Cycling tips: how to ride a bike safely in the city

Many more of us have taken to the roads on our bikes recently. But how do you stay safe, especially in the city?

Inspiration and lifestyle

17 August 2022

According to the Department for Transport, cycle traffic in 2020 increased 45.7% above 2019 levels - “the highest level of cycling on the public highway since the 1960s".

But how do you stay safe on the roads? Particularly in cities where the roads are crowded with heavy traffic. Here are our top tips:

Forget looking cool

Say hello to day-glo. Bright orange or yellow cycling vest and reflective strips may make you look like a children’s TV presenter, but it’s vital that drivers can see you. And always invest in decent lights for after dark. The more visible you are the better.

Be hyper aware

Sadly, many drivers have little understanding that cyclists are mere flesh and bones. Always take that into consideration, paying particular attention at road junctions, where according to cycling UK, three quarters of accidents occur.

Never use earphones

It goes without saying therefore, that you should never listen to music on earphones when you’re cycling, as you won’t hear what’s coming until it’s too late!

Keep your bike serviced

Don’t take your bike for granted. If a wheel slips off its mount or your brakes fail at the wrong time, you could be in a world of trouble. A quick visit to your friendly bike repair shop could save your skin. And a tune up can give you a much smoother, easier ride.

Know your limits

If you’re not confident our advice is to steer clear of busy roads. Pulling out to turn right with fast moving traffic alongside you is a challenge, even for experienced cyclists, as are major roundabouts. If in doubt, get off and walk your bike to a quieter stretch of road.

If you are a nervous cyclist stick to roads where there’s a 20 mph limit or a dedicated cycle lane. Even then you should remain vigilant, as often lanes are designed by town planners who haven’t been near a bike in years.

Be decisive

Make it clear what you intend to do with the appropriate hand signals and make eye contact with drivers when you can.

Women in cities tend to suffer more fatal accidents than men because they hug the kerb and don’t claim their space. Drivers need to know where you are and where you’re heading.

woman in a helmet is cycling in the city

Make sure your helmet fits properly

There’s no law to compel cyclists to wear a helmet in the UK, but it could protect you from serious head injury.

Make sure it fits well and strapped properly under the chin (not dangling loose as you’ll see on many riders). Also, once it’s had a shock - bin it. Once damaged it’s next to useless. And think about getting a new one after three years or so as normal wear and tear can affect its integrity.

Stay clear of heavy vehicles

Although heavy goods vehicles are involved in relatively few cyclist collisions, they are much more likely to prove fatal.

2% of recorded collisions between cars and cyclists result in the cyclist’s death, while the figure for HGV collisions is around 20%.

Never attempt to overtake a large vehicle on the near side.

But even if you do, exercise caution. An HGV can overtake you and leave you trapped on their left. If they subsequently decide to turn left without having seen you, you’re toast. So your best bet is to hang back, or be ready to get out of their way.

Many are equipped with cameras but they may not be top-of-the-range and they still have significant blind spots.

Invest in a video-cam

Unfortunately if you do come to blows with a vehicle, there’s a chance the driver will swear that it was your fault, or worse, flee the scene. If you have photo evidence it could make all the difference in an insurance claim.

For insurance purposes, when leaving your bike unattended, it’s also a good idea to take a picture of yourself with the bike, ideally with a lock visibly attached.

Insure your bike

AXA Home Insurance policies purchased from 22nd June 2022 automatically cover your bicycles worth up to £350 each (or up to a total claim amount of £1,500 for all bicycles). Cover is provided whilst at and away from the home. 

For an additional premium you can also specify bicycles worth more than £350 each you can specify bicycles on your policy at any time. 

To specify bicycles on an existing policy please visit your online account. For new customers, you can get a quote for home insurance including bicycle cover with AXA today.

For customers who purchased policies prior to 21st June 2022, you will need to have added bicycle cover to your policy to cover bicycles of any value. You can check your cover and add bicycle cover in your online account.