Safe bike commuting
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Helen Marriott, head of Evans Cycles' RideSmart training programme, explains how to commute safely on two wheels.
Red means stop
Most accidents involving cyclists occur due to people running through red lights, poor road positioning and lack of signaling. It is illegal to ride through red lights or on a busy pavement, and if you're caught the police may fine you on the spot. Pedestrians are unpredictable and may fail to see you, so even if traffic lights are green be prepared to stop. Ride with your fingers hovering over the brake levers to cut your braking reaction time.
Mix up your routes
Choose several routes to your workplace and rotate them. Riding the same stretch of congested road every day will make you complacent at junctions and possible hazards. Being aware that you're going to encounter dangerous areas such as merging lanes and busy bus stops will help keep you aware of your surroundings.
Filter with care
When filtering through traffic, overtake stationary traffic but undertake moving traffic. Try to maintain momentum and make eye contact with drivers because this can help them to predict your next move. Look out for motorcyclists and other cyclists trying to find the same gaps as you and always signal before changing road position.
Don't go into autopilot mode
Remain alert to all road users in front of you and behind and use all the common sense you can muster. Try to predict and prepare for the worst. Why has this car got an indicator flashing? Is there enough room for me to pass between these two cars? Is this bus about to pull out or turn left or right? If you are in doubt, do not take a risk.
Ride where you can obtain the best view and where you can be seen best by others. The left-hand side of the road is not always the safest. When overtaking parked cars, leave two metres width in case a door is opened in your path. When approaching junctions position yourself in a place where you are the most visible to any following or oncoming traffic – if turning right this may mean taking up your whole lane. Give articulated buses and lorries plenty of space and don't get trapped. Remember that the turning arc of a truck's trailer is shorter than that of the front section.
Regularly look down
Keep an eye on the road surface ahead and prepare to change your road position well in advance. Other cyclists around you may dodge imperfections in the road unexpectedly so be aware of drain covers, slippery painted areas, cat's eyes and speed bumps.
The Evans Cycles RideSmart training programme aims at improving a cyclist's skills and confidence to encourage cycle commuting. It launches in London stores this month and will be available nationwide from June 2011. For information on the range of RideSmart training courses and to book your place, visit evanscycles.com/pages/ridesmart
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