Starting to cycle on Irish streets? Here’s our top 12 safety tips

Are you new to cycling or is it the first time you’ll be cycling in a while? Here’s our top safety…

This is a survival guide: It should not be read as the responsibility for cycling safety is that of people who cycle alone. 

1. Practice on a quiet street or road
If you’re you’re cycling for the first time or have not been on a bicycle for a long time, don’t hit the main roads first. Practice on a quiet street first.

2. Learn to look over your shoulders
Being able to glance over your shoulders, mainly your right-hand one, is key to safe cycling on the road or on busy off-roads routes. This shoulder check of what’s around you should be viewed as a basics skill for use when changing lane, pulling out to go around parked cars or other obstruction and just generally to be aware of what’s around you.

3. Watch out at junctions
Be careful at junctions of all sorts including crossroads, t-junctions, roundabouts, private entrances or driveways. Many motorists do silly things at junction, as do people cycling. When motorists are turning left, usually it’s safer to stay back rather than try to undertake. There’s also a strong risk that many motorists will try to overtake you, even when you’re very close to the junction.

4. Keep away from trucks and buses
All vehicle have blind zones where the driver can’t see you when you’re close to their car, van or truck — this is amplified with trucks. With trucks there can be very large blind spots where the driver can’t see objects close to the truck. If you can’t see the driver looking at you they most likely can’t see you. Be even more careful of where the drivers of trucks are or could be turning. Stay back and avoid undertaking trucks. Be aware the large trucks may need to turn partly right before turning left. More detail on trucks and blind spots can be found here.

5. Know how to use hand signals
Like being able to look over your shoulder, you should practice how to use hand signals, and be able to do so before before setting off. If cycling on the road, you should be able to signal without wobbling too much. It’s not just to tell motorists your intentions but also to tell people who are walking and cycling the same. Hand signals should be used often, including: when changing lanes, when turning on or off a road, when stopping, and when overtaking another bicycle or car or object blocking the road or cycle track.

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5. Make sure your bike is in good working order
Don’t mind those who think you should be able to fix your own brakes. Most people who cycle across the world will do exactly the same as most car owners — pay the experts to fix it for you. Bring it to your local bicycle shop.

6. Get a bright set of lights keep them with you
A good set of lights are far more important and more effective than high-vis. This is because lights can be seen from further away and around corners, while the reflective strips on high-vis require headlights to shine on them to light up. If you will be cycling a good deal in dark or dull conditions also think about a secondary set of lights, these can be smaller and less powerful.

7. Keep away from the kerb
To some it’s instinct to cycle as close as possible to the kerb, but this is often not the safest way. Keep out way from the kerb so you have space to avoid pot holes or people stepping off footpaths without looking. On multi-lane roads and streets do not cycle close to the lane markings, take up a position close to the midpoint of the lane you are in, it’s safer.

8. Keep away from parked cars
The term “dooring” is from where people on bicycles get hit by people swing open car doors when exiting cars without looking. To avoid this, keep a door-length away from parked cars when overtaking them. Do this even where cycle lanes are marked beside parked cars.

9. Watch out for pedestrians
Watch out for pedestrians when traffic is slow moving or stopped. This mainly applies to city and town centre but always be aware that a person may be crossing the road among traffic and you might not see them until the last second. In city and town centre, watch out for people walking off footpaths without looking. Jaywalking pedestrians can be a notable problem as they don’t see bicycles as a risk. Slow down and watch out.

10. Get used to obstructions
If a car or bus is parked or stopped you will need to be able to look behind you to see if it is clear to pull out (this is where the shoulder check comes into play). Signal in advance and then — if it is clear to do do — move out and around to pass it before getting right up behind it. If it’s a bus at a bus stop, try to judge if it’s best to just wait.

11. Keep eye contact if you can
Unless you have made eye contact presume motorists can’t see you, and even if you do make eye contact be cautious. Many motorists underestimate the speed of bicycles or are distracted by other things on the road.

12. Don’t break red lights and don’t cycle on footpaths
This is down the list because it should go without saying: Don’t break red lights and don’t cycle along footpaths. Both are illegal. If you feel the need to get off the road where there’s no off-road cycle path, you must also get off your bicycle. Beyond the law, have some sense and at least dismount or stop where there are people walking.

Some extra bonus tips:

  • Plan your route.
  • Keep in mind that cycle lanes and paths in Ireland are not generally designed to a high standard. It is not always possible to use them and and sometimes it is be better to actively avoid using them. The law allows for this. The requirement to use cycle lanes or paths (expect contra-flow routes and routes in pedestrian areas) was removed a few years ago.
  • Learn how to lock your bicycle safety, click here.
  • Wear a helmet if you want, but don’t overestimate its value and remember that the best strategy is to avoid collision by using tips like those above. Don’t confuse helmet wearing with safe cycling — you will see many people who kit themselves out in protective gear also breaking red lights and taking risks for little advantage.

This article was originally published on this website under the headline: “Dusting off a bicycle for the bus strike? Here’s our top 12 safety tips“.