Know the rules and best strategies to reduce your risks and ride with confidence. Simon Vincett explains.
Scan ahead and slow down if you’re not sure whether someone has seen you or if they will give way.
Communicate using your bell, your voice, hand signals and eye contact.
Put on your lights when it starts to get dark, including daytime gloomy weather. A good guide is to put your lights on if the street lights are on.
Your helmet should sit two finger-widths above your eyebrows, with the strap a finger space under your chin. Adjust the side buckles to make a ‘V’ that meets just under your ears.
The main causes of serious crashes for riders are drivers crossing their path. Number one is the right cross, which is a driver from the other direction turning right. So always scan for this and don’t proceed past a gap in stopped traffic without scanning for a car coming through, even if someone waves you through.
The number two cause is cross traffic just not seeing riders. Try to make eye contact with any driver crossing your path. If you can’t, slow down and be prepared to give way.
The number three cause of serious crashes for riders is dooring. That’s when a driver or passenger opens their door into the path of a rider. Avoid this by riding wide of the door zone, which is a one-metre space out from the side of the car. If you can’t ride wide of the door zone, scan the parked cars ahead for people exiting, slow down and be prepared to stop. Don’t swerve out into traffic.
Work with the traffic
It’s confusing for motorists if bike riders swerve out around parked cars or road works or suddenly pop out from bike lanes that end. Instead, scan ahead to identify situations early and then check, indicate and merge to the right well before the obstacle. For instance, when passing intermittent parked cars, ride in a straight line to the right of them rather than moving back to the left and out again.
When a street is too narrow for a car to pass you, remove the temptation for them to try and move into the centre of the lane. Move back to the left when there is room again.
Choose a hook turn
Hook turns may seem weird at first, but they are a great risk-reduction tool for riders turning right. The advantages are that you can keep left and you don’t have to indicate, cross into the middle of the traffic lane or cross multiple traffic lanes. It also avoids the need to sit waiting in the middle of an intersection for a gap in oncoming traffic.
You make the turn in two stages, as numbered in the diagram. Bike riders can make a hook turn at any intersection unless road signs specifically prohibit it.
For the benefit of everyone, move to the centre of the lane on the approach to the roundabout—the earlier the better. Indicate clearly and take your turn with confidence.
If you’re not confident, pull over before the roundabout, dismount and walk through as a pedestrian. Avoid double-lane roundabouts. Dismount and walk if you come across one.
Bike riders can overtake on the left but have to give way to drivers turning left. When a rider and driver arrive at an intersection side-by-side, the one in front has right of way and the one behind gives way.
Bear in mind it can be difficult—sometimes impossible—for drivers to see a bike to their left and, therefore, riders should be prepared to give way, even if they believe they have right of way.
Left hand blind spots are particularly extensive for large vehicles such as trucks, buses and coaches.
Motorists need to be vigilant about checking if the left is clear before turning, and indicate their intentions well in advance.
A quick, simple roadworthy for your bike is the ABCDQ check.
A – Air for your tyres. Keep the pressure within the range written on the tyre sidewall.
B – Brakes working and not rubbing or pads worn down.
C – Chain is not dusty, rusty or stiff. Wipe down and lube if it is, or replace.
D – Drop and listen for rattles. Tighten any loose parts.
Q – Quick releases must be in closed position (wheel axle fastenings, seat post clamp, etc)
Choose a bike-friendly route
Local riders will know the nicer ways to ride, so ask or follow them. The bike riders at work are good to ask for the bike friendly-routes to your workplace. Google maps shows bike lanes and paths when you choose the bike mode when calculating directions. Local councils also usually provide maps of the bike routes in their area.
Ride with confidence
Now that you know how, you can ride with confidence. Remember it helps everyone if you are decisive and clear about what you’re doing. So give way when you need to—even if you are in the right—but when it’s your turn, act confidently and clearly. For instance, when you move into the middle of a lane, check early, indicate clearly and merge confidently well before arriving at the intersection.
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