Road safety: Using your environment


 I’m riding with Evelyn to school. Usual thing. Usual time.

“Look up, love”.

“Keep an eye on that car”.

“Go wider than that. Don’t hug the kerb”.

“What can you use other than your eyes? Your ears love. Listen to traffic”. 

“LOOK into that car’s wing mirror!”

I see it as my opportunity, my responsibility and my duty to equip Evelyn with road sense. I’d also argue strongly, that every parent that buys a child a bike should take at least some time to pass on knowledge, wisdom and tips. But that got me to thinking. How many inexpereinced cyclists would benefit from the same advice? With that in mind, and with the caveat that whilst I’m a cycling coach, I’m not a road safety expert, here are my tips for riding that may not be immediately obvious to an inexperienced rider.

  1. Don’t hug the kerb. Being too tight to the pavement encourages cars to squeeze past when perhaps they shouldn’t and leaves the rider exposed to increased risk of punctures from road debris (the camber of most roads means that debris winds up in the gutter after rain.
  2. Be aware at all times. Keep looking around. don’t gaze at your tyres, your pedals or your gears. Use your peripheral vision.
  3. We’re lucky things. We enjoy more than one sense and hearing is part of our road protection. Listen out for vehicles coming up from behind or voices just around a corner; its not unknown for a person to stray into the path of a bike.
  4. If car pulls in and parks up ahead, scrub some speed, look over your shoulder and look into the wing mirror of the parked car. I can rattle off at least a half dozen occasions when these actions stopped me from being ‘doored’ by a thoughtless driver.
  5. Providing visual cues shadows and windows are our friends; especially on bright, sunny days when the proximity of a car/van/bus/ lorry is betrayed by its shadow.
  6. Think. Always.
  7. Then think some more..


There’s a danger of going over the top here and turning happy go lucky riders into worried paranoid androids (like Marvin here), but whilst we live in a country that doesn’t yet take cyclists concerns seriously (otherwise we’d see rather bigger efforts made with infrastructure provision), it is far better to be aware and safer than injured and sorry

As a footnote, if you are lucky enough to avoid being on roads altogether, you can probably kick back a bit and dispense with items 1,4 and 7.  Happy riding.

Top image: ‘Visualise’ the the road (by me). Marvin was gleaned from the web.

4 replies »

  1. After a few negative experiences recently I can’t help thinking that explains basic bicycle rd etiquete and practises to learner drivers would help.
    Twice in the past week its become clear that when I signalled the car driver behind me had no idea what it meant.

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