There have been numerous studies recently showing that road safety concerns are high on the list of factors that prevent more people cycling. As cycling is a very safe way to travel, it could be that a bit more confidence on the road will dispel these thoughts and get more people cycling. Below are a few ways to gain a bit more confidence and know that you are in control of yourself and the bike.
1) Make sure your bike is safe
The first step to confidence is to have confidence in your equipment. A simple ‘M’ check of your bike will tell you if your bike is safe to ride but generally, make sure the wheels and pedals are tight, the brakes and gears work, nothing is loose that shouldn’t be and that the tyres are pumped up. Most bicycle workshops will offer a basic service if you would like a professional to ensure your bike is good to go.
2) Stick to your comfort zone to start with
Find a designated cycle path or quiet streets to start you off where you do not have to deal with motor vehicles. This will give you some vital experience of handling your bike in a setting that feels comfortable to you.
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3) Learn the basics
Once you have found your quiet street or path, use this as an opportunity to practice the basics that you will need out on the road. Essential skills include –
- One handed cycling – you will need this skill to allow you to indicate. If this is difficult for you initially, try removing your hand for a short time and trying to increase the length of time you can do this until you are comfortable cycling with one hand on the bars. Repeat for each hand.
- Looking behind – Practicing looking over each shoulder in order to see approaching traffic from behind is another essential as, before indicating, you will need to check the way is clear. Of course, some people have mobility issues which prevent this, in which case, handlebar mirrors are available.
- Starting off – Getting away from lights and from stationary positions confidently is a greatly overlooked skill. It is well worth dedicating time to starting but also when stopping, getting yourself in an appropriate gear to get you started again is a skill.
- Stopping – Yes, an obvious one – stopping is indeed an essential skill. But unfortunately, you see it done incorrectly quite a lot. The best way is to use both brakes equally to prevent skids or the back end of the bike coming up. As mentioned above, braking and getting into the correct gear to start up is a great skill to have.
- Road position – Knowing where to be on the road will affect the way drivers behave towards you. Stay to the left but not in the gutter (usually about a metre out from the kerb). Knowing your position for junctions and roundabouts is essential too and you can find that (and lots more) information on cyclinguk.org
4) Get out on the road
From your chosen practice area, you can then start to go out on busier roads and then building up from there using your newly found skills and confidence. The more you ride on the road, the more you will see that it is a safe way to travel. That being said, if you still want to avoid the roads, many cities have excellent cycle routes and to get from a to b using them is just a matter of doing some research and exploring.
Hopefully, the above will help you be confident cycling and realise that the roads are safe for cyclists but even if you stay to cycle paths, as long as you are out and about on a bike, we are happy.