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Some essential safety tips for cyclists – words Alexa Wang
More and more people are taking to the roads on bicycles as issues such as protecting the environment, obesity and general health and wellbeing are constantly highlighted in the media.
Cycling is among the best ways to improve fitness while also offering an efficient and cheap way to travel. Cities and towns are becoming ever more clogged with traffic. In some locations, it is slower to travel by car now than it was in the days of the horse and cart!
This situation makes cycling an even more attractive means of making the daily commute. Many of the UK’s cities now have bike share schemes to encourage more people to cycle without actually having to own a bicycle. Dedicated cycle lanes are also becoming more prevalent in urban locations to create a safer road space.
However, cyclists are extremely vulnerable on the roads and the increase in the use of bikes has seen a relative increase in accidents involving them. While cyclists may not have more accidents than those in other vehicles, the consequences can be far more serious.
Why Cycling Accidents Occur
A minority of cyclists give the rest a bad name by having a total disregard for the rules of the road. They ignore traffic signals, causing a danger to themselves and other road users, particularly pedestrians. Also, they often ride too fast for the road conditions, ride on footpaths when it suits them and weave in and out of traffic.
All cyclists have to take some responsibility for themselves, even when riding perfectly legally. Filtering through slow traffic is common, and legal, practice, but cars can change lanes or emerge from side streets. While drivers should be cautious when making these manoeuvres, the cyclist also needs to be aware of the dangers and ride accordingly. It is easy for cyclists to assume that they can be seen, but that leads to complacency.
But many accidents involving cyclists are caused by a lack of awareness by the drivers of motor vehicles. Too often they fail to take that extra second to check properly for cyclists before opening the car door, turning at junctions or changing lanes. There have been advertising campaigns to try and educate motorists, but it continues to be a problem. For this reason, cyclists need to be even more observant.
Cycling Safety First
All road users are bound by the rules of the Highway Code and there is an entire section devoted to cyclists. It’s good to know the bicycle safety rules of the road. Unfortunately, too many riders think that the rules don’t apply to them but, in the event of an accident, if they are seen to be in contravention of the regulations, they can be held liable and prosecuted. Cyclists should familiarise themselves with the Highway Code and ride appropriately to avoid accidents.
Before even setting off, the cyclist should ensure that their bike is in a roadworthy condition. Efficient brakes, tyres correctly inflated and in good condition, lights fitted and working, chain checked and appropriate parts lubricated.
Cycling safety accessories need to be used. A helmet constructed to the required standard should always be worn. Helmets are inherent to your safety and need to be replaced if damaged in any way. High visibility vests and sashes provide a better chance of being seen by motorists, especially in low light conditions. Reflective ankle bands are a good idea as studies have shown that the motion of the legs is more noticeable to drivers when cyclists are wearing them.
When on the road it is not advisable to listen to music using earphones. It is important to be aware of what’s going on around you and reducing your ability to hear traffic can contribute to an accident.
Accidents Do Happen
Sadly, even when taking all of the safety precautions, accidents will happen and it is a traumatic experience. If it happens to you, difficult as it may seem, you should try and stay calm. If you are not injured but your bike is damaged, you need to get the details of the other parties involved. Names, addresses and, where relevant, vehicle details, insurance company and policy number should be noted. Also take the details of any witnesses.
In the case that you are injured, or suspect you may be, others will be most likely to come to your aid and call the emergency services. If possible, ask someone to take photos of the scene and note the details of the accident as evidence. Even when you think you are uninjured, it is advisable to have the paramedics check you over as some injuries are not always immediately apparent. If any symptoms occur later, you should seek medical advice.
Where there is damage and/or injury, the police should always be called. They will appraise the scene and take statements from those involved and the witnesses. These details will be available to you in the event of a claim arising from the accident.
Many cyclists now wear helmet cameras which are of great use as evidence in the event of any incident.
Making a Claim
If you have been involved in an accident and believe that you were not at fault, you need to know how to claim for a cycling accident. You may be entitled to compensation and should consult a legal firm where you will be advised on what is the process of making a cycle accident claim. The amount of compensation you get will depend on your circumstances and the extent of your injuries. As a minimum you should be able to recover any out of pocket expenses, loss of earnings and medical costs.
Millions of people cycle every day without any problems and whether you use your bike for commuting to work or for pleasure and exercise, it is an excellent pastime. It can have long-term health benefits and reduces your carbon footprint. Taking the maximum safety precautions will greatly reduce your chances of having an accident. Should the worst happen, professional legal advisors are on hand to help with your claim.
Some essential safety tips for cyclists – words Alexa Wang