Safety

If you’ve a concern about riding on busy roads, traffic etc there is a simple answer:

DONT RIDE ON BUSY ROADS

There are plenty of alternative routes you can take that are virtually traffic free even the busy roads get a lot quieter after the morning and evening rushhour. Use a bit of common sense and you’ll be fine.

Helmets: I have one and use it all the time, I don’t fancy a head injury due to falling off a cycle.
If you do get one make sure it fits. It should cover your temples and not sit on the back of your head.

Update December 2006. The Bell helmet that I wear has a slight peak to it at the front. This has proved to be a great feature as when it rains the rain is channelled to the point and then drops off the peak. If it was a different profile I fear it would be running down my face and neck.
See my Christmas Eve Post if you have any doubts.

Gloves:Are what you put in your upside down hat. Fingerless mitts in the summer, just a bit more protection if you have a fall.

Brakes:Need to be in good working order and you need to know how to use BOTH of them, not just the back one with the wheel locked up.

Potholes:There are plenty of these out there, avoid them if you can. You dont want to be hitting the ground because you wern’t looking where you were going.

Mobile Phone:Telephone boxes are a bit thin on the ground these days, one of you should carry one.

Visibility: I wear a High Visibility Jacket in the winter. It has scotchlite patches and detail on it that is visible from hundreds of yards away. Even wearing this there are those that won’t see you.

Lights: A flashing LED rear one. Gets switched on if the weather is bad or the road is busy.

Above all enjoy yourself.

I’ll just reiterate the Helmet advice, on Christmas Eve I suffered a fall that resulted in the helmet splitting and a significant impression made in the hard outer shell. I suffered a chipped bone in the shoulder along with heavy bruising. I am sure I would have had magor head injuries if I hadn’t been wearing it. The helmet was a mid to low end Bell Arc FS, now no longer a current model. I could not have avoided my head hitting the ground, the accident happened that fast. I don’t advocate compulsion, common sense tells me to allways wear one no matter how short the journey.

17 May 2012 Just to update the site with a picture of Johns helmet from work:

The visible crack disappears  under the hard outer shell and emerges into the next vent.
John touched a wheel and was cartwheeled into a kerbstone headfirst. He had only had the helmet a week before this happened and was taken to hospital for a check up.

I’m now using a Kask helmet that I’m really getting along with. It has increased protection for the temples compared to the Giro Atmos. Only thing wrong with it is the scandalous price.

Jan 2014. Still never go out on a ride without a helmet, in the light of Michael Scumachers accident it makes even more sense.

My recent trip to London had me amazed at the risks cyclists put themselves in.
Tower bridge, narrow at best, a bus is stuck 2ft behind a cyclist doing 10mph if that. One slip or bobble and you’d be under the bus. It was frightening.

20 Responses to Safety

  1. Chris Beazer says:

    I very rarely wear a helmet when cycling because I don’t wear one for other similarly dangerous pursuits such as walking or going up and downstairs at home. If you want to see research-backed information about the effectiveness of wearing a polystyrene prosthesis, please go to http://www.cyclehelmets.org.

  2. Sean Callaghan says:

    interesting comment from Chris Beaver which got me following the link and then other links about helmet wear. I wear a helmet when using the road bike, I did not use to, but after witnessing a hit and run accident where a cyclist was struck by a car and seeing the effect of damage to the helmet, it was split in two front to back. The victim was dazed and out on his feet from the impact and was treated by the paramedics, it convinced me to wear mine on every cycle ride.
    Where traffic and cyclists mix I think you have to give yourself every chance to complete your journey safely not just by wearing the helmet but by the way you ride and use the road, awareness and perception of dangers contribute enormously to safety on a cycle good luck, good ride, Sean.

  3. Chris Beazer says:

    Sorry Sean, read http://www.cyclehelmets.org./mf.html?1019

    I’ve been knocked off 4 times by motorists in 45 years of cycling. Twice with a helmet twice without. I could have done with a chin guard, elbow guards, knee guards, buttock guards (these were what were injured) but I’ve not had a head injury. The last part of your comment is absolutely true – but the main area I come from is that fatal cycle accidents are usually the result of motorists colliding with cyclists and we should be addressing that rather than blaming cyclists not wearing helmets for their injuries.

  4. Barry Jones says:

    Chris everyone has the right to choose what to wear on a bike. The law has not yet made it compulsory to wear a helmet. So one should respect your decision. However there are over forty million cars and other mechanically propelled vehicles on UK roads today and no end of legislation will completely stop collisions from occurring, we are a car based economy and the government has far too much money and commerce invested in it to change.

    ‘Confucius say person in metal box is more likely to survive un hurt than person on push bike’. Your choice but I’d rather take every precaution……legs and arms generally heal, your head’s a lot more fragile!!

  5. Frank says:

    Thanks for the comment Chris,
    this is the real backwater of the site. No one wants to read about safety. It’s unlikely that Sean will be back but that matters little. I cross myself everytime I go past Mel Vasey,s accident spot. I do not regard myself as a religious person.
    The thing is the CTC has taught me to seek out the quiet route rather than get into a situation where you are riding in traffic.
    Mels death would not have been prevented by wearing a helmet. My hitting the deck resulted in the foam splitting but the hard outer deforming.
    Contributory negligence is what we are up against, the defendant,s lawyer is trying to prove we were at fault for not wearing a helmet, hiviz jacket and having a bell on the bike. All bollocks IMHO.
    Cyclists lives are cheap, as soon as a kid in a Vauxhall Nova wraps themselves around a tree there is an almighty outcry about at the loss of life. A cyclist hit by a car, it was his fault for any number of obscure invalid reasons.
    Even if not dead there is a life ruined for a risible excuse.
    Frank.

  6. Claire says:

    interesting debate about helmets.

    I ride horses (a bike only occasionally, should do so more) and would not dream of getting on either horse or bike without helmet …

    i was once bucked off a riding school horse. I am still missing 1/2 hour of my life. had i NOT been wearing a hard had, i would probably be missing my life. As it was, the had was so badly damaged my friend was able to pull it apart with his bare hands (I had him do that before i binned it, in case anyone was fool enough to think it was a serviceable hat).

    and, as frank has pointed out, a pothole can result in one hitting the deck as easily as a passing car ……

    BTB – came to your site from the BBC piece today….

  7. Mark G. Hopewell says:

    Hi Frank,

    What a great site!

    I’m getting back into cycling after a break. I’ve just finished my Nurse training at the fine age of 46! However, if my training has taught me many good things about cycling, one of the main ones is cycling S.A.F.E.L.Y!!

    Please emphasize this more on your site, along side the worthy fight for fitness!

    If there is one other thing I am seeing more and more of in practice (Clinical practice that is . . .) and thats injuries from cycling. There is inappropriate attention to safe protective clothing and so forth. I see it daily in work and on the roads.

    Head injuries are just awful to see, let alone care for, let alone have! Therefore, please try to remind your site visitors that they absolutely MUST consider safety as equal in the pursuit of fitness. Without satety, you might as well not bother in the first place.

    This week alone, Ive seen dare I say very experienced cyclists who have had major head injuries incurred on quite innocent and short distant rides through not wearing a helmet. Nursing subsequent brain damaged adults is not an easy task and could so easily be avoided by considering safety before anything else.

    I will also take this opportunity to ask you to also consider wearing clothes that can be clearly seen in all weathers. I wear a bright yellow reflective tabard wherever I go. I dont care if I look like I’m on a building site, far better that than lying in a hospital bed with my head caved in with permanent brain damage and a very distressed family, wife and kids at my bedside!

    It will be good to follow your site further in the hope you may mention safety periodically, to remind your visitors of their responsibilities.

  8. Frank says:

    Thanks Claire, it’s a bit like the seatbelt debate now enshrined in law. It’s second nature to belt up now. When I came off it happened that fast I couldn’t stop my head hitting the ground and the GPS said I was travelling at 16 mph.
    I wasn’t sure if the BBC were going to use the article as things had gone a bit quiet and it’s rare for organisations to give out a link they don’t have control of. It’s turned out well in the end.
    Regards,
    Frank.

  9. Frank says:

    Mark thanks for the comments, I’ve been to two funerals of people I’ve met cycling and it not a pleasant thing to go to. One was a traffic accident where the driver ploughed straight through Mel on a dual carriage way. The other was probably preventable.

    This is the absolute backwater of the site with next to no traffic and at one point I did think about removing the page but two comments in one day thanks to the Beeb can’t be bad.

    I’ve lost count of the number of people who don’t want to cycle because of the traffic. A great deal of it is because beginners want to cycle down dangerous main roads to work or just don’t know safe routes. I was showing the family pictures that I post on here along with grandson pictures and they commented on the quiet roads.
    That’s what it’s like out there, great riding, next to no traffic but you have to know the routes.
    I’ll elaborate this section as there is a couple of basic things that could be added and it hasn’t been updated for a while.
    Frank.

  10. Fred says:

    I’m astonished to find that beginners are more likely to cycle busy roads than experienced cyclists; I’d have thought it was the other way round.

    I’m no expert on cycle safety, though, but I’d have thought that the risks lie more with the junctions that connect the roads, rather than the roads themselves.

    Granted, if you take dual carriageways on arterial routes where the speed limit is 40mph or more, then don’t be surprised if a lot of traffic sails very close to you very fast. But apart from that, once you’re on a clear straight-ish road with good visibility, no parked cars and no side exits, then I’d have thought that the chances of being hit are pretty slim, regardless of whether that road is in open fields, a forest or a built-up area.

    I don’t like junctions, though. So when I plan a route from A to B through an urban area, I tend to try to pick routes that have as few junction stops (eg give-way signs, roundabouts and traffic lights, including pedestrian lights) as possible. If I have to choose between two different types of junction stops, I will generally prefer mini-roundabouts where the approaching roads do not split up into multiple lanes that are intended for different directions.

    Sometimes, this causes me to prefer main roads over quiet back streets. Indeed, the comparative simplicity of junction access is very often the reason for preferring to cycle on the road as opposed to a designated cycle track. It’s great if a road has a parallel cycle track, but it’s no good if that cycle track breaks off for all of the road’s side junctions. And cycle tracks that attempt to circumnavigate roundabouts are not only pointless but positively dangerous in my opinion.

    The safest way to traverse most types of junction, in my opinion, is to queue up for the junction in line with the cars, and enter the junction space in the same way that the cars do.

    Do not be tempted to jump right to the front of the queue; you should always enter the queue at least two or three vehicles back from the front of the queue. Why is this? Because a driver at the front of a queue will be expecting to be able to go once the signals turn green and the other entrances to the junction are clear. They will not be expecting to have to wait for a cyclist that suddenly appears in front of them to move off if they weren’t already behind another vehicle in the queue to start off with.

    Even if a junction has an advanced stop line for cyclists, do not be fooled into using it! It’s too dangerous! It’s far safer to enter a queue at least a few cars back from the front, because drivers who aren’t already at the front of the queue know that they have to wait for the vehicles they see ahead of them to move off before they can move off themselves. Slipping into the queue will not change that for them; since they’re looking at the car directly in front of them, they will obviously see you if you slip in behind it, and so will wait for you to move before they move themselves.

    Once the traffic starts to move, then remain in the centre of the appropriate lane until you get to the other side of the junction. Failure to do this is likely to result in other traffic that’s going in a different direction to you cutting you up; for example, if you’re going straight on but you stay on the left, then you’re likely to be cut up by cars turning left.

    Having said that, do not enter a queue immediately in front of an HGV. If this is not possible – for example, because you’re already half-way past a queueing articulated lorry before you realise that you won’t be able to get in front of it safely – then dismount and use the sidewalk instead.

    I’d be interested to know if there are any statistics that allow us to compare the incidence of accidents at junctions with accidents that are away from junctions, and also what type of junctions accidents occur at. CTC blog pundits often seem to think that roundabouts are safer but I’m not sure where they get their info from.

    • Ezequiel says:

      Hello there! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an esbiltashed blog. Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Cheers

  11. Bikecat says:

    I agree with Fred (mostly). Except that I regularly use Advance Stop Lines with great safety and success. I am usually half way across the junction before the motorist behind has got into gear! And Please never ever go to the left of a lorry or bus that may turn left at the next junction.
    If anyone wants to learn about safe cycling, look on the CTC website for a National Standard Cycle Instructor who will teach an adult one to one session. It is surprising what you will learn!

  12. Frank says:

    I’ve mentioned cycle paths around roundabouts in at least two posts. They slow a group down to a standstill, There is one by me that is a nightmare, M56, A5117 roundabout. Cars are speeding up sliproads trying to get up speed to join the Motorway and it’s a busy roundabout becase it is at Cheshire Oaks outlet village.

    I’ve come off the cycle path, regained right of way and got to the other side a good ten minutes before the full group made it across. There is another roundabout with the same problem about 50 yards before it too.

  13. Amoeba says:

    When away from the road [offroad cycle path; towpath etc.], I don’t wear a helmet. I only wear a helmet when on road because of cars. While the scientific evidence regarding helmet use is equivocal, helmets do vary greatly as do the standards they’re tested to. Apparently some helmets that pass the CE standard will fail the Snell standard.
    The most stringent standard is the Snell standard. IIRC, the only helmets currently certified to the superior Snell standard in the UK are made by Specialized.

    Personal note
    I’ve had a Bell Metropolis helmet in orange and it has faded dreadfully in a short time, so that it’s almost white in places. Which rather detracts from the safety purpose of a fluorescent colour – it’s meant to be more visible than pure white. Fluorescent colours are brighter than white, because they absorb invisible ultraviolet and re-emit it as visible light. Since Bell do not certify to Snell in the UK [I didn't find-out about the Snell standard before I bought it]. There are at least two reasons why I will not be buying Bell and will be buying a Snell certified helmet when I replace it.

    • frankkinlan says:

      Amoeba, it’s not the fact that roads are more dangerous, it’s the the fact that cars travelling at legal speeds are going to kill you with or without a helmet. I’ve had one crash one my own and the deformity of the foam of the helmet is the same as the that as I’d have suffered to my skull. The medical profession know this but it’s ignored.
      I’ve been to one club member funeral who didn’t use a helmet and he had lost his wife to a helmetless accident but couldn’t feel to preach against it.
      I wasn’t good enough when it happened to me despite what all the story tellers say. If you’ve avoied an injury you are either lucky or you’re riding too slow for momentum to take it’s course.

  14. Amoeba says:

    Road safety
    I strongly recommend John Franklin’s “Cyclecraft” The National Cycle Training Standard ‘manual’.

    Loads of good advice. It’s transformed my cycling. Personally, I believe if you ride in the UK on our dangerous roads, you’re daft if you don’t get a copy and read it.
    BTW, it isn’t realistically possible to avoid some busy roads.

    Also have alook at David Hembrow‘s blog.

    David has many interesting things to say about cycling, safety & etc. and really shows what cycling can be like, but it’s depressing for us in the UK.

  15. CHRis_from_Frankby says:

    Please let me add something to this “backwater” part of the website again!
    1. Helmet manufacturers test their products to protect users at speeds of up to 12mph and falling from a height of 1 metre (sorry for the mix of units).

    2. Helmet manufacturers state that their products are not designed to protect in instances of impact with motor vehicles.

    3. When a helmet user, following an incident where his helmeted head hits the floor, states that the damage to the helmet proves that it saves his life he is observing what the helmet is designed to do – deform to absorb the energy of impact. It doesn’t mean that his head would have looked like the helmet!

    4. The Western European country with the lowest head injuries/deaths per mile cycled is also the country with the lowest rate of helmet wearing – Netherlands
    http://www.cyclehelmets.org/jpg/1079_3.jpg

    5. Did all those who advocate helmet wearing on bikes wear their helmets when walking in the open during the last winter when ice covered the pavements? I suspect that they didn’t, although the conditions increased the probability of accident situations which were exactly within the design criteria for bicycle helmets (indeed, I’m aware that at least one fatality was caused by a young person falling and banging his head when walking on icy pavements).

    6. The CTC has a “safety in numbers” campaign whose objective is to get more people cycling because research has shown that the more people cycle, the less is the risk of being hit by a motorised vehicle. (the huge increase in cycling in London has actually been accompanied by a drop in overall cyclist casualty rates). Conversely, wearing a helmet reinforces the view of potential cyclists that cycling is dangerous so discouraging them to cycle, making the situation more dangerous for the rest of us.

    I believe that the most effective mechanisms to increase cyclist safety on our roads are the increase in cyclists’ numbers and (would be) the introduction of “strict liability” for motor vehicle drivers who collide with vulnerable road users – cyclists and pedestrians. “Strict liability” is the principle where the person who causes the injury is held to be responsible unless he can prove that the injured party was at fault. This reverses the current situation where a pedestrian or cyclist, possibly unconscious, has to gather information, such as names and addresses of witnesses, in order to prove the fault of someone sitting in the protection of a metal box with air-bags, seat belts and crumple zones. Such legislation exists in many European countries and, in my experience, drivers there tend to behave much more carefully when manouvering around cyclists.

  16. winston says:

    A lot of the argument against helmet wearing is based on averages and other factors other than simply whether or not the helmet offers protection in the event of a crash.

    Risk compensation, I ride pretty much the same whether or not I am wearing a helmet so it doesn’t really count.

    Population studies, helmet laws decrease the number of people riding which leads to poorer health and more crashes due to the reverse of safety in numbers. All probably true but doesn’t tell me if a helmet is of benefit to me or not.

    Drivers can be more aggressive with cyclists wearing helmets, that may be so, but with good cycling technique, primary position etc., you can mitigate a lot of the risk down to the point where it is only some psycho who actually wants to hit you that is much of a risk.

    Helmets are only designed to a certain standard which is typically below that at which a person might expect in the event of a crash. It may be so, but I’d rather hit the deck at 20mph wearing a helmet than not. F1 cars aren’t designed to crash at 200mph but I’m sure Robert Kubica and Ralf Schumacher are glad they had crumple zones to absorb some of the energy.

    I don’t believe in a law for compulsory helmet wearing because I subscribe to the safety in numbers hypothesis, but I do believe that in the event of a crash I would be better wearing one than not and my local neurosurgeon agrees! (he’s a very keen cyclist).

    I don’t agree that we should avoid busy roads. My commute involves Upton bypass, Conway St, then in Liverpool the Strand, Gt Howard St and Derby Road, get stuck in, own the piece of road you are on and make drivers pay you due regard by good assertive riding.

  17. Narom says:

    Just because the vast majority of crashes dont result in serious head trauma basing the argument on that is flawed. If one life is saved by a helmet then surely that’s good?

    The vast majority of RTA’s dont result in death or serious injuries, statistically if you are involved in a crash it will just be a fender bender with no injury to anyone. Should we stop wearing seatbelts? Stop building crumple zones or installing airbags? Seatbags and airbags can and have killed people involved in RTAs lets get rid of them then eh? No? Thought not because that’s just stupid, and so is not wearing helmet because a crash probably wont involve a head injury is idiotic.

  18. pgpetepete says:

    In the nineties I fell off my bike… luckily I was wearing a helmet. Although i got grazed up, I know the helmet saved me from a trip to the hospital. Since that time I am a helmet convert. I always wear one on the bike.

    My message is, that people that argue against helmet use have never fallen off a bike and hit their head on the road with appreciable force.

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