Tips for cycling safety
Get some free training
Free cycle training for all levels of cyclist is available free of charge to all residents of Greater Manchester. A variety of courses are available to suit all people, from those learning to ride for the first time through to more advanced cyclists wanting to gain confidence in handling more complex junctions etc. For more information visit the Transport for Greater Manchester website
Don’t hug the kerb!
Cyclists can make the mistake of thinking they are safest if they stay very close to the edge of the road. In fact, the opposite is generally the case - about 1m from the edge of the road is a good distance, though in certain situations you may find you feel safest taking up a ‘primary’ position in the centre of a traffic lane as you approach certain junctions. Motorists will take more care in passing you and leave you more room if you position yourself away from the kerb, and you also give yourself an escape route of moving closer to the kerb if a motorist misjudges how much space to leave you.
Respect the Red!
Traffic lights apply to cyclists in the same way that they apply to cars. If you cycle through a red light you are breaking the law and could put your life, and other lives, at risk. Inconsiderate cyclists who ignore red traffic lights give cycling a bad name and cause antagonism between cyclists and other road users. Don’t do it. If you are in a hurry you could always get off your bike and push it along the pavement until you have cleared the junction, and then get on again - simple!
Get yourself a bell – and use it!
A good bell is indispensable for warning pedestrians about your presence, especially on shared use paths such as the Bridgewater Way. Once you have a bell, you will wonder how you ever managed without one. New bikes have to be sold with a bell by law, but if your bike hasn’t got one, your local bike shop should have a selection.
Always stay alert to your surroundings
Don’t expect people, motorists, pedestrians, cyclists to do what they are supposed to. Always anticipate the fact that other road users may do things you do not expect. For example, when cycling past parked cars, people may open their door without looking for cyclists. If it is safe to do so, give yourself enough room, especially if you see people who have just parked.
Sometimes it may feel difficult to signal whilst cycling. However, it makes a big difference to your own safety. Practise signalling on a quiet road, so that you have the confidence to cycle with one arm.
Obey the Highway code
The Highway Code isn’t only for car drivers. It contains lots of useful advice for cyclists too. Sections 59-86 provide a set of specific rules and guidance for cyclists, although many other sections of the code are also relevant.
Check your bike
Check your bike is in fully working order. Not just brakes but also gears and drive chain should work freely, and the handlebars should be sturdy and not loose in any way. If you are in doubt about anything, it is usually very cheap to fix bikes, and your local bike shop will be able to advise you. Transport for Greater Manchester also often run free bike checking sessions at cycling events around Greater Manchester. Check the upcoming events page for details.
Use a helmet, some reflective clothing, and get some lights
You don’t need special lycra clothes to go cycling, but wearing bright or reflective clothing is very effective at increasing your visibility to other road users. See our section on cycling at night for more advice on lights and clothing. Cycle helmets are very comfortable and lightweight these days and affordable. The protection they give you in the event of a impact to your head could save your life. Remember to check your helmet regularly for cracks or other damage. Always replace a helmet which has been involved in an accident as it is likely to be damaged. As always your local cycle shop should offer a good selection of clothing, helmets and lights.
Treat larger vehicles with caution
Cyclists can feel intimidated by larger vehicles, but follow a few simple rules and you will help yourself stay safe:
- Cyclists should never pass a lorry on its left side at a junction, even if there is a wide gap. Cyclists on the left of a lorry are often in the driver’s blind spot, leaving you very vulnerable, particularly if the lorry is turning left. This is one of the most common causes of accidents involving cyclists. Always pass lorries on the right on approach to junctions.
- Never stop near the front left corner of such a vehicle (as shown in diagram below) as you cannot be seen by the driver.
- Cyclists should make sure they stop far enough in front of the lorry so that the driver can see them - about 15ft (4.6m) for the largest vehicles.
Passing lorries at junctions - the safe way