Top 10 Ways to Greater Cyle Safety

Top 10 Ways to Greater Cyle Safety

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Cycling in Auckland is safer than many people think. But for a novice it can certainly still be a bit intimidating at times. So what can we suggest to make the ride safer? In no absolutely exhaustive or authorative order, we offer these suggestions for your cyclistic consideration:

  • 10 – Be visible: As winter comes, you shouldn’t be Bike Ninja – “the one who shall not be seen (until it is too late)“. If high-viz vests aren’t your style, buy a stylish white or light gray jacket. Or light up your bike with some fluro striping and reflectors, instead of wearing special clothes – that way, the high-viz will always be along when you go on a ride. And of course, a flashing red light should be part of your kit too – at least during winter times.
  • 09 – Be sober: If even the idea of “riding under the influence” offends you, congratulate yourself: You have just greatly lowered your safety risk. A significant minority of cycle fatalities involve the cyclist being drunk (of course the much greater risk is usually caused by drunk motorists – but hey, we are talking about what you can do to lower your risk).
  • 08 – Use maps: Especially if you are just starting out on your future regular route, or going somewhere you haven’t been before. The maps from Auckland Transport have been developed together with Cycle Action, and give you some good hints where the safer routes are in your area. The maps are progressively being overhauled at the moment – after updating the Central Area map, CAA is currently working for AT on several more of them.

  • 07 – Obey that red light (and encourage others to do so): It’s a sad fact that a substantial minority of our cyclists consider red lights to be optional guidance, not mandatory stops. That not only increases their risk massively, but also endangers you. Even sympathetic motorists care a lot less for the fate of “those cyclists” after seeing someone scream through an intersection from a random stopped direction, or when they just saw a cyclist flash through a crowded pedestrian crossing. Plus, every meeting in which CAA first has to spend time to defend cyclists from the accusation of being a bunch of selfish anarchists could instead be spent on things like getting you another cycle lane. So if you see someone run a red light – tell them it’s not on! […okay, rant over for now…].
  • 06 – Check your bike: Bicycles don’t have mandatory WOF’s, but you don’t need to be like my workmate – whose locked-up derailleur caused him to skid all over Tamaki Drive (thankfully no permanent harm done) – to get the idea that well-maintained bikes are safer. Super-obvious fact: You should have TWO working brakes (your shoes don’t count as one set, sorry, fixie riders). You can go to a bike shop to get your bike checked (at the very least once it starts exhibiting strange noises…) or learn how to do it yourself with folks like Tumeke Cycle Space.
  • 05 – Claim the lane (where you need to): This one’s a bit more difficult, especially for novices, and part of CAA’s mission is to get more cycle lanes and off-road paths built so you dont have to ride in the middle of the traffic lane, just to be safe through a bad section. Yes, it may feel scary to ride at 20km/h in front of that SUV driver who likes to go 60 km/h on a residential street. But in narrow streets, and at roundabouts, sticking to the kerb or door zones is likely to be even riskier. If you don’t feel like you can claim the lane, consider waiting until traffic has passed, or push your bike on the footpath for a while. Not a nice compromise, but don’t let yourself be pushed into the danger zone either way.
  • 04 – Mind that door: Always be on the alert for car doors opening, especially if you aren’t claiming the lane (see Top 05 above) or otherwise riding with enough space to parked cars. Particularly when you are riding on the inside of congested traffic, between it and parked cars. Just take it slow – chances are that you’re still going to be three times as fast as those motorists stalled at the lights…
  • 03 – Report it: Cyclists are increasingly reporting maintenance and safety issues to Auckland Transport – and getting them fixed. The squeaky wheel gets the oil – and it shows AT that more and more people care about this! Be polite, be clear (a good photo helps) – and don’t be afraid to follow up (by email or phone) after a reasonable interval for them to look at the problem. Typical things you might report: Sunken drains or potholes, traffic islands / parking spaces that create dangerous pinch points, badly maintained cycle lanes, or grit / glass on the road.
  • 02 – Give a wave: To that driver who patiently waited to turn until you went past. Give a friendly nod to the guy sitting in the queue in his car next to you. Report a bus driver for courteous behaviour when overtaking you (he’s going to remember that next time he overtakes a cyclist – because nobody ever bothers to comment on good behaviour). In short – good behaviour is contagious (and can be learned) – as was so well said in a recent Weekend Herald article.
  • 01 – Get someone else on a bike: There’s no better, quicker way to improve cycle safety than more cyclists. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg matter, but experience has shown that as cycling numbers rise, cycling crashes (per person) drop. The results are particularly dramatic where we are right now in Auckland – the simple way to explain the Copenhagenize graphic at the right is that if we all double the 1% cycling in Auckland to just 2%, your crash risk drops to less than half of what it was. Thankfully, that growth is already happening in Auckland.

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