Heading into Spring under Lockdown Level four comes with a silver lining. Quiet streets make this a great time to build up confidence on your bike and cycle on through the months ahead! Last week, we published Part 1 of this handy guide, which taught you how to check that your bike is ready to ride, and that you’ve got the skills to get out on the road.

This week we’ll share some safety tips to help you feel confident and keep you safe when you’re riding!

Get riding on the road: practise your moves!

Riding with traffic can feel a tad intimidating, so ‘where’ and ‘how’ are important. To keep safe and build up your confidence, start with a quiet street, away from main roads, and practise your skills. 

Ride as near to the left side of the road as you can. But keep things practical. To keep safe and stay visible, you need to master two different positions:

  • Keeping left (“Just Riding Along”). 
  • Riding further out into the centre of a lane (“Taking The Lane”).

Position one: Just riding along

This position’s great when the left side of the road is clear, you’ve got good visibility and you can ride in a steady straight line without weaving around parked vehicles and other obstacles. Ride your bike about half a metre from the left-hand curb.You’ll avoid things like debris, potholes and drains (and the gutter!), you’ll give yourself space to manoeuver if you need to, and you’ll stand out from pedestrians, trees and rubbish bins, making it easy for drivers to see you.

Three kids riding their bikes, keeping to the left, but not too far left!
Just riding along: Keeping to the left when the road ahead is clear, but not so far left that you’re in the gutter! Photo: Jo Clements

Position two: Taking the lane

This is a really important skill to master to ride safely in traffic – and a Level 4 lockdown is a great time to practise. Taking the lane means riding in the centre of the vehicle lane. This is the safest position if:

  • there’s a hazard on the left side of the road, like an intersection or vehicle pulling out of a driveway
  • you’re passing a parked vehicle, and need to avoid the “door zone” (always ride at least one metre away from parked vehicles!)
  • there’s a vehicle, or maybe a tree, blocking your sight lines further down the road
  • you want to turn right up ahead, and need to start pulling away from the left
  • it would be unsafe for a vehicle behind you to pass, and you need to ride defensively.

Look ahead as you ride – and think ahead. Move into the correct position before you come across any hazards.

View from rider's handle bars of them taking the centre of the traffic lane, making them more visible to a car ahead who is waiting to turn right.
Taking the Lane: By moving towards the centre of the traffic lane, this rider has made themselves visible to the car waiting to pull out from the intersection up ahead. They’re also staying clear of the door zone of parked vehicles, and preventing any following vehicles from passing too closely in the narrow road environment. It is much safer for the rider to be in this position than in the painted cycle lane on the road. Photo: Allen Taunt

Step one: Look back over your right shoulder and make sure you’re not moving directly into the path of a vehicle which is about to pass. You may need to signal your move, particularly if you’re leaving a cycle lane.

Step two: Move to the right – smoothly and continuously – until you’re in a safe spot. This will usually be the centre of the lane.

Step three: Take the lane for as long as you need to. Then move back to the left quickly, when it is safe to do so.

Unfortunately, some drivers don’t understand why people on bikes take the lane – and they can get frustrated. Remember:

  • The driver behind you is responsible for waiting until they can pass you safely
  • There’s no minimum speed limit
  • People on bikes have a right to use the road. 

Practise taking the lane as you pass parked vehicles or intersections. Consider how you’re moving out into the road and moving back to the just riding along position. How would other road users interpret your body language and movements?

If you’re still not quite sure, this video from British Cycling communicates road positions well.

Practise some intersections

Every situation on the road is different, so it’s a good idea to study the street layout in your local area and consider how you can move safely through different locations. If you’re riding with others or teaching children to ride, you may want to walk your bikes off the roadway beside an intersection and discuss how you’ll tackle it.

As a general rule, you should take the lane through the entire intersection. Only move to the just riding along position once you have completed this safely. This makes it easier for others to see you and prevents drivers from trying to pass you on the intersection.

The New Zealand Code for Cycling has good information on the different types of turns you may need to make across an intersection, and how to tackle them. 

Practise your route to the shops, school or work

If you’re comfortable riding a bike on the road, Level 4 is a great time to practise the route to your local shops, school or work (provided work’s not too far away). The AT Mobile App will direct people along quieter roads and protected routes if planning a journey by bike, or ask your local Bike Burb for advice on a particular area.

Practise in light traffic to build up your confidence. Keep riding. And go further when Lockdown lifts (which it will!)

Happy lockdown riding, Tāmaki Makaurau!

Photo of the front wheel of a bike, looking out over Tāmaki Makaurau from Maungawhau!
Photo: Alec Tang
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