As committed cyclists, we love the open road; the fresh air, the brisk weather, sometimes sunshine, often rain, the freedom, the challenge, the country lanes. Even if your cycle route comprises a busy work commute through rush hour traffic, the physical and mental health benefits of cycling regularly are well recognised; and that is before we get into the environmental and economic benefits.
However, no matter how experienced and careful we are, cyclists are perceived as vulnerable road users. The statistics back this perception up. Every year in the UK, more than 100 cyclists are killed and more than 3,500 are seriously injured. This means that our cyclists are 15 times more likely to be killed on the road than car drivers.
According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) the official figures are likely an underestimation, as many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police. Despite this, the RoSPA data still provides a useful insight into the typical circumstances around cycling accidents, of which human error is the primary factor:
- Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas
- Approximately 50% of fatalities occur on rural roads
- Three-Quarters (75-80%) of accidents occur during daylight and near a road junction
- Around 75% of fatalities are caused by head injury
Government, Local Authorities & Cycling Strategy
The government and local authorities have a role in keeping us safe. The UK Government Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS), outlined a general plan to improve cycling safety. Key measures of the plan include:
- Review of the Highway Code to improve road safety for cyclists
- Enforcing no parking in cycle lanes
- Encouraging local authorities to allocate 15% of transport spending to cycling and walking infrastructure
While this is good news for cyclists, there is no rush on the timetable, the plan will be achieved through various 5-year terms which should culminate by 2040.
Road Safety Tips for Cyclists
The push to change driver culture is also important. Overtaking drivers who pass too closely to cyclists need to be educated and penalised if they put us in danger this way.
Despite these measures, the ultimate responsibility for cyclists’ safety must lie with us. With this in mind, there are a number of road safety measures cyclists can take to reduce the risk of an accident or injury.
Make Yourself Visible, Day & Night
For night cycling, the Section 60 of the Highway Code stipulates that you must be equipped with fully functioning and clearly visible lights to the front and rear of your bike. Active lights are best for visibility: choose a large white headlight and blinking red rear lights. You must also have a rear reflector situated below the saddle in addition to four pedal reflectors. Of course, you can fix additional lights to your cycle if you wish and keeping your lights on during the day can do no harm.
High visibility equipment makes you harder to miss both day and night. Fluorescent clothing, eg. hi-viz cycling jackets, makes you stand out in natural light, while reflective clothing shines under artificial light sources too. Consider applying reflective tape which can be placed anywhere on your bike or on your clothing. A wide range of high-viz reflective vests and belts are available, including vests specifically designed for cyclists. If you wear a backpack during your cycle, make sure that it is also decked out with bright colours and reflective material. As a side note, research by Brunel University showed that jackets with the word POLITE notice emblazoned on the back, reduce the number of drivers who drove dangerously close to cyclists on the road, especially those that look uncannily like another word.
A less commonly seen, but cheery and easy way to raise your road profile is with bicycle flags. Pick a bright or reflective pattern and accept that the inherent additional drag is a small price to pay for making you more visible to other road users.
Improve Your Own Road Vision
Just as with motorised vehicles, mirrors can be a useful addition to your cycling arsenal. By ruling out the need to look behind you when turning, you can maintain better control of your bike, so consider mounting rear-view mirrors to your handlebars or adding mirrors to your helmet.
You may find a helmet camera to be a useful add-on: they can provide invaluable evidence in the event of an accident. Some helmet cameras also come with features such as front and rear-facing lights, which increase your visibility on the road. Or, if you prefer, attaching a camera to your handlebars is another option.
Cycling shades may not be high up on your check list for road safety, especially during the winter months, but they do have a significant role to play. In addition to protecting your eyes from UV light your eyes are shielded from dust, rain, wind and flying insects. Glasses designed especially for cycling offer more facial protection than everyday specs and the frames and lenses are tougher and lighter. You can also get shades that suit your eye prescription, if you wear ordinary glasses on a regular basis.
Cycling Kit to Protect Your Body
The risk of injury to cyclists is high, so it makes sense to cover vulnerable body sites with protective gear. Unlike in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, helmets are not mandatory in the UK, even though the Highway Code advises that they are worn. As you have already seen, 75% of cyclist deaths are due to head trauma, so it makes sense that you protect your head from injury.
Typical cycle helmets are primarily designed to protect you in low speed accidents. You should select the correct style for your preferred cycling activity. For commuters, specialised helmets are light, vented and aerodynamic. Some include reflective technology or LED lights in the design. Always choose a helmet that conforms to safety standards and that fits correctly with no gaps between it and your head.
Some cyclists like to use cycling gloves. They can prevent gripping injuries such as blisters and callouses and protect your hands should you fall. They can also prove helpful in cold weather. Other cyclists find mouthguards useful: they protect your teeth and stabilise your jaw but can interfere with comfortable breathing so choose wisely.
Innovation in Cycling Road Safety
Finally, there are always new and useful cycling safety accessories coming to the market. A simple Google search for cycle accessories should bring up the latest innovations. In the recent years these have included:
- A smart bike helmet that includes LED breaking and turning signals
- LED lights with lasers that project a bike symbol on the road ahead, such as the Brainy Bike Light
- Specialised lights that include front and back indicators, braking signals and two laser beams that create a safety boundary on either side of your bike, ‘drawn’ on the road, that moves with you as you go
Cycling Road Safety : Highway Code for Cyclists
As a cyclist you have probably discovered that many people (pedestrians, drivers and other cyclists) either ignore the rules of the road or either misunderstand or misinterpret them.
When cycling on busy roads it’s important to make sure you understand the Highway Code and how it applies to you. Your safety is your responsibility.
The first thing to be aware of though is that within the Highway Code there are legal obligations which are expressed with words like must and there are also rules which seek to act as advice only, they are often expressed with words like should.
Cycling Road Safety : 7 Essential Rules & Laws
I have put together a list of what I think are the 7 essential rules and laws that you need to be aware of when you are cycling. If you are involved in a cycling accident and you are in breach of any of the following laws, you will be unable to make a cycling accident claim for compensation. If you need help or advice in this area, contact a dedicated cycling accident legal firm like Osbornes Law Firm.
1. Cycling Lights
Under Rule 60 of the Highway Code, cyclists must have approved front and rear lights, lit, clean and working properly, when cycling between the hours of sunset and sunrise.
Cyclists must have a white light at the front and a red light at the rear, which is visible from the front and rear respectively and fixed to their bike. The regulations also now allow flashing lights, provided they flash between 60 and 240 times per minute.
2. Alcohol and Drugs
Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states: A person who, when riding a cycle on a road or other public place, is unfit to ride through drink or drugs (that is to say, is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle) is guilty of an offence.
The key question is simply whether a cyclist is under the influence to the extent that they are incapable of having proper control of their bike. Cycling on a road or other public place under the influence of either drink or drugs carries a fine up to £1,000.
3. Careless & Dangerous Cycling
There are two offences for unsafe cycling: careless cycling, and dangerous cycling.
Dangerous cycling is an offence under section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and is committed by any person riding a bicycle on a road in a manner that falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist and would be obviously dangerous to a competent and careful cyclist. ‘Danger’ refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property. The maximum penalty for dangerous cycling is £2,500.
Careless cycling is an offence under section 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. ‘Careless cycling’ is committed by anyone cycling on a road without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration of others and carries a maximum penalty for careless cycling is £1,000.
4. Cycling Through Red Lights
Under the Highway Code Rule 178 states that you MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic.
If cyclists are caught jumping red lights they may be given a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice.
5. Advanced Stop Lines
When there is an advanced stop line at a junction motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, eg. if the junction ahead is blocked. If a vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, it MUST stop at the second white line, even if the vehicle is in the marked area (Rule 178).
You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision (Rule 175).
6. Cycling Down One-Way Streets The Wrong Way
Cyclist must follow the flow of traffic and not go the wrong way along any one way street unless there are signs stating it is permitted.
The penalty for cycling the wrong way down a one-way street that does not permit cycling is a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN).
7. Cycling on Pavements
Rule 64 of the Highway Code states you must not cycle on a pavement. This is an offence under section 51 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and is punishable by an on-the-spot fine, a fixed penalty of £30.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have issued guidance to all forces which says there must be “discretion in taking a reasonable and proportionate approach, with safety being a guiding principle”. Therefore, while cycling on the pavement is an offence the guidance is clear that the police can exercise their discretion if they believe it is safer to cycle on a pavement.
Summary of Highway Code Cycling Rules
A summary of all the Rules for Cyclists can be found on the Government website, including an overview, road junctions, roundabouts and crossing the road. These cover Highway Code Rules 59 to 82.
Cycling Injuries : Osbornes Law, Cycling Specialists
This article has been written inconjunction with legal cycling specialists, Osbournes Law who know only too well that despite our best efforts, cycling accidents and injuries still happen. Osbornes Law has a dedicated cycling team who act for cycling clients across the UK. Their specialist lawyers are committed cyclists themselves, so they fully understand the issues faced by bicycle users as well as having an in-depth knowledge of the law when it comes to cycling cases and bike accident claims.