Cyclists are amongst the most vulnerable road users. A combination of factors means that cyclists are exposed to dangers that most motorists don’t even have to consider. For example being less visible to drivers and being completely without the protection of a tonne of metal means that your average cyclist is pretty likely to be badly injured if they come head to head with a car. In fact there were 114 cyclists killed in 2003 and 2,297 seriously injured. Although a cyclist has the advantage of being able to stop quickly if they encounter an obstacle a car driver is less likely to see a bike until the last minute.
The first and most obvious safety pointer that applies to everybody who takes to the road on a push bike is to wear a helmet. Cycle helmets are only designed and tested to withstand an impact equivalent to an average weight rider travelling at a speed of 12 mph falling on to a kerb from a height of 1 metre. Because of this riders shouldn’t become complacent and rely on their helmet to save their life in an accident. The best way to avoid serious personal injury is to try and avoid being hit by a car in the first place.
Secondly, you should wear reflective clothing and always use front and rear lights if riding at night or if the light is impaired in any way. Another useful safety device is the mirror. This can help you to judge the traffic from every angle. Many bike accidents occur when the car behind you clips your rear wheel. This is not as serious as an accident from the front or from the side, but can still knock you off and cause serious injury. By looking in a mirror from time to time you can assess any potential dangers. Basically if you are prepared to ride on the roads you should take the measures to protect yourself. Motorists can’t always see you and unfortunately for much of the time haven’t learnt to look out for cyclists. Everyone has a right to be on the road so protect your self as much as you can.
Common accidents and how to avoid them
You are more likely to be seriously injured in a collision with a car than in a bike only accident. There are one or two car versus bike accident types that are fairly common and that with a bit of foresight can be avoided. They are shown below with some tips for avoiding a deadly collision.
If a car pulls out of side road to your right
•You will either cycle into the side of the car or it will drive into the side of you. If you’re riding at night the motorist may not have spotted you at all so you should have a white light on the front of your bike that they are more likely to be able to spot
•Secondly you could consider shouting at the driver as you approach the vehicle; although bells are now mandatory on bikes again you may not be heard just by tinkling a bell. You should also consider slowing right down. You may want to get to your destination in a hurry but by slowing down just a little you can potentially avoid an accident
•The final way to avoid an accident of this kind is to ride closer to the centre of your lane. The car driver will be looking down the centre of the lane for other cars not along the kerb for cyclists. You can also pull further away from the car if it doesn’t notice you and pulls out. Obviously when you are on a busy road with few side roads it is safer to stay nearer to the kerb but on a slow road with lots of junctions, stay slightly to the left
A car door suddenly opens
If this happens you won’t have very long to stop, so the best option is to ride closer to the middle when you are riding down a road with lots of parked cars. Again if the road is fast and narrow avoid this, but judge the road you are on and ride accordingly.
A car passes you and then turns left directly in front of you
•Don’t ride on the pavement as motorists won’t be looking out for you when they turn into a side road
•Take up more of the road. If a motorist has to sit behind you until the road is clear to overtake then they are unlikely to cut across you. Judge the road and give yourself space
•Check in your mirror as you approach a junction. Once you arrive at the turning you will have to be paying attention to what is going on around you
A car coming towards you makes a right turn right in front of you or into you
•Don’t overtake slow moving cars on the right as cars turning right will not be able to see you
•Wear bright clothing so that drivers can see you. Yellow and orange vests will make it impossible to miss you
•Ride slowly. Again, you will be able to stop more easily if you are riding slowly in the first place. Whilst it may be a pain you will be grateful if a car does cut you up
Check your bike
It pays to check your bike over before you even get on it. Every time you take it out you should give it the once over to see that the tyres are pumped up and the brakes are working.
•Pat the tyres to check they are tight in the frame
•Squeeze the tyres to check that they are properly inflated
•Put the bike on the ground and apply the brakes, check that the brake pads bear evenly on the rim, push the bike forward to see if the brakes work
•Check all the levers on the handle bar are correctly fitted
•Grasp the saddle and ensure that it is correctly fitted with no side to side movements
•Make sure you have lights that work so that you are safe on the road in the dark
Personal injury compensation
Cycling should be an enjoyable and healthy pastime. It can save you money on fuel and is environmentally friendly. The only drawback is the risk of being involved in an accident. Sadly this does happen and many people are left with serious injuries. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car accident or cycling accident or motorcycle accident then you may be entitled to make a personal injury compensation claim. For more information and free legal advice go to http://www.car-accident-claim.com.
Car Accident Adviceline http://www.car-accident-claim.com, 0808 143 43 42, is an independent company that works towards claiming compensation for people who have had a non fault road traffic accidents. Their services are completely free to use as all car hire charges and legal fees are recovered from the person at faults insurance company or written off.