lack the pro-cyclist culture seen in other Countries.
In fact a cyclist is a target on the road and should be mindful of the fact that he/she needs to do everything possible to ensure their own safety. They should also earn the respect of other road users, be seen by other road users, and must have a form of identification if involved in an accident with a vehicle.
Unfortunately, cycling accidents take place every day, many of them fatal, but the good news is there are a few things you can do to make the roads a less dangerous place to cycle.
Below are a few tips on how to safely cycle on roads:
You set the tone
One of the reasons fellow road users dislike cyclists are because cyclist ignore the rules of the road.
Try to follow the rules of the road, as far as reasonably possible.
We know that stopping at a stop sign or red robot eats into those precious Watts generated in the approach, however think of the bigger picture – safety comes first.
It simply is not worthwhile pacing yourself against a motorist and coming second, the result will be life changing and not in a good way. Rather wait one or two seconds until you are completely confident of your safety and then proceed.
Do not jump red lights and do not cycle two abreast on a busy road and try and stay in the yellow line and/or as far as possible to the left-hand side of the road.
Count to two before entering an intersection. The fact that the robot is red for the other party does not mean they will stop – make sure.
Set an example. You can change attitudes by adjusting your own approach to road safety and rules.
Wet weather woes
In wet weather watch your speed as surfaces may be slippery and it will take you longer to stop. The same applies to motorists as it takes them longer to stop as well.
Your vision is also affected in rainy weather which means it might be harder for motorists to spot you and you them.
Be cautious to ride your bike through puddles, there may be hazards hidden beneath the water that you can’t see.
Again, ensure that you are seen. The last thing any motorist would expect on a rainy day would be a cyclist.
Try and prevent cycling in wet or muddy conditions.
Rain causes all sorts of debris to litter the road which in turn causes flats and other unwelcome headaches.
Muddy conditions have an adverse effect on the maintenance and longevity of a bicycle – rather have a cappuccino and slice of carrot cake and plan your next safe ride.
Brighter is better
A survey showed that yellow, white and green colours are the most visible to motorists (see picture below).
Ensure that you wear a kit that is clearly visible and draws attention.
Try and prevent cycling after dark.
We know many cyclist prefer training early morning, especially in winter when it is still dark. In the event of training in the dark you owe yourself the duty to ensure that you light up like a Christmas tree when caught in a vehicles’s lights.
Always ensure that you have a clearly visible red light (at the back) and white light (in the front) mounted on your bicycle if cycling in the dark.
Be cautious not to attach the lights to your bike where the beam might be obscured, for instance, behind a tool or saddle bag.
Ensure that the front light (beam) does not interfere or cause uncomfortable glare of an approaching driver’s view.
Always wear appropriate cycling gear, such as a helmet and eyewear.
Head injuries cause a high percentage of all cycling deaths – much of which can be prevented by wearing a helmet.
Wear proper eyewear to protect your eyes from dirt, wind and bugs.
Cycling eyewear with photo chromatic lenses are a must.
Make sure to also keep your bike roadworthy and well-maintained.
Demand to be Seen
Ensure that when you train on the road that other road users can see you.
Remember if you are cycling into the sun motorists approaching you from the back will have difficulty seeing you, take caution.
Bright and/or reflective clothing is important (see color chart above).
Make eye contact with other road users, especially at junctions, then you know they’ve seen you.
Be courteous and friendly when other road users acknowledge you.
Allow ample time to inform vehicles behind you of your intention to turn either left or right with hand signals.
Use your bell – not all pedestrians can see you.
Point out traffic hazards like potholes and rocks to other cyclist next or behind you.
Many road crash accidents occur when a cyclist is on the inside of a vehicle which is turning right or left.
Don’t assume the vehicle is going straight ahead just because it isn’t signaling.
Always avoid overtaking any vehicle in this situation – it’s better to hang back until the vehicle has moved off.
Never cycle along the inside of large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, especially at junctions, where most accidents happen.
Avoid swerving left and right on the road as this can confuse motorists, keep to your line.
Make sure the driver of a vehicle sees you. Don’t assume that you have been seen and proceed regardless as it could end in a nasty surprise.
Avoid drafting behind a moving vehicle, if it applies its brakes unexpectedly you could crash into it.
And remember wearing Lycra does not make you bulletproof.
Listen to reports on recent hi-jacking and accidents in a specific area and avoid at all costs.
Never cycle alone.
Make sure you know the basics on bicycle maintenance like changing a tyre or “plugging” a tyre.
Cyclists must make sure that they wear an emergency bracelet.
The ICE (In Case of Emergency) Id is an indispensable accessory for cyclists as it offers emergency and medical information if you are unable to speak or disclose the information due to an accident or otherwise.
An ICE Id can prevent you from mistakenly being admitted in a Provincial as opposed to a Private hospital.
Many cyclists owe their lives and literally limbs to the fact that they were wearing an ICE Id bracelet, allowing emergency medical personnel to immediately make the right decisions regarding treatment, allergies, etc.
Gert Nel Incorporated has partnered with ICE ID to offer our clients and the public at large the opportunity to secure a sought-after, branded Gert Nel Incorporated, ICE ID at a 20% discount, in a choice of “Sky Blue” or “Black”.
The Gert Nel Incorporated ICE ID has our call centre number embossed for ease of reference, in addition to our logo and the wearer’s personal and emergency information.
If you require any legal advice on cycling accidents, please read the following article.
Readers are also invited to order your Gert Nel Incorporated Cycling Kit – designed to be classy and visible.
For more details click here.
By following these safety tips we as a cycling community can all contribute to creating a positive road cycling atmosphere and culture, respected by all motorists and ensuring that the rights and freedom of all road users are protected.
Everyone is equally entitled to using the road but we as cyclist should take road safety to the next level. Think ahead and don’t take unnecessary chances, it simply is not worth it.