Yesterday, 22 September, cities across the world celebrated World Car-Free Day, an initiative that aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of mass car use. On this day, motorists are encouraged to ditch their cars for a day and use other alternatives like bikes and public transport. However, the reality of everyday life means that cyclists and drivers have to coexist on the roads. To ensure that this coexistence is as safe as possible, we’ve put together some advice to:
If you’re a cyclist
Although there are differences between riding a bike in the city and on intercity roads, there are some rules and/or recommendations that you have to follow on both types of these roads.
Keep your bike in good condition
Regularly check the condition and pressure of the wheels, the chain lubrication, the brakes and reflective and lighting elements.
Always obey traffic laws
When you ride your bike on a public road, you are another vehicle and must follow all traffic laws. This includes traffic lights, stop signs, give way, crossings, direction of the road, etc.
Always wear your helmet
Wearing an approved protective helmet is mandatory for drivers and occupants when travelling on intercity roads, with minor exceptions (going up long steep inclines, extreme heat or for valid medicals reasons).
Don’t think of your helmet as an obligation, but as a safety element that will protect you against impacts, which can be very serious even when riding in the city at a low speed. We at Help Flash recommend you wear a helmet indiscriminately as it’s essential to keeping you safe.
Signal your movements
This is particularly important as bicycles don’t have indicators. Signal all your manoeuvres with your arms to warn other drivers, especially right and left turns. To do this, stick out your arm well in advance, visibly and safely in the direction you’re going to turn.
The maximum alcohol rate allowed for drivers in general (0.5 g/l of alcohol in blood or alcohol in expired air greater than 0.25 milligrams per litre) also applies to cyclists, and you may even be asked to take a blood alcohol test or be breathalised.
No mobile phones or other devices
Remember that it is forbidden to ride your bike while wearing headphones connected to sound players or receivers, and while using your phone.
You can have passengers, but…
You can only have one passenger, in an approved child bike seat, if they are under seven years old and you are of legal age.
If you’re riding in a group…
Always ride in single file or parallel, two by two, and never in a cluster.
If you’re riding at night. Make sure you can be seen!
Your bicycle must be properly equipped with lights and reflectors by law so that other drivers can see you from 150 m away.
You must have a white light at the front and a red light in the rear as well as a non-triangular catadioptric of the same colour. You can also add auto-yellow catadioptrics on the wheels and two on each pedal for greater visibility, although this is optional.
As a rider you are also required to wear reflective clothing when using intercity roads.
If you’re riding in the city
In addition to the above rules, there are other specific regulations for riding in cities.
The first thing is that your bicycle must be equipped with, in addition to the equipment described above, a bell to warn other road users of your presence.
Wearing a helmet is only mandatory for those under 16 years of age in cities, although we advise all cyclists to wear one, regardless of their age.
Cyclists must use the separated cycle lane (if there is one) instead of the road, and should never ride on the pavement. Bikes have priority over other vehicles on cycle lanes.
If crossing a pedestrian crossing and there’s no cycle lane or specific path for cycles, you must get off your bike and cross on foot.
Finally, if there’s an obstacle on the road that you need to overtake, warn other road users in advance and leave a minimum separation distance of 1.5 m.Here’s an article by GOV.UK, available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code/rules-for-cyclists-59-to-82#:~:text=Cyclists%20are%20permitted%20to%20ride,be%20in%20spacious%20pedestrian%20environments to give you further information about riding your bike in the city.
If you’re a driver
Whether you’re a car, lorry or motorcycle driver, the first thing you need to bear in mind is that when you share a road with a cyclist, they are the vulnerable users, so it’s important you drive in a way that will avoid putting their and other drivers’ safety at risk.
While they may go slower, cyclists have the same right as you to use public roads. Only motorways are exclusively for automobiles, so you must see bicycles as another vehicle on the road, not as a hindrance.
Slow it down
As a general guideline, cut your speed and drive with caution when there are cyclists around
Keep a safe distance
Bicycles brake very effectively and the risks of rear-end accidents are high. This distance doesn’t need to be as wide as the one you’d leave between you and the car in front. About 10 metres should be enough when the cyclist or group of cyclists are travelling at 18 mph.
Overtake with caution
Always keep a minimum distance of 1.5 m from the side of the bike when you do this manoeuvre. You should also avoid overtaking other vehicles on two-lane roads, when there is a cyclist travelling in the opposite direction, even if they are on the hard shoulder.
Don’t honk your horn
This can startle the cyclist and make them fall.
Cyclists have priority…
On bike crossings and if there is a group of cyclists, if the first one started crossing or entered the roundabout.
If you’re driving in a city…
You may come cross shared lanes, which will be appropriately signposted. Always respect the speed limit, which is usually 18 mph. Likewise, don’t go into or park in cycle lanes.