Cycling in London is no mean feat. It's a city 9.8 million people call home and 2.6 million people have registered a car in. However, don't let that worry you, cycling in the capital is getting safer every day. Between a rapidly expanding cycle network – TfL is set to add 450km new Cycleways by 2024 – redesigned roads and new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), there's never been a better time to grab a bike helmet and get on the road.
Here are seven cycling tips to make you feel confident and safe cycling in London. Scroll on for your need to knows.
1. Refresh your Highway Code knowledge
We all get, er, rusty on the rules of the road. Especially if we've been away from the city cycle game for a while or are just getting started. Fortunately, all the info you need is available online – including the Highway Code rules and regulations for cyclists. Re-familiarise yourself with who and what goes where when and you'll be set for success.
'No matter how good your levels of cycling proficiency are, cycling in London requires all riders to be extra vigilant,' says Jonathan White, Legal and Compliance Director of National Accident Helpline.
'You need to keep your wits about you, have a good understanding of the Highway Code and, wherever possible, familiarise yourself with the route you plan to take – understanding that this can be a somewhat tricky task given the number of roadworks and/or closures that occur.'
Oh and you know one thing that's in the Highway Code? No jumping reds.
London has an incredible network of cycle lanes and cycleways that span the entire city. Taking a moment to check out where they start and stop and planning your route accordingly before you set off can make sure the route is suitable for beginners and help you to avoid traffic.
'Transport for London (TfL) has carved out huge new cycling corridors through the capital’s centre, turning streets previously dominated by cars into fully segregated cycle lanes connecting major destinations,' describes White.
'By the end of 2020, around 90km of cycle lanes in London had either been updated or created with plans for more construction in this area are set to continue. This means it's becoming safer than ever for all cyclists – some of the most vulnerable road users – to make their way safely around the city.'
That said, one thing keen London cyclist and WH Acting Digital Editor Ces Menato would also say, is: "Remember you have as much right to be on the road as a car. Don't let impatient taxi drivers scare you into locking up your bike for good. If you're following the rules of the road, are paying attention and are well visible you should be fine."
Yes, visibility. That's brings us to our next point.
3. Invest in some kit
Staying safe on the road is our number one concern when it comes to cycling in London. With this in mind, there are some legal requirements for what you need if you're cycling in the city.
'It’s illegal to cycle in the dark without a white front light, red backlight and red reflector at the back,' says White. 'This is the minimum, legal requirement for lighting, which is why we [the National Accident Helpline] urge cyclists to invest in more bike lights and make sure they’re fitted where they can easily be seen. It’s also a good idea to carry spare batteries, and backup lights if possible – just in case they run out when cycling.'
4. Dress appropriately
If you've already got some cycling shorts in your gym kit drawer or are looking to invest in some cycle-ready threads, now's the time to do so.
'It depends on what you’re doing or where you're going but bright clothing is a must for all journeys to help you stand out on the road, and a bike helmet is definitely advisable,' says Read.
Be safe, be seen kids!
'Shorter journeys you can cycle in pretty much anything, but for longer rides, padded shorts, articulated jackets and riding trousers go a long way in adding comfort. Wet weather riding it is well worth investing in a decent waterproof cycling jacket. Most cyclists lean forward when riding but cycling jackets feature a drop tail for extra protection for spray off the road and help keep you cool and dry with technical materials.'
'If you fancy picking up the pace and putting in the miles, it’s time to try on some Lycra, there are plenty of tasteful designs and complimentary garments out there, so you won’t necessarily look like you’re ready for the Tour De France on your commute to work!'
5. Skip the headphones
Yes, people cycle with headphones in all the time but our advice would be to save the tunes for a non-road based workout. Keeping an awareness of what's going on around you is far more important when cycling in London.
'Headphones can be a big distraction, they reduce your awareness of traffic around you and reduce your ability to react to other road users,' says Read. 'I wouldn’t recommend taking calls on the fly, either. Much like in a car, get off the road or trail and take calls where you can focus properly.'
6. Think about buying bike insurance
Occasionally things happen during a cycle. It's a fact. Sometimes they're avoidable mistakes, sometimes they're not. Sometimes you're at fault, sometimes you're not. Plumping for insurance can protect you when these events occur.
'As a beginner rider, it’s definitely a good idea to get your bike insured, to cover both yourself and your bike,' advises Read.
'I’d recommend opting for a plan that covers third party liability cover. This means that if you crash into a car or a person and you’re at fault, you'll be covered for any related costs for repairs to vehicles, signs, people.'
7. Pay attention to pedestrians as well as vehicles
It sounds obvious but in a city with frequent traffic jams it's not uncommon for pedestrians to step out into the road without checking for bikes.
Whatever the London cycle route, in congested areas especially, it's crucial to be aware of people who may dart out into the road. Collisions are easily avoided if you don't cycle too quickly and of course, you always stop at crossings.
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