Enjoy Winter Cycling Safely

by Martin Tuckey

Don’t let our British winters stop you from enjoying the benefits of cycling - it doesn’t actually rain as often as we think and with a little thought and preparation, you can continue commuting or cycling for leisure right through to spring whilst protecting yourself from the elements and the traffic.
In addition to improving health and fitness, cycling can save you money, which can, in turn, help to pay for both safety equipment to keep you safe and clothing to keep you warm and dry. You don’t need to spend a fortune on winter clothing and you may also want to consider a pair of mudguards to keep off the worst of the wet and grime.

SAFETY, SAFETY…

The most important, but often-overlooked consideration, especially in the winter, should be keeping safe. Contrary to popular belief, cyclists are not entirely at the mercy of the traffic and it is surprising how much difference you can make to your own safety. I’ve been cycling for about 30 years and commute year round in all conditions and I hope that my experience (which includes a few close shaves!) can help other cyclists to be safer on the roads.

To stay safe on your bike, you need to do two things:

  1. BE SEEN to enable motorists to avoid you;
  2. Do all you can to avoid them.

1. It sounds obvious but you need to be highly visible - don’t give motorists an excuse to say they did not see you. Wear bright clothing both in the dark and especially during the day. High visibility/day-glow jackets and vests can be bought at cycle shops or at discount stores such as In Excess.
At night you need good lights, a set costing anything from £10. Search the Internet for reviews/discussions and/or on-line cycle shops for the best deals. Most cycle incidents occur from oncoming traffic so a bright front light is essential- LED lights emit a bright white light and are efficient on battery consumption. Rechargeable batteries can save money long term and they can also enable you to use your lights during the day without worrying about battery costs. Motorcyclists are encouraged to use their lights during the day and, by following suit, I’ve noticed a marked difference in motorists’ behaviour and reactions.
In the dark, reflectives are arguably more important than bright colours as they reflect the light from headlights extremely well and the more reflective you are the better. Consider a ‘halo’ (elasticated reflective helmet band), reflective stickers/tapes, sew-on reflective tape, reflective clothing, reflective ankle/wrist bands and reflectors on your bike-front and rear, on the spokes, on your pedals.
Look for 3M Scotchlite, which is the most reflective material on the market. Having reflectives on pedals, shoes and legs, is particularly noticeable as motorists can clearly see the up and down movement of the pedal strokes, warning them of a cyclist on the road ahead.

2.In addition to being highly visible, an equally useful safety tactic is to avoid the traffic. Try to avoid busy roads where possible and seek out quieter roads, cycle paths and bridleways. This may add 5-10 minutes to your journey, but it’s worth it for the safety, enjoyment and extra exercise! Get a map and explore or go to www.cycle-route.com or www.eastdorsetcommunitypartnership.org.uk who publish leaflets of cycle routes. Check out my Corfe Mullen cycle routes later in this article.

When cycling in traffic, an effective policy I’ve adopted which helps to improve awareness and anticipation is to imagine that you are invisible. You could imagine that everyone can see you and is out to get you, but that’s probably a step too far!!

Being aware of traffic and anticipating potential dangers can give you more control over your safety on the roads. These are some of the more common problems cyclists can encounter:
-Roundabouts. When cycling round a roundabout, watch for traffic joining the roundabout. You might have the right of way, but be prepared to slow down or stop if necessary. I’ve learned the hard way to be more aware and defensive when required to avoid the dangers of roundabouts.
-Side roads. Watch for vehicles pulling out of side roads. Try to make eye contact or watch the vehicles’ wheels to give you an indication that they may be pulling out. Again, be prepared to slow down or stop.
-Vehicles turning right. Watch for vehicles travelling towards you that are about to turn right across your path. Again, try to make eye contact and look at their hands/steering wheel to give you an indication that they are going to turn.
-Vehicles turning left. Be aware of vehicles overtaking you when you are approaching a side road on the left. If you notice them slowing down or indicating left, they may turn into that side road and cut you up, leaving you nowhere to go. Be prepared to slow down or even stop. I’ve avoided this danger before only to be inaccurately told by the offending motorist that I should have stopped as he had the right of way!!
Always remember that, even if you do have the right of way, you shouldn’t rely on motorists to respect or notice this so be prepared to give way if necessary.

Never cycle up the inside of large vehicles, especially on a bend.

Give parked vehicles a wide berth to avoid opening doors. Don’t worry about holding up motorists behind you- your safety is more important than their time. You can always thank them for slowing down.

Follow the Highway Code and don’t be tempted to jump red lights as it is illegal, dangerous and it can wind up motorists which gives cyclists a bad reputation and leaves you open to road rage/abuse.

Always wear a helmet!

On a practical note, you will one day get a flat tyre so buy a pump and repair kit for as little as £10. Carrying a spare inner tube pays dividends as is avoids the necessity to fix the puncture on the roadside and can be changed in 5-10 minutes. If you are unsure, ask other cyclists, a bike shop or search the web for advice on quick effective repairs.

If you commute, you don’t have to religiously cycle every day if you struggle with the weather. Keep a check on the weather and try to cycle on the better days- it shouldn’t have to be an endurance test!

If you cannot afford the accessories you want, prioritise or consider dropping a few hints at birthdays and Christmas rather than receiving the usual socks and smellies.

If you need a new bike, ask your employer if they are signed up to the cycle scheme, where you can get a new bike 30-40% cheaper and pay for it monthly and interest free. If they are not signed up, do some home work and ask them to. Alternatively consider a good second hand bike, which can be a lot better value than a new bike but ensure that it is checked for safety and roadworthiness. Try freecycle or the police auctions for a bargain.

CORFE MULLEN CYCLE ROUTES

Although there seem to be few cycle paths in Corfe Mullen, it is possible to cycle to Wimborne, Broadstone, Poole and beyond whilst avoiding the obvious main roads that you might use for car journeys. Look at a map and plan routes that, although slightly longer, are safer, healthier and far more enjoyable.
If you are cycling to Wimborne and don’t fancy your chances across the A31 and along Julian’s Road, pick up the old Willet Road from Candy’s Lane/Lamb’s Green Lane or Ashington Lane. This mostly traffic-free route comes out at The Willet Arms for an easy ride into Wimborne along National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 25 and over the newly constructed pedestrian/cycle Canford Bridge.
Willet Road also provides an ideal alternative to Merley Park Road for journeys to Merley, Magna Road (cycle path) and eastwards.

To avoid the main Corfe Hills/Blandford Road to Broadstone, try Albert Road or take the back roads to Lancaster Drive and onto Springdale Road. From Broadstone, NCN 25 takes you on a traffic-free cycle path to Poole along Broadstone Way and beside Holes Bay or you can branch off at Beechbank Avenue and onto the Roman Road towards Upton Country Park.
The Roman Road from Julia’s House on Springdale Road provides an off-road but more direct woodland route to Upton Country Park from where you can head off to Poole on the Holes Bay cycle path, continue through the park to Hamworthy or cycle up Poole Road to Upton.
There is a proposed trailway that should link Corfe Mullen with Blandford along the route of the old Somerset and Dorset Railway but is unlikely to be completed in the immediate future.

Lastly embrace the health benefits that cycling brings and enjoy being out in the fresh air, listening to the birds and watching the seasons change. It’s amazing how much more you see on a bike than being stuck behind the wheel or sat on a bus.

I would welcome any comments from cyclists and motorists. I am not anti-motorist but there are some drivers on the roads who pose a threat to mine and other cyclists’ lives. Whilst there are also bad cyclists, they generally don’t threaten the lives of motorists. As well as a keen cyclist, I am also a pedestrian, car driver, lorry driver and emergency vehicle driver. We can all be courteous, patient and safe whilst we share the roads with all other road users.

Cycling Safety - A Motorist view

Martin,

As a mororist I am always aware of other road users on 2 wheels, or indeed 4 legs, and will always where possible give those vehicles the space and time to complete their journey in safety.
Having read your article it is obvious you are a sensible cyclist who applies common sense when setting out on your journey, but now I appeal to you as a “professional” cyclist to explain to me the actions of a number of cyclist I often encounter who totally disregard the existance of custom made cycleways or totally abuse the rules in the use of those cycleways.
Let me give you some classic examples.
The cycleway down Lower Blandford Road heading towards Darby’s Corner roundabout.
Why must the cyclist ride along on the white line seperating the cycle lane and the traffic lane ?
Is it necessary to travel in a Zig Zag pattern, or drift, when moving forward in the cycle lane?
All this at approximately 25mph downhill.

Darby’s Corner heading down Canford Heath Road
Riding on the roadway, ignoring the custom made Cycleway 4 foot to their left, forcing traffic to move into the opposite traffic lane to get past.

Broadstone Way with its 50mph speed limit.
Riding on the roadway again ignoring the custom made cycleway. Do these cyclists have a death wish ?

As a responsible cyclist I am sure you can appreciate that these types of actions give cyclist a bad press and motorist get frustrated at these actions putting everyone in unecessary danger.
I do not have an issue with cyclist in general just the idiots described.
Would you agree that these perpetrators should be charged and fined for dangerous driving ?
And I must clarify that the idiots I have encounted are in the age range of teenagers to retired members of society.

I accept we have some bad motorists but they are equally matched by bad cyclists so I cannot agree with your last statement that cyclist ‘do not threaten the lives of motorists’
The above instances, and I am sure there are many more, show that they most definately do.
I trust that your article reaches some of the bad motorists and cyclist and we can all enjoy our journies in safety.
Regards
Dave Wright

Cycling Safety - The Law

Dave
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my article. My intention was a positive one- mainly to encourage and advise cyclists to be safe on the roads. It would not have been of any benefit to blame and criticize those drivers who threaten the lives of vulnerable cyclists by driving impatiently, inattentively and carelessly. Whilst I openly welcomed comments, the article was not intended as a catalyst for negativity but you have freely and rightly expressed your opinion.
You seem particularly concerned about the behaviour of cyclists and it is true that some inexperienced and even irresponsible cyclists use our roads. However I will address, as requested, the particular concerns that you have highlighted so that you may have a better understanding of cyclists' behaviour and Highway Law.

*With regard to your comment on cyclists "abusing the rules of cycleways", Rule 63 of the Highway Code states, "cyclists should keep within the cycle lane when practicable". It is generally safer to stay within a cycle lane unless of course road conditions (particularly road debris at this time of year) dictate that it is necessary or prudent to cycle further out, either on the edge or even outside of a cycle lane. "It is not compulsory for cyclists to use cycle lanes" (Rule 63). Cyclists should however check that it is safe to cross the line and indicate accordingly to warn traffic although I suspect that some cyclists do not do this, perhaps due to a lack of knowledge or limited ability and/or confidence in manoeuvring a bicycle in traffic with one hand.

*Road conditions such as drain covers, debris, potholes or surface water may all cause cyclists to swerve and, in addition, it is sometimes a physical impossibility to cycle in a straight line in windy conditions, a factor we cannot always appreciate from the cocoon of a vehicle. Section 213 of the Highway Code highlights these dangers and advises motorists to "Give cyclists plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make". These may be some of the reasons that you have seen a cyclist meandering in a cycle lane. A cycle lane which is marked by a solid white line (such as the one you described) is designed to provide cyclists additional safety as, by law, it forbids motorists from crossing that white line. A cyclist using such a lane is therefore entitled to use the entire width of the lane if he or she so wishes and, regardless of whether or not this is necessary, it should not concern a motorist who is driving in accordance with the law.
The speed limit along Lower Blandford Road is 40mph.

*Unless road signs indicate otherwise (ie on a motorway), it is not against the law for cyclists to use the road, regardless of whether or not a nearby cycle path exists. In general some cycle paths are beneficial and well-maintained whilst others are not. A cyclist may choose to use the road or the cycle path and I use both depending on the safety and convenience of the cycle path. Research in many countries suggests that more cycling accidents occur at cycle path/road junctions than on the road itself. However the reasons that I and other cyclists use the road are irrelevant as we are entitled to use the road and should not be branded idiots for doing so.

*In response to your question, no I do not agree with your suggestion that cyclists who choose to travel along the road should be charged and fined for dangerous driving. Neither do I think that a cyclist using the full width of a cycle lane or even cycling on the edge of that lane should be charged and fined. These are legitimate and legal ways to travel on a bicycle. I will not defend all cyclists because a cyclist who rides through a red light or contravenes any other law can be charged, as can a motorist who crosses into a cycle lane marked by a solid white line.

*No cyclist forces a motorist to overtake them. If a motorist needs to overtake another road user he or she must do so safely, giving the cyclist sufficient space, as advised by The Highway Code and The Institute of Advanced Motorists. If a motorist is not confident of overtaking, they should not do so.

*Illegal or dangerous cycling which results in a collision with a vehicle could cause damage to the vehicle and may cause distress to the motorist but I fail to see how you believe that cyclists travelling legally along the highway can endanger the LIVES of motorists. However 2 or 3 cyclists die every week on our roads and another 50 are seriously injured.

Although I could drive to work, I choose to cycle for my health, enjoyment and the environment. I cycle responsibly, courteously and within the law, sometimes cycling on the road even when a cycle path is nearby. I regularly avoid hazards in the road and sometimes I cycle at 25mph downhill. It concerns me that a fellow road user should label me an idiot and a perpetrator who should be charged and fined for dangerous driving. If motorists do not understand cyclists' behaviour or Highway Law, they should, as you have done, seek clarification. Attacking and criticizing cyclists however with little or no understanding of either is unhelpful and, rather worrying.

It is imperative that motorists give these vulnerable road users consideration and respect as nobody wants to live with being one of the 130 motorists a year who kill cyclists, regardless of the cause of the accident.

I hope that I have answered your questions adequately and that you now have a better understanding of cyclists and the law.

The Institute of Advanced Motorists has a useful article on driving safely with cyclists:-
http://www.iam.org.uk/OneStopCMS/Core/SearchResults.aspx
The highway code can be found on line at:-
www.direct.gov.uk/highwaycode/

Regards
Martin

Cycling safety - a plea to all motorists

Dave and other motorists,
I was interested to read your comments after the cycle safety article.
Whilst I fully appreciate that, on occasion, motorists may feel frustrated with the actions of cyclists, I believe that anyone who dares to ride on our busy roads deserves our support in doing so. Not everyone enjoys the luxury of a car and some may have no choice but to ride to work. They may not all be confident riders and may wobble (or zig zag) a little in certain situations but, nevertheless, they have braved the road for whatever reason and should be respected for doing so.
Having been one of the first on the scene of a cycling fatality a few years ago in Broadstone, I would like to stress the importance of being courteous to cyclists. I do everything I can to avoid becoming one of the ever increasing number of motorists living with the guilt of killing an unsuspecting cyclist. It is a distressing sight to witness a young rider lying in the road fighting for their life and not an experience I would recommend. The sickening realization of just how vunerable cyclists are made me more aware of the importance of vigilance and patience on the road.
All too often motorists are in a rush to get to work, even more hurry to get home and our busy lives do not make provision for extra time for hold-ups on our journey. Slowing up for cyclists and overtaking only when it is safe to do so is clearly defined in the Highway Code.
Whilst I am not a 'cycle to work' enthusiast, I thoroughly respect the right to cycle safety for those who choose to do so. Every year more riders enter into the Government 'Cycle to Work Scheme' that encourages workers to save fuel and cut our carbon emissions. We should remember that for each bicycle we see on our journey, there could be one less car on the road, cutting the queues and congestion. These riders deserve our support and the continued choice of whether to ride on the road or on designated paths or cycle lanes. The law allows the choice. Being only an occasional cyclist, I prefer to ride off road or in a lane but after researching cycling fatalities, it seems that riders are better off on the road with the traffic as many deaths occur whilst riding in cycle lanes. In many cases of collision with a bike, motorists claim not to have seen the rider. Sadly, this was the case for the unfortunate rider in Broadstone who did not stand a chance when the car struck from the side. Many riders are killed when crossing side roads or by cars pulling out of or into driveways.
Regretably, there will always be riders with no regard for other road users as there are many bad car drivers but the sad truth is that the unprotected person on a bicycle will always fair the worst in a collision. For this reason alone, we must realise that our cars can be a potential deadly weapon if nor driven sensibly and courteously.
I was recently shocked at the actions of a local female motorist whilst waiting at red traffic lights. Putting her passenger window down, she shouted at the unsuspecting rider as she pulled alongside him "they make cycle lanes for people like you". As the lights turned green she pulled away, cutting in front of the rider in a threatening way. She was obviously unaware that there are NO LAWS requiring riders to travel solely in cycle lanes and she has obviously never ridden a road bike on a cycle path. Had she done so she would realise that whilst these paths are great for mountain bikes with thicker tyres, road bikes are designed for smooth surfaces. The often uneven and unswept surfaces can cause punctures in these bikes.It is this type of unnecessary behaviour toward an innocent and vulnerable rider that should be brought to justice.
So please, I would urge all road users to read the Highway Code (it is available on-line) even if you think you are familiar with its content. If we all abide by the rules and guidelines, particularly will the winter ahead of us, perhaps our local roads could become safer for cyclists and motorists alike.
Regards
Lynda White

Cycling safety

As a driver, cyclist, pedestrian and sometime motorcyclist, I think this is full of excellent advice. Thank you.

Cycling safety

Anonymous
Thank you for your positive comment. If one person gains some benefit from my article then it was worthwhile.
Regards
Martin

Safe cycling

Thank you so much for all the information you've given us in this thread Martin, and your encouragement to cyclists to be safe and seen on the roads. I wish all cyclists would take this advice, not just those in Corfe Mullen, but everywhere.

I have once seen a cyclist wearing high visibilty clothing and with lights on his head, feet and other parts of the body which had the benefit of not only making him highly visible, but immediately told a driver that it was a cyclist they were approaching. I wish all cyclists would take that much care and concern over their safety.

I frequently find cyclists on the road with no lights, tiny little lights that you can hardly see, wearing dark clothing, and with intermittent lights. Do they know how vulnerable they're making themselves? Don't they understand that they can't be seen?

It's been made compulsory by law for motorcyclists to wear helmets for their own safety. Why not legislate to keep cyclists safe too? I think it should be compulsory by law for them to make themselves visible to other road users, for their own safety and that of drivers. I would hate to be in the awful situation that Lynda found herself in.

Cycle helmets

I have recently read that 4.8 more drivers and 4.6 more pedestrians suffer head injuries than cyclists involved in traffic accidents. If this is true it seems logical if cyclist should be made to wear helmets, every one else should.

Helmet requirements

Do you mean 4.8% and 4.6%? Could you provide a link for your figures so we can see the context and try to understand?

In any accident involving a car and a cyclist, the latter is clearly more vulnerable to injury, hence the suggestion that they should be required to wear protective headgear for their own good. Some cycling injuries may be due to obstructions in the road and yet still involve head injuries. I hope no-one would let a child ride without one.

Where there is contact between a cyclist and a pedestrian, I don't see what your figures actually mean. It would make sense to segregate these groups more or at least ensure speed limits (say, 5mph?) on footpaths.

Rules requiring the wearing of safety equipment will always be a balance between various factors including likelihood and seriousness of possible injuries, cost, ease of enforcement and common sense. It makes little sense to expect pedestrians to wear helmets on the very tiny chance that it will be needed.

Safe Cycling- helmets and lights

Kate
Thank you for your positive comments about my article and the valid points that you raised about visibility and helmets.

As you can probably guess, I'm very well lit up at night (and day) with a number of lights and reflective stuff all over me so it may well have been me that you saw although, if it wasn't, at least this means that there are more cyclists out there who are lit up like a Christmas tree!
I agree with your comments about night-time visibility- I cringe when I see some cyclists at night because, as you said, they often do not realise how vulnerable they are.

CYCLE VISIBILITY AND THE LAW:-
In response to your comment about cyclists' visibility and the law, there is legislation as follows:-
*A constant or flashing white front light (the flashing bit was added in 2005)-I'm still not sure if those dull green front lights you sometimes see are legal- either way they seem pretty ineffective to me
*A constant or flashing red rear light
*A red rear reflector
*Amber pedal reflectors.
New bicycles also come with a white front reflector and reflectors on the wheel spokes, but these are not required by law.
These are, of course, the minimum legal requirements and as I've said, there's a great deal more cyclists can do.
The Police in Bournemouth have set up a brilliant new initiative- They give unlit cyclists a mandatory £30 fine. If they prove within 7 days that they have bought lights (from £10), the fine is revoked. The idea is obviously to encourage safety and not make money. I am amazed at the results- a staggering 70% bought lights. Here's the link:-
http://www.dorset.police.uk/default.aspx?page=3787
Hopefully other areas will follow their initiative.

HELMETS?
This should be straightforward but I'm afraid it's not!
I have witnessed a cyclist who received severe head injuries following a a collision with a car and died 3 days later. No helmet was worn. Conclusive proof I would have thought.
No court in the UK has yet been convinced that a cycle helmet (or indeed using a cycle path) would have made any difference to injury. An international organisation, the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, comprising doctors, academics, cycle experts, cyclists etc is dedicated to this subject. Extensive research papers still seem to suggest that proof of a reduction in head injuries is inconclusive so my experience counts for little. Here is a summary of some of that research- http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/digest/helmet_research.html
As a result, legislation will always be difficult. Personally, I always wear a helmet and recommend others follow suit. All UK cycle races require mandatory helmets- no helmet, no race!

Regards
Martin

As an aside for all cyclists, motorcyclists and motorists, the Highway Code warns drivers to be aware of cyclists and motorcyclists passing on either side in slow moving traffic. I would reiterate this advice to motorists but add that, although this action is not prohibited, it can be dangerous due to opening doors, cars swerving, motorists' blind spots. Cyclists and motorcyclists should therefore proceed with extreme caution if they do choose to pass stationary or slow moving traffic.

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