Reducing risks and staying safe

We all know cycling is a great low impact form of exercise, although we need to co-exist with many obstacles that are out to harm us, whether it be accidental or, heaven forbid, malicious.

With the sad passing of ultra-marathon cyclist, Mike Hall, recently, I can’t help but be reminded how important it is to take some responsibility for our own safety to help reduce the risks.  The risks are very real for riders of all levels, so I am hoping that when we ride, we can all initiate safer riding strategies.

There are many safety items that we definitely should have each time we ride a bicycle.  Things such as helmets and shoes, in my opinion, should be mandatory.  I can hear most people now saying that’s a given, but I do see many people in holiday mode, or maybe just apathetic, not wearing helmets and riding in pluggers (thongs/flip flops).  Apparently there is an argument by some for no helmets, but I am afraid I can’t see it as I have personally experienced the tragedy of a friend with a serious head injury.  In regards to thongs, I believe you have more control of the bike with shoes.  People apathetic to wearing shoes may not be likely to increase the risk of road bike fatalities which the lack of helmets might induce, but they can incur injuries that could be easily avoided.

Most of us are consistently riding or training, be it on any road, any time of day or in any weather.  Further thought into our cycling journey needs to occur, allowing for time of day, distance, course and location.  When riding even close to bad visibility conditions, use a bright flashing rear light and maybe even a white front flasher.  It is quite difficult to see the dim incandescent style lights when driving whilst the car windows are fogged up and it’s teeming with rain.  It is even hard to see sometimes when driving into the sun late in the afternoon.  We as cyclists need to consider how hard it is for a vehicle to see us in poor conditions, as well as whether they can safely get past us.  Common road courtesy, I call it, from all users.  We should even consider the route we take.  Sometimes a different route will not work out, but if there is a chance to train or ride in a location that is a little more cyclist-friendly, then why not?  My example of this is a road that I used to cycle between Samford and Dayboro in Brisbane’s North West.  It used to have minimal traffic but now is quite busy, with no shoulder in a lot of places and frequently utilised by tradies’ utes and trucks.  I tend to avoid it now after having a few scares, using my risk adverse strategy, as it is also a 80-100kmh zone, so an accidental collision with a car at that speed greatly increases the risk of serious, if not fatal, injuries.  I also dislike riding two abreast along shoulderless single lane roads.  Whilte it is actually legal, I really cringe at the thought of a two tonne object hitting me from behind with a substantial speed difference, so even if the car is trying to pass cyclists safely, the smallest misjudgement there could be lethal for the cyclist.

Thus, out of all of this, I tend to mountain bike more often where the trees don’t jump out in front and all the risk is controlled by me.  I do train on the road, however, but recently I have been picking relatively quiet roads or bike paths; I rarely, if ever, ride dual file, and reconsider the roads if the weather is poor.  I tend to ride an indoor trainer in poor weather, because it might be less exciting at times but I know I’m still home safe at the end of the day.  A final consideration is how tired you are from your training.  This may inadvertently cause a little bit of weaving/wobbling, encroaching road lanes towards the end of your ride.

Here are my risk reducing tips:

  1. Wear appropriate safety apparel (helmet and shoes)
  2. Be seen (bright flashing lights)
  3. Ride on cycle paths/lanes or roads with large shoulders
  4. Limit riding on roads with no shoulders
  5. Limit riding in poor visibility conditions
  6. Recognise fatigue

Most of this may seem like common sense, but we all see dangerous situations each ride. Please consider risk reduction and ride safe.

Mark Brockwell – Masters MTBer

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