Every year in the UK alone, there are an estimated 19,000 cyclists hurt in road accidents and casualties are increasing as cycling has become more popular. Collisions between cyclists and vehicles are commonly attributed to the driver or rider failing to look, particularly at junctions and when entering from property driveways.
Crashes involving HGVs and cyclists have particularly serious consequences for the cyclist. In London for example 20% of cyclist fatalities involve an HGV, which is possibly due to the reduced area of visibility. It is important, particularly with the increases in cycle traffic, for drivers to expect cyclists on the road and to double-check mirrors and blind spots before turning at a junction. It can sometimes be safer for cyclists to position themselves in the centre of the lane in front of vehicles, such as at a junction; making themselves more visible.
Roundabouts and T Junctions pose a dangerous hazard to cyclists with over two thirds of fatalities or serious injuries involving a junction. At times a cyclist’s intention may be unclear and therefore it is vital to give them additional time and space to cross a junction or roundabout safely. Don’t be impatient or try to squeeze past. It can be difficult to judge a cyclist’s speed, but they can travel faster than many would expect. Therefore, be safe and wait before pulling out of a junction or entering a roundabout.
Adjust your speed according to the conditions and make sure you are able to stop should a hazard appear. For example, on country roads there could be a group of cyclists, a horse rider or pedestrians around the corner. The severity of injuries suffered by cyclists increases with the speed limit, meaning that a vehicle reducing its speed could be the difference between a minor or serious accident.
At any time a cyclist may need to veer to avoid hazards, such as drains or potholes, and it is therefore vital when passing a cyclist to give as much room as is practical to reduce the likelihood of being involved in an incident with them. A gap of not less than one meter is considered safe. Always consider oncoming traffic as you may have to wait to pass, especially on narrow roads.
Cycling crashes also occur due to the behaviours of the cyclists themselves. For example, cycling without lights, after consuming alcohol, cycling on the wrong side of the road (against the driving direction), through red lights or with baggage on the handle bar. It is important to remember that the rules of the road apply to all users, whether it be a car, truck or cyclist. Therefore a key safety tip for cyclists is to be aware of their own vulnerability and adhere to signs, signals and road markings at all times.
Safe driving tips for drivers:
- Be considerate of vulnerable road users, show patience and respect;
- Give cyclists a wide berth when overtaking;
- When turning right (or left for those in left-driving countries) watch for cyclists approaching;
- Signal early to give cyclists plenty of time to see your intended manoeuvre when turning;
- If you believe cyclists have not seen your indication, stop and use your horn to alert them;
- If driving in the dark and approaching a cyclist, dip your headlights;
- Look out for cyclists before opening your car door.
Safe driving tips for cyclists:
- Ride decisively, look and signal to show other road users what you plan to do;
- Make eye contact when possible so that you know drivers have seen you;
- Wearing a helmet greatly reduces the risk of brain injuries; it is strongly recommended to wear a properly fitted helmet at all times;
- Wherever possible, use cycle lanes;
- Even in daytime, use lights (front and rear) and wear reflective clothing to increase your visibility to ensure drivers are aware of you;
- Look behind before you turn, overtake or stop;
- Use your arms to signal before turning;
- Obey traffic lights and road signs;
- When overtaking parked cars, be aware of opening car doors;
- Don’t cycle along the inside of large vehicles;
- Don’t remain stationary at the inside of a large vehicle always move in front so that you are visible to the driver;
- Do not listen to a personal media player or use your mobile phone – such distractions will reduce your awareness of hazards and vehicles around you, particularly electric and hybrid vehicle.