Safely cycle like a pro with Sue’s top ten tips
Cycling is one of life’s great joys.
Nothing’s better than a ride along a coastal road as the sun reflects off the ocean waves.
Yet cycling is considered a dangerous sport.
But there’s nothing inherently dangerous about bike riding. It’s hazardous because we must share the roads with lots of moronic drivers and any collision will impact more on the cyclist than the motorist.
Birds, dogs, hills and bicycle malfunctions also contribute to cycling’s perilous reputation.
Here’s a list of common cycling dangers and how to stay safe if you encounter them.
1. Car door impacts
Many cyclists know the danger of cycling too close to parked cars. I learned my lesson while cycling along a busy London road. A woman pulled up, flung open her car door and sent me sprawling onto the concrete. Luckily, there was no traffic or I surely would have suffered more than cuts and bruises. The woman was probably more shocked than I was as I got back on my bike and cycled away.
So, always watch parked cars.
Every time I come close to a parked car I check to see if anyone is inside. If so I make sure I give myself enough room to get out of trouble quickly.
2. Collisions with stationary cars
Look where you’re going or you’ll collide with a stationary object. This happened to me when I had my head down, daydreaming, and went straight into a parked car. The bike flew into the air and I landed on the car’s boot. Apart from hurt pride I was uninjured but it could have been a lot worse.
3. Gutter squeeze
Sometimes, cars get awfully close and it’s tempting to ride in the gutter.
People die because they hit their legs on the side of the gutter and fall off their bike into oncoming traffic.
4. Car drivers who cut in front of your bike and turn
This is a common problem about which you can do nothing except curse and wave your fist.
‘On your bike bitch!’, was one of the more memorable lines screamed at me. Another was, “Can’t you afford a car?”
Ignore them. The jeerers are the idiots, not you.
6. Flat tyres
Like most women I have trouble trying to get a tube out of a bicycle wheel. Unless you have the strength of Hercules you will probably experience the same. Let someone else do it. If you don’t have a male around the house then take it to a bike shop. Life is too short to struggle with bike wheels.
I’ve been chased by several dogs while riding. The worst time was when I had a toddler in the back seat. I peddled like crazy as the dog tried to bite my ankles. Peddle away from bike-chasing dogs as fast as you can. It’s all you can do.
Like dogs, birds appear from nowhere. Magpies are a particular nuisance because they may attack your face. Keep your head down, make sure you wear sunglasses, and peddle. Oh, and make sure no stationary cars lie ahead: See Point 2.
9. Go slowly uphill
Unless you’re competing in the Tour De France and, let’s face it, who wants to go at breakneck speed up the French Alps, then you don’t need to exhaust yourself racing up hills. Take your time, otherwise you will overexert yourself and have to get off. Once you get off you won’t get back on again. It’s really difficult to start peddling uphill from a stationary position.
10. Go slowly downhill
You don’t need to hurtle down hills either. Things can jump out unexpectedly: see Points 7 and 8.
Cycling is a lot of fun. Don’t be put off by idiotic car drivers, rabid dogs and errant magpies.
The more of us who cycle the more chance we have of getting extra bike lanes and safe areas on which to ride.
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About the author
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.