If you’re new to cycling in a city, there are a few things you need to know in order to stay safe.
After all, city cycling can be intimidating. Our Pedal Safe campaign discovered that 89% of cyclists feel the UK is behind when it comes to cycling safety, while over 50% feel unsafe or very unsafe when cycling in the major cities in the UK.
There’s also the risk of your bike being stolen, which could cause serious disruption to your routine.
However, mitigating these challenges is more straightforward than you may think. We’ve put together these 10 tips to help you reduce the risks associated with city cycling and feel confident on the busy roads.
1. Follow The Highway Code
Before you begin cycling in a city, or anywhere for that matter, brush up on the basics. You should know The Highway Code inside-out. It includes the essential rules of the road you should abide by, such as what road signs indicate, how to signal to drivers, what lane to be in and more. By knowing these rules inside out, you give yourself a much better chance of avoiding accidents.
2. Know about the cycle to work scheme
If you commute to work, it’s worth asking your employer if they’re involved in a cycle to work scheme. If not, you should recommend to them that they register with a scheme provider.
Being part of such a scheme means you can save money on new cycling equipment, such as a bike and accessories, as you don’t need to pay tax or National Insurance on these items. Plus, the cost of them is spread over a longer period.
3. Choose the right bike
There are lots of different types of bikes on the market, but some are better suited to city cycling than others.
Folding bikes are the most convenient for cycling in a city. They fold up, which enables you to carry them on various forms of public transport.
Another popular option is the electric bike. This is useful for travelling a long distance to work as it requires less effort to pedal than a regular bike. It uses electric – and human – power to push itself forward, making it an eco-friendly mode of transport.
What’s more, road bikes are suited for busy city roads because they’re thin and agile.
The hybrid bike, sometimes called an urban bike, is also good for city cycling . It’s a combination of a road bike and a mountain bike, combining the best features of both to enable you to cycle on different surfaces.
You get the idea. There are plenty of options, so it’s important that you do your research and decide which bike is right for you.
4. Get your bike fitted
One bike size doesn’t fit all when it comes to city cycling.
If your bike doesn’t fit properly, this could make for an unpleasant journey. Even worse, you could turn up to work with the dreaded saddle sores. To avoid injury and discomfort, you should get your bike fitted at a bike shop.
In fact, it was Local Bike Shop Day not long ago (05/09/20) – a day to celebrate independent bike shops around the UK. It encourages people to support their local bike shop – so, why not visit yours and get your bike fitted?
5. Plan your cycling route
Before you set out on your journey, do your research and plan ahead.
There are several factors to consider. For example, are certain areas dangerous to cycle through when it’s dark? Or do some roads on your route contain a significant number of potholes? Do some have bad or uneven surfaces? You might also want to make sure there’s a bike shop on your route, should the bike need urgent repairs.
There are plenty of apps to help you plan your route, such as Cyclestreets and Citymapper. The Times recently launched a cycling safety map platform for commuters, which establishes your safest route from A to B. For instance, it shows you how many road traffic accidents have taken place along the various routes.
We recommend doing a trial run on a quiet day because cycling on an unfamiliar route in rush hour can be daunting. Here’s another useful tip for cycling in the city: you can never be too prepared!
6. Lock your bike securely
You don’t need us to tell you that bikes are stolen in busy cities all the time. A staggering 58,000 bikes were stolen in London between 2015 and 2018.
If you leave your bike outside your office, bars or cafes, it’s vital you lock it up correctly. Not only will this deter thieves, but it’ll also give you peace of mind.
First, you need a good bike lock. The strongest standard rating is gold, but you should buy the correct rating for the value of your bike. (Bear in mind, bike insurers won’t pay out on your stolen bike if you use anything less than an approved locking device). U locks (also known as D locks) are the most robust and the preferred choice for many cyclists.
There are a few other things to consider when locking your bike up:
- Lock it to something secure. Your bike is only as secure as what you’re attaching it to.
- Secure it in a well-lit, busy area, preferably with CCTV.
- Lock the frame, front and back wheel to the object you’ve secured it to.
- Use two different types of locks so the thief will need two different types of tools to open them. Why not use one U lock AND a chain lock?
- If possible, take your saddle and cycling accessories with you.
For more information on how and where to lock your bike, check out our YouTube video.
7. Have the right clothing and accessories
If you’re commuting to work, you won’t want to turn up sweaty or soaking wet. That’s why you need clothing fit for cycling. Consider wearing a lightweight jersey or a breathable windbreaker jacket in the summer. In winter, it’s a good idea to have a waterproof jacket, thermal gloves and a high vis cycling jacket as it’s likely to be dark when you cycle.
A cycling bag is essential to protect your work equipment from showers or road grit. Plus, it makes carrying your gear on a bike a lot easier.
The Ortlieb Commuter Daypack City is great for a city commuter – it has ventilation, reflective strips and external pockets. But, the Wingman Backpack is the best option if you need to carry a suit or office attire with you on your bike. It rolls up to avoid creasing your clothing and there’s room for other office items in there too.
UK law states you need a white light at the front of your bike and a red light at the rear when you’re cycling in the dark. In winter, this usually applies when you’re travelling to and from work. Bike lights are crucial to enable drivers to see you on the road. Therefore, you must always make sure your lights are working before you set off and take spare lights out with you as a back-up.
A helmet protects your head if you have an accident, so it’s an essential piece of cycling safety equipment.
There are different types of helmets available depending on the type of cycling you do, so you should opt for a road cycling helmet if you’re cycling in the city.
Before you purchase a helmet, make sure it adheres to UK safety standards. The packaging or product description should contain the British Standards Institution or European Standards logo, as well as the BS EN 1078 standards code.
And always replace your helmet if you’ve had a bump because it gives your head less protection if the quality worsens – something you cannot risk.
The best helmets are those featuring MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System). MIPS allows your head to rotate slightly within the helmet, which diffuses the force of impact and further protects your skull. Your helmet should be breathable, reflective and even foldable, so you can put it into your bag when you go to work.
It’s useful to have a map and directions in front of you when you’re navigating your way around a city by bike. So, a phone mount is a useful gadget to have.
If it’s for city cycling, you probably want a phone mount that’s secure, easy to set up and remove and not too fancy. After all, you don’t need one that’s robust enough for mountain biking.
8. Cycle safely
Don’t wear earphones
Our hearing alerts us to danger, so don’t wear earphones and listen out for cars and pedestrians. If you wear earphones and a motorist beeps their horn to alert you, chances are you won’t hear it.
Stay in the cycle lane
Cycle lanes are there for a reason and are much safer for bikes than the main road. If you need to move out of the cycle lane, make sure it’s safe to do so and signal to let others know. If another cyclist wants to pass you in the cycle lane, slow down and move to the side when the time is right.
Use hand signals
As cycling in a city can be so hectic, it’s even more crucial than normal to communicate what your next move is going to be. Follow these three simple steps to avoid a collision: look – signal – manoeuvre.
For more information on what hand signals to use and when, check out this article. Bear in mind, not everyone knows what the hand signals represent, so remain vigilant.
9. Assume drivers aren’t paying attention
Roads in the city are unpredictable. There are often cars, buses, bikes, scooters and pedestrians around every corner. To avoid an accident, it’s best to assume people haven’t seen you.
Don’t ride in a vehicle’s blind spot, don’t stop too close to anyone and always assume a door will open if vehicles are parked at the side of the road.
According to ROSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), the most dangerous hours for cyclists are the commuting hours, 8-9am and 3-6pm. In addition, 75% of fatal or serious cycling accidents occur in urban areas.
These statistics show that, even with the best intentions, accidents may be unavoidable. So, our last cycling in the city tip is to take out specialist cycling insurance.
Our specialist cycling insurance protects you, your bike and your cycling equipment against damage and theft.
Get an instant online quote today and stay protected on the busy city roads.