After years and years of riding BMX and pushing my limits, riding bikes on the road always seemed fairly sedate. Something I suppose is now second nature is a heightened spacial awareness and this, amongst other things, is what probably makes me more comfortable on the roads and keeps me safe. A couple of weeks back, when riding along a road and readying myself to turn right, it was my awareness and additional bike skills that kept me upright as a car sped up beside me and turned into me as they tried to enter the left turn slip lane. Being aware, ready and calm enough is key to being safer and has helped me avoid anything more severe. Read on to find out how you can improve your safety on the roads..
So, we can’t all go back in time and spend years riding kids bikes and doing gnarly stunts but there are a few key tips to help keep you safer on the road. Here’s my top 6 tips for cycling safe on Melbourne roads.
- Look at everything!
Watch pedestrians as they approach the curb. Take notice of dogs barking from behind the fence. Look down side streets as you ride past and make a note of which way any cars plan to go. Constantly scan what is in front of you, beside you and at every opportunity, look behind you. I’ll often use reflections on parked cars to help me see behind me but you can always just fit a mirror to your bike.
Probably the most frustrating thing I see cyclists doing is riding with earphones in. Ok, I get it, music is kinda cool and might motivate you to ride a little faster but what happens is you’re blocking out important information about what’s going on around you. In the brief story above, it was my hearing that notified me of the approaching dangers. The cars engine revs accelerating and obviously getting closer were heard from much farther away and helped me establish a plan of attack. On top of that, simply listening to everything around you is a good practise to get into. Once you get off the roads and onto bike paths or dirt roads through the bush, listening to the silence is more therapeutic than you could ever imagine.
- Make eye contact.
Something you probably already do when driving but possibly more important when cycling is making eye contact. If you’re entering an intersection or see a car waiting to turn into or out of a side street, make sure they’ve seen you. If you can’t make eye contact, slow down and get ready for the worst. Most times they see you but be ready for when they don’t.
- Keep a finger on your brakes.
That split second between realising something is going wrong and it actually going wrong is not very long and keeping a finger on the brakes will help you be in a better position to do something about avoiding an accident. It’s pretty simple but can also be the difference between remaining calm and making forced, costly errors.
- Practise doing skids.
It’s like a defensive driving course. Get out in your street (or a quiet netball court or park) and practise stopping. Practise turning sharply. If you ride clipped in, practise stopping quickly and getting your feet out without falling over. Practise riding slowly. As much as I don’t like seeing them done in traffic, learn ‘track-stands’ where you balance on your bike and remain stationary. Have fun with it.Be a kid in the street again and learn to be more in tune with your bike.
- Maintain your bicycle.
Ok, this is probably the mechanic in me coming out but a well maintained bicycle is a safe bicycle. If you’re unable to stop safely that’s an issue. If you’re constantly looking down trying to figure out what’s going wrong with your gears, you’re not going to be paying attention to the road ahead. (I have been guilty of this one after hearing a noise in my gears and looking down to investigate.)
Obviously, no one is perfect and sometimes collisions are almost unavoidable but making every effort to put yourself in the best possible position is a great way to limit the damage.