Let’s be upfront about this. Regardless of who is at fault, in an accident between a cyclist and a car the cyclist always comes off worse.
Now that the days are shorter, and the conditions getting harder to ride in, it’s important we take a quick moment to remind all people who ride how to be safer on Australian roads.
Let’s be upfront about this. Regardless of who is at fault, in an accident between a cyclist and a car the cyclist always comes off worse. Therefore our focus here is on reducing the likelihood of an accident, particularly now that the days are darker and shorter in the southern half of the country.
There is no silver bullet to being 100% safe on the roads, but with a combination of the below, you reduce your risk of being injured, or worse, by a car.
Too often we see a token effort from riders on roads and bike paths with a small bobbing light attached to a backpack or a helmet.
It’s important to have a good, working front and rear light that is suitable for the conditions you’re riding in. Too often we’ve seen riders with terrible one LED lights that are so dim, and pointed at ground it’s not even worth having.
Front lights loosely fall into two categories. The first, for attracting attention/ being seen, the second for seeing.
Around 80% of cycling accidents occur in daylight - which is when most cycling takes place. It’s important to look at the benefits of running a day-time front and rear light to help bring attention to yourself. A light that runs during the day needs to be brighter than a light you’d run at night as it needs to stand out more.
Many people take advantage of the quiet bike paths and trails in the dark to try and avoid traffic. If riding these, it’s important to switch over lights, or to a setting that diffuses and projects the light forward so you can see where you’re going and avoid getting in strife.
Some key features to look for are something that attracts attention from the rear and varies its pattern a little bit so you don’t ‘blend in’ with your surroundings. Generally it’s better to run a flasher over a solid rear light as this separates your vehicle from others.
A majority of accidents between people who ride bikes and drivers of cars, involve drivers hitting cyclists from behind. It’s important to run a solid rear light that is reliable and can be seen from at least 200 metres away. A car travelling 60 km/h, takes 12 seconds to travel this distance. A standard bike light will flash around 3-4 times per second, so it’s important you have their attention before they are even close to you.
A report from 2017 found that while colour (and fluorescent) clothing is fine for the torso it didn’t make a huge difference to being seen, the most important factor to be seen is by wearing fluoro and reflective elements on your legs and shoes. This is due to humans being really good at being able to recognise other people.
This is not a case of black kits vs coloured kits, this is a case of static vs moving colours.
We all know riding is better with a mate, but did you know it’s actually safer? It’s faster for cars to overtake two riders, you’re visually bigger, and you control more road space.
Ride with a mate, it could save your life.
Different times of day require different routes. It’s important that you choose a route that is the safest for that time of day. Yes, sometimes there is no choice, but when you can, try to choose a safer route for your ride. People who ride are vulnerable, and we want everyone who rides to get home safe.
If it’s there’s been a storm or similar the day before, take extra care.
When you’re riding along a road, hold your line, and don’t weave in and out of moving traffic and move along in a nice steady line where possible.
When overtaking other riders, call your moves and use hand signals.
This also goes for the bike path, there is no gold, silver or bronze medal awarded for the commuter cup, so don’t be an idiot, signal clearly, call your movements and take it a bit easier.
If you’re riding past parked cars, assume there is a driver about to get out of each one and stay out of the ‘door zone’.
At roundabouts, the rules for bike riders and for motorists on single-lane roundabouts are the same. You must give way to traffic that’s already on the roundabout and be sure to indicate your intentions as you enter the roundabout.
In Australia, you are allowed to ‘take the lane’ in the lead up to a roundabout, so if you’re confident enough, we suggest positioning yourself so you can claim the lane and be seen by other road users. This also stops drivers trying to overtake you within the roundabout. Sensible drivers will get it and a friendly before and after wave to any and all drivers can go a long way to avoiding any ‘unpleasantries’.
This isn’t really a winter rule - it applies all year round. This could be post all of its own. Ride defensively. Don’t put yourself into dangerous situations if you can avoid them - like riding up the inside of a potentially turning truck where the driver has limited ability to see you. Obey the road rules - they apply to bike riders just as much as to car drivers. Pay attention to the road surface (particularly relevant in the dark) and if you’re in a group point out any hazards to other group members.