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Top Cycling Safety Tips for Adults and Kids

Top Cycling Safety Tips for Adults and Kids

This year, almost 20,000 cyclists were reported killed or injured in Britain. However, this number could be significantly higher as many incidents are not reported to the police.

Cycling safety statistics

  • In 2013 nearly 19,500 cyclists were killed or injured in Britain 4 out 5 cycling accidents involved men
  • The most dangerous hours to cycle are between 8am and 9am in the morning and 3pm to 6pm in the evening on weekdays
  • 75% of fatal or serious biking accidents occur in urban areas Around 75% of cyclists die due to major head injuries
  • Over 65% of accidents occur near or at a road junction (T-junctions are the most common, in addition to roundabouts)
  • According to police records, the key contributory factor in an accident was “failure to look properly”, for both a driver and a cyclist. Another contributory factor attributed to drivers was “poor turn / manoeuvre” In London, 20% of cyclist fatalities involved a heavy goods vehicle (HGV), especially when the HGV was turning left at a junction

In order to reduce your chances of being injured, you should keep in mind the following safety guidelines.

Cycling safety guidelines

1.Check your bike for roadworthiness

Before setting off on your bicycle, make sure that you have checked the bike’s tyres, mirrors, breaks, steering bars and gears. Practice making emergency stops so that you know how to handle your bike in a sudden and unexpected situation.

2.Know how to position yourself on the roads

When you are cycling on the road, make sure that you position yourself in the middle of the lane where you can ride in the stream of traffic and keep up with the flow of vehicles. If you are riding in the left hand lane, do not be tempted to ride in the gutter or near the kerb. Maintain this course so that you also arrive at junctions in the middle of the lane whether you are turning left, right or going straight ahead. Overtaking on the right side is best for visibility, but only continue once you have looked around and signalled your intention.

3.Ensure good communication

Before turning left or right make sure that you look around before making the appropriate hand single. If you are not aware of these take up a practical cycling training course. The National Standards training programme is a 3 tier programme which covers cycling basics and road safety. A great way of asserting your position and making yourself prominent is to give a driver good eye contact.

4.Look out for hazards

Always be on the look-out for unexpected hazards in front, to the side and behind you. This means always being aware of the vehicles around you; small or large, in addition to pedestrians who may be distracted. Attaching a rear view mirror to your handle bars will help improve your awareness, but still continue to turn and look. If you have to ride near parked cars, always be vigilant about drivers opening doors without looking.

5.Prepare for the weather and time of day

Cycling in the dark or in the rain (or other slippery road situation), requires a bit more thought and preparation. In wet road conditions some important precautions include:

  • Use mudguards to reduce splashes which may affect visibility.
  • Wearing glasses with a clear or yellow lens to protect your eyes from debris and improve visibility. (Yellow lenses increase contrast in low light conditions thereby improves vision).
  • Avoid potholes and puddles and slippery surfaces such as residue from oil.
  • Drop your tyre pressure slightly (e.g. 15-20 psi) to increase the surface area of the tyres on the roads and improve grip. You could also add wider tyres or tyres with deep treads designed to disperse water to prevent sliding and improve grip on the road.
  • Ensure your is speed down and avoid breaking hard.
  • Make sure you have the appropriate cycling kit including a waterproof jacket, trousers, and gloves.

6.Safety equipment for cyclists

Safety equipment is essential for cyclists. The key items include: A good quality helmet which meets national safety recommendations. High visibility clothing. Bike lights that can attach to the front, back and side of your bike. Alternatively, you could attach a strong headlight and a blinking red tail light. Reflective tape on your helmet and bike. Rear view mirrors on your handlebars.

Do helmets significantly prevent serious head injuries?

In the 2009 r Cochrane Collaboration review study by Thompson et al it was stated:

“Helmets provide a 63 to 88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists. Helmets provide equal levels of protection for crashes involving motor vehicles (69%) and crashes from all other causes (68%). Injuries to the upper and mid facial areas are reduced 65%.” However researchers in the US have argued that the ability of cycling helmets has been over estimated. Legal advisors of the National Cycling Charity (CTC) stated: “Both British and European standards require helmets to withstand a free-fall drop from 1.5 metres onto a flat and kerb shaped anvil, at an impact speed of about 12 mph. This is equivalent to falling to the ground froma stationary riding position. Cycle helmets are not, and cannot be, designed for impacts with moving traffic.” Navigating roads can be dangerous at times, and given the need for cyclist to be careful and risk averse, wearing a helmet is highly recommended, especially for children. Neurosurgeon and regular cyclist Mark Wilson has said:

“I personally don’t think there are any situations where a helmet could make you less safe. Anyone saying that a helmet can make head or neck injuries worse has never treated a head or neck injury. It is very difficult to definitively prove one way or the other, but I am quite sure head injuries would be worse without helmets.”

Cycling accidents and the effects of a traumatic brain injury

Cycling helmets do help to cushion the brain against a serious impact, but it should be stated that even slight injuries to the head and brain can have serious effects. In an article by Kyong S. Hyatt, PhD, RN, FNP, of Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre, released in November 2014, it was determined that even a mild traumatic brain injury could have significant effects on an injured rider.

“Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) can have a profoundly negative effect on the injured person's quality of life, producing cognitive, physical, and psychological symptoms; impeding post injury family reintegration; creating psychological distress among family members; and often having deleterious effects on spousal and parental relationships. “

Cycling safety tips for children

The key points to keep in mind:

  • It is important that parents ensure that their child’s helmet fits correctly.
  • The helmet should sit correctly on the top of the head, and not rock forward, or side to side. The helmet strap should be buckled, but not so tightly that it restricts the child’s head movements.
  • Make sure that your child’s feet can easily and comfortable touch the ground when they are sitting up, and ensure that all bike parts (including safety add-ons such as reflecting lights and tape) are all in good working order.
  • Children should be wearing protective clothing. Avoid putting them in clothing that is loose in case it gets caught in the bike.
  • Enrol your kids in a cycling safety course.
  • Make sure that your children are being supervised. If you are cycling with your child, ensure they cycle on the pavement with you. An adult should cycle behind a child, and if there are two adults, one should lead and the other should be at the back.

If you would like advice on personal injury and head injury issues, you can contact a member of IBB's Personal Injury team, call us on 08456 381381 or email pi@ibblaw.co.uk