Cycling safety advice

Whether it’s for work, school, or pleasure, cycling has many benefits. It’s convenient, environmentally friendly and can help you keep fit.

How to cycle safely

  • Look behind you before you turn, overtake or stop.
  • Use arm signals before you turn right or left.
  • Obey traffic lights and road signs.
  • Don’t ride on the pavement unless there's a sign saying that you can.
  • On busy or narrow roads, don’t cycle next to another person.
  • When overtaking parked cars, watch out for car doors opening suddenly and allow room to pass safely.
  • Don’t use headphones while cycling.
  • Never use a mobile phone while cycling.

Cycling has become more popular in recent years, especially on the back of the success of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics. With millions of people now choosing to cycle, safety is an increasingly important issue.

The Bikeability scheme is designed to help children and parents ride confidently and safely on today’s busy roads. It is the current equivalent of a cycling proficiency scheme.

Tips on cycling safely

While the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks, the following tips will help you to stay safe on the road:

Be visible to other road users

Make sure you’re visible to other road users and pedestrians. Wear bright or fluorescent clothing in daylight or poor light, and reflective clothing at night. Always use lights after dark, in the rain or if the weather is overcast.

Don’t cycle too close to the kerb

Give yourself space on the left and don't feel you have to cycle close to the kerb if a car behind you gets impatient. By moving further into the road you’ll avoid most drain covers and roadside debris. You’ll also help drivers think more carefully about when it’s safe to pass you. 

Protect yourself with a helmet

Always wear a helmet as this reduces the risk of head injury if you’re in an accident. To be effective, the helmet must be level on the head, with the pads inside touching all the way around and the strap comfortably snug.

Make eye contact with drivers

Always be aware of who is around you. Make eye contact with drivers and let them know you’ve seen them. This will tell you if the driver has seen you or not, which is especially helpful before you make a manoeuvre.

Make your intentions clear to other road users

Show drivers what you plan to do in plenty of time and when it’s safe to do so. Always look and signal before you start, stop or turn. Looking over your shoulder while indicating with one hand can be tricky at first, so practise this first when you're not on the road.

Cycling etiquette

  • Don't weave in and out of traffic or change direction suddenly without signalling.
  • Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings (dual cycle and pedestrian crossings) unless it's unsafe to do so at the time. It's not compulsory to use these, and whether you do so will depend on your experience and skills. But they can make your journey safer.
  • Give pedestrians priority at all times. Some may be partially sighted or deaf and may not be aware of your presence.
  • Use your bell to inform other road users of your presence. Fit a bell or horn if your bicycle is not fitted with one.

Legal issues for cyclists

It's against the law for cyclists to:

  • Cycle through red lights, including lights at pedestrian crossings. 
  • Cycle on pavements, unless there's a sign showing that the pavement has been converted to a cycle path.
  • Cycle the wrong way up a one-way street, unless there's a sign showing that cyclists can do so.
  • Ride across pedestrian crossings, unless it's a toucan crossing with a sign saying that cyclists can do so.

New to cycling? Get practical advice on getting started.

Page last reviewed: 09/04/2013

Next review due: 09/04/2015

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