Biking Safety Tips
Cycling is a great way to exercise. It provides a great cardio workout and is considerably low impact compared to jogging and running. People with knee issues find it easier to cycle than to run. It is quite versatile too, as you do a steady state cardio workout, or even a high intensity interval training workout by cycling!
Recently there has been an upsurge in cyclists. This is a good thing because it means people are going out and exercising more. This must have been one of the after effects of the pandemic and the stay at home order.
Social media is littered with cycling posts and it has even caught the attention of the mainstream media, however, it is not always for a good reason. Many people are unclear about road biking etiquettes and are not being safe on the road. Simple things like not using hand signals to reckless and dangerous things like riding in the middle lane on a highway!
We have compiled some things that need to be addressed, based on personal experience as well as referring to other, well established cycling blogs.
Sharing the road with other vehicles
Unfortunately, Malaysia is not well equipped with cycling lanes which leaves us to cycle on the main roads. Some highways do have dedicated lanes for two (or three) wheelers, but it is shared with motorcyclists which can be quite hazardous as well.
As cyclists, we need to understand that we are sharing the road with other vehicles who are going at a much faster speed, which can be really dangerous for us. We cannot control the actions of the other drivers, but we can control how we ride and make it as safe as we can.
Be aware of your surroundings
Some cyclists tend to have their gaze fixed at one spot while cycling, sometimes even looking at the ground, especially when their back is parallel to the ground. This is understandable as it is more comfortable for the spine as it is in a neutral position, however, just like driving a car, we need to be aware of our surroundings and take notes of the vehicle to the front, to the back, and to the sides at all times. This allows us to predict their movements and be ready to respond accordingly to the different possible scenarios, just as you would when you’re driving.
Bicycles as vehicles should follow the same rules
In most countries, bicycles are considered as vehicles and should follow the same rules. This means you should ride with traffic, and obey the street signs and the traffic lights. We also need to remember that no matter how fast we think we are cycling, we are always slower than other motorised vehicles.
Practice and use your hand signals so that other vehicles can know your thoughts. Unlike a motorcycle, a bicycle does not come equipped with turn signals and brake lights. It is highly recommended to wear bright clothing during the day and reflective clothing during the night to be more visible on the road.
Be consistent on the road
Driving on the road involves a lot of predicting the movement of the other vehicles around you and a bicycle is no exception. Be consistent and make it easier for other drivers to predict your movements, and you will find it easier to stay safe. This means to ride in a straight line at a constant speed. Don’t swerve around and try not to slow down too much as a careless driver might not notice you slowing down and might hit you from behind. Be predictable because if you are unpredictable on the road, the chances of an accident is higher and as a cyclist, the result will be disastrous.
Use your gears for the hills!
Something that baffles me is when I am driving up a hill, and I see a cyclist tackling the hill while still in a high gear. This will make them swerve left to right because of the stronger force that is needed, pushing them off balance. This is dangerous and you would be better off pushing the bike up the hill instead.
Keep your cadence high, and downshift early. Shifting when you have already slowed down on the hill will be difficult due to the pedaling pressure. You might get stuck in a gear that is too high and may come to a dead stop, depending on the steepness of the hill.
If you are an experienced cyclist, please share your knowledge and look after the newbies. We need to remember that at some point, we were newbies ourselves. A little help goes a long way. Being nice and encouraging will make the newbies feel more comfortable and hopefully, they will pass on the goodness along the way.
Cycling in a group
There are quite a number of things to look out for when cycling in a group. It can be a whole article on its own. For an in-depth article about group riding tips, please refer to this link:
Road cycling is very fun and is a great way to exercise, but it comes with a lot of risk because of traffic and other road conditions. As with any other sport, we need to identify and assess the risks involved, and take the necessary steps to mitigate them. We can’t control how others drive around us, but we can do our best to stay safe and be courteous on the road.