On Your Bike – Keeping Safe on the Roads
When it comes to health and general well-being few activities can match cycling. You have all the benefits of being outdoors, exercising and you can get to where you want to go for free. Sadly, despite all these positive advantages, cyclists are the most vulnerable people on our roads and every year many of them suffer injury or tragically lose their lives.
Here are a few facts that highlight the risks cyclists take every time they venture out on the roads:
• In 2012, 118 cyclists lost their lives on Britain’s roads, up by 10 per cent on the previous year.
• 6 people were killed on bikes in less than two weeks on London roads in November 2013.
• Accidents whereby cyclists suffered serious injuries were up by 4 per cent to 3,222 in 2012.
So what are the main causes of death or serious injury to cyclists? More importantly, how can cyclists protect themselves so they can stay safe on Britain’s roads?
According to a recent report by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the most common contributory factor to motor vehicle collisions with cyclists recorded by police is “failure to look properly”. In 57 per cent of cases the driver of the vehicle failed to do this and in 43 per cent of cases it was the cyclist. Many accidents occur when cyclists are entering the road from the pavement. Additionally, drivers turning or manoeuvring without proper care accounts for 17 per cent of serious accidents in the UK.
Whilst cars and taxis are the most common type of vehicle involved in road traffic collisions with cyclists, heavy vehicles pose a particular danger, especially in London. To illustrate this, in November 2013 when six cyclists were killed in less than two weeks in the nation’s capital it was found five of the accidents involved a truck, bus or coach. Statistics also show that accidents commonly occur when a cyclist is turning left at a junction or if a large vehicle such as a bus passes too close.
So what can a cyclist do to protect themselves when they are on the road?
Wear a helmet
According to a RoSPA report from 2013, head injuries are extremely common in cycling accidents. In a study of 116 cyclists it was found head injuries occurred in 70 per cent of the fatal accidents in London and 80 per cent of fatal accidents on rural roads.
A comprehensive study done in America in 2009 found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head and brain injury by 63 per cent to 88 per cent even if a car was involved. The authors of the study concluded “Helmets reduce bicycle-related head and facial injuries for cyclists of all ages involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles.”
Although it may mess up your hairstyle, there is no denying that wearing a cycle helmet is the best thing you can do to reduce your chances of receiving serious or even fatal head injuries if you are involved in a cycling accident.
Make Sure You Are Visible
Use the lights on your bike in bad weather conditions and after dark, and ensure you wear brightly coloured, reflective clothing.
Make sure you make eye-contact with other drivers and always indicate your intentions when turning or stopping by using the correct hand signals. Be aware of cars parking who may open their car door without seeing you approach and ride the width of a car door away from parked cars. Avoid cycling on the inside of trucks and buses as they may not be able to see you. If you are cycling on the inside of a large vehicle they may be unable to see you when they make a left turn manoeuvre so be very aware of the vehicle’s movements and indication.
Cycling is a healthy, fun activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. By taking a few simple precautions you can enjoy riding your bike and avoid any nasty injuries.