This article in the Times – http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafetyarticle3758677.ece – quotes a study by Westminster Borough Council which shows that 68% of accidents involving bikes and cars are the fault of the driver rather than the biker. As well as being an eternal geek, I’m also a qualified cycle instructor – so I thought I’d look at the most common types of accident and look at how these can be prevented. Many of these will be obvious to experienced cyclists – but some types of accident may not. This type of analysis should show up the type of accident that people are failing to predict (because they otherwise wouldn’t be getting hurt in them) and that you might think that you therefore might not spot.
First note: Cycling is pretty safe. We’re talking 120 deaths across the whole country per year, and 10 across London – as compared to 100,000+ from inactivity nationally. You are much more at risk from sitting on your sofa than you are riding a bike! However, knowledge is power and knowing more about keeping the type of accidents that cause harm to cyclists will help you protect yourself.
Second note: Reading a blog on the internet isn’t a replacement for cycle training, which will cover many the points discussed below and go into much more depth on a riding style for you. I thoroughly recommend considering cycle training.
I started by looking out the most common causes of accidents involving bikes and cars, from this report by TfL from 2011: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/pedal-cyclist-collisions-and-casualities-in-greater-london-sep-2011.pdf
Table showing conflicts causing deaths of bike users:
Table showing most common conflicts causing serious injury to bike users:
What conclusions can we draw from this information?
1. STAY OUT from the left hand side of HGV’s, skip lorries, cement mixers etc. These have a habit of turning left over cyclists, and caused 3 deaths in 2011 and 2 serious injuries. Stay behind these unless there is plenty of room to get past and out of the drivers ‘blind spot’ (basically to where you can see the driver’s eyes). You might be better overtaking on the right where there is space to do so. Never pass a lorry that is indicating left on the left hand side! If you get caught out alongside a HGV then get the bike out of the road and onto the pavement.
2. Look behind you! It’s critical that you don’t pull out in front of moving traffic – another 3 deaths and 25 serious injuries were caused by bike users either exiting the footway into the path of traffic, or changing lane into a moving stream of traffic. Check behind you before you set off, and before moving out to pass parked vehicles.
3. Avoid the door zone (the bit where car doors might open into). Door zone accidents caused 1 death and 48 serious injuries in 2011. Anticipate well ahead and move out away from parked cars – leaving a car doors width. Motorists might not expect this – so make sure you’re observing point 2.
4. Anticipate others’ mistakes. A vast chunk of accidents causing injury and death to those on bikes are caused by drivers making ‘looked but failed to see’ errors. Moving out before passing junctions (don’t forget point 2!) will allow you to see cars exiting junctions better (and allow them to see you better) as well as giving you more time to react in the case of them not spotting you – covering the brake levers also allows you to brake quicker in case of need. Of course – covering the brakes is no good if they aren’t working effectively so make sure your bike is in good order!
But what about helmets?
If you think you might fall and hit your head and you don’t mind wearing one, wear one. I don’t think they’re anywhere near as significant for safety as learning to avoid crashes in the first place. You may wish to look at www.cyclehelmets.org for more details.
How do I get cycle training?
Generally training is available through your local council – take a look at their website and find the cycling pages – or give them a call!
Cycle trainers may wish to comment below with how potential customers can get in touch, where you train, and whether you can get funding for training.