If you’re like me and you’re striving to save the planet armed with your trusty steed of a city bike and conveniently green provisional driving licence, then you will be all too familiar with Manchester’s ruthlessly unforgiving roads, and fast and furious drivers.
And for those of you that make the daily pilgrimage from South Manchester, down the Curry Mile towards MMU, you will also be aware that the Mile is a sea of potential threats to the common cyclist. With the busy street dominated by great giants of busses, souped up 4x4s and other general run-of-the-mill traffic, it’s a minefield and even with the new cycle lanes, it’s well worth avoiding if you can.
This guide will teach you how to not get hit by cars, magic buses & other fossil-fuel-guzzling vehicles.
But firstly, my most valuable advice...
In my second year at MMU, I discovered a quiet and direct back route that goes down Yew Tree Road and the relationship between me and my bike, and our quality of life skyrocketed - treat yourself to stress-free moseys into uni and roll into your lectures feeling peaceful and at one with yourself. Find out more about Manchester cycle routes here.
This guide isn’t just about the basics of Bike safety…
But for a quick refresher:
- Protect your head - Wear a helmet.
- Stay visible - Invest in quality lights & reflective gear.
- Look, signal & look again - Use hand signals and let traffic and other cyclists know your movements.
- Stay alert - Be aware of obstacles in your path
- Go with the flow of the road - Ride on the left!
- Act like a car - The more predictably you ride, the safer you are
- Don’t get distracted - No phones, headphones or xylophones.
- Obey the laws of the traffic - Traffic lights, signs and bike lanes are there for a reason.
When you mount your bike, your most important goal is travelling and arriving safely at your destination but ultimately, not getting hit.
Many people seem to believe that wearing a helmet and fixing a good set of lights to your bike is the one and only rule to bike safety, and although extremely important, there is plenty you can do to prepare for certain scenarios and not get hit.
So, in my time behind the handlebars, these are the most common cases of cyclist related incidents that I have either experienced, witnessed or heard about through the grapevine and how to safely avoid them!
Knock, Knock, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Known well to the citizens of Chicago where statistically somebody is doored at least once a day, the ordeal has acquired the term ‘dooring’. While you are cycling, a driver opens their door in front of you… the consequences are disastrous
What to do:
- Stay alert when cycling alongside parked cars.
- Give yourself a bit of room alongside parked cars when possible.
- If the gap gets tight, slow right down.
- Look out for night-time revellers leaving the back-doors of taxis!
The Venus Bus Trap
Particularly bad on the route into uni, this is the cataclysmic event where cyclists find themselves sandwiched between two buses…
What to do:
- If a bus docked at a bus-stop has started indicating, slow down and allow it to disembark.
- Never undertake any traffic on the road - but never, ever a bus.
- Don’t attempt to hit those potentially tempting gaps between two busses.
The Cycle Lane Showdown
Although our cycle lanes are getting better and better in Manchester, they still have the potential to present cyclists with a number of hazards and dangers; whether it’s debris left in the lanes, parked cars or pedestrians crossing, you’ve got to keep your wits about you. The other day I saw a nasty crash between a pedestrian in the cycle lane and a cyclist, it wasn’t pretty...
So when riding in the cycle lane:
- Keep your eye glued to the path ahead, identifying any potential hazard
- Use a jovial bell to warn people of your presence
- If pedestrians are passing through the cycle lanes try to predict their movements
- Don't go too fast, cycle lanes may seem like a race course but sadly they’re not.
The Red Light Rodeo
You stop to the left of a car that's already waiting at a red light or stop sign. You’re in the blind spot and they can't see you. When the light turns green, you move forward, and then they take a turn, right into you…
What to do:
- Try to avoid stopping in the blind spot
- Act like a car and stop directly behind the car in front of you
- If you have the time, stop slightly in front of the car ahead of you
The Rear Ender
A car runs into you from behind. This is what many cyclists fear the most, but it's actually not very common, comprising only 3.8% of collisions. However, it's one of the hardest collisions to avoid, since you're not usually looking behind you...
What to do:
- Get a decent backlight and reflective jacket!
- Try not to swerve in and out between parked cars
- Try to make your movements predictable by acting like a car
* Think like a car. Not a T Rex on a bike.
Travel safe and enjoy being green!