SOAPBOX: On the road to safer cycling
People cycle to work, to school, to get fit, for the challenge it provides – or simply because they love it.
Whatever the reason they have for getting on their bikes, more people are doing it and we need to make it safer.
After 30 years' involvement in the cycle industry and almost a lifetime as a rider, I have some ideas on reducing accidents.
Let's re-introduce the school cycle training and bike checks that used to happen five to eight years ago. These days kids have to enter Kiwi Weet-bix triathlons before they have their bikes and helmets officially checked. Only a few children compete in those.
Cycleways should be a top priority for national and local body governments. Having more bikes and less cars on the roads will help the environment and ease traffic congestion.
Drivers should re-sit a licence test every 10 years, ensuring they have kept up with changes to road rules and layouts.
Cyclists need to follow safe practices, too.
Regular maintenance is a key part of bike safety. Brakes and tyres need to be checked regularly. Parents owe it to their children to ensure their bikes are well maintained and serviced.
It's simply not cool to ride without a helmet. It is also illegal. Make sure yours fits properly and meets the appropriate safety standards.
Bright is beautiful. Wear reflective or fluoro clothing. Use lights at night and in times of poor visibility. A white headlight and a rear tail-light are essential.
Obey the rules and show courtesy. Cars are bigger and faster so ride in single file over bridges and around blind corners, and keep to the left as much as possible. Hand signals are a cyclist's indicators, so signal your intentions to other road-users.
Cars have a habit of appearing out of nowhere. Watch for vehicles at intersections and driveways and make eye contact to ensure that drivers have seen you.
Watch for pot-holes, uneven surfaces, and other hazards and be especially aware of parked cars' doors opening unexpectedly.
Scan the traffic
Be careful when checking traffic and looking over your shoulder. Find a quiet place to practice scanning the road in front and behind without swerving (this is not easy to do).
Give way to pedestrians.
Keep both hands ready to brake for best control.
Don't wear headphones when cycling. Music blocks out traffic noise and distracts you.
Cycling with others improves your motivation, bike knowledge and circle of friends. Ladies Only and Sunday Social rides in Blenheim cater for all levels. Phone 5780433 for further information.
The Marlborough Express