Staying safe on two wheels

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Tony Booth of All Terrain Cycles in Wetherby gives some advice on good traffic etiquette to keep you safe on the roads

From the novice cyclist taking to the road for the first time, right through to experienced riders, safety and etiquette should always apply when riding on public highways. Taking to the road can be daunting, but following some simple rules means that you can confidently navigate even busy traffic safely.

While taking in the fresh air, relishing a chat with friends and hoping that the inevitable British drizzle subsides, always remain aware of the rules of the road. Much of cycling, like driving, is being aware of other road users, giving them adequate consideration and using common sense. Don’t forget that a bicycle is much more difficult to spot than a car and some motorists may not be expecting to have to allow for a cyclist on the road. For this reason, make sure you can be seen – wear high vis clothing and put good quality reflectors and lights on your bike, front and back. Also ensure that your bike is in good working order - brakes need to be of the highest standard as they could be the difference between you and a nasty incident. While not a legal requirement, wearing a correctly fitted helmet should be standard procedure for any cyclist.

Always signal your movements and be road aware, constantly looking for obstacles, cars and pedestrians – don’t ride too close to the kerb, you don’t want to have to suddenly swerve out into the road to avoid a pothole or a car door opening. You should also maintain a steady pace and keep a safe distance between you and vehicles - be extra cautious if the weather conditions are poor, particularly if it’s wet or icy. Cycle routes, advanced stop lines and cycle boxes are a major bonus, offering you some officially allocated space for your journey as a cyclist. Use these to your advantage, keep within these allocations and when outside them, use extreme caution.

Like driving a car, you need to anticipate what other road users might do and be prepared to stop or slow down if necessary; don’t assume that they will drive correctly and obey the Highway Code! Be particularly careful at junctions – look out for vehicles in front of you turning without indicating; if there’s a left turn ahead and the vehicle in front is slowing, don’t cycle past it on the inside in case it is about to turn. If you’re turning right, check the traffic to ensure there’s a space, then signal and move to the centre of the road. Wait until there is a safe gap in the oncoming traffic and give a final look before completing the turn. On really busy roads, it may be safer to wait on the left until there is a safe gap or even to get off your bike and push it across the road.

When riding with others, it is vital that your group cycles with no more than two riders abreast so you do not obstruct other road users. Often, on narrow country lanes, the sensible and courteous thing to do is to drop back into single file if a car comes along. In some situations it may be easier for a car to overtake a group of several people two-abreast rather than a long line of individuals. It’s often safer for you to ride two abreast as it means drivers have to overtake properly, as if they were overtaking another vehicle, and move into another lane.

When using cycling tracks, remember that you’re sharing them with pedestrians; look out for people (and their dogs!) and give plenty of warning when manoeuvring around them.

The rules of the road can seem a burden, but they are there to keep both you and fellow road users safe. From your clothing and bike set up, to on road courtesy and awareness of potential dangers, stay alert .

Biking on the open road is great fun, whether you’re pottering along in picturesque countryside or buzzing around the city, there’s nothing to beat being on two wheels.