The dangerousness of the streets of our cities, the traffic, the speed and sometimes the carelessness of the drivers are in fact the main deterrents to the daily use of the bicycle , especially for cyclists who are not yet very experienced.
The fact that the severity of road accidents involving auto-bikes is directly proportional to the speed with which the motor vehicle impacts a cyclist, is not very comforting since it means that the rider is only responsible for his safety up to a certain point .
Although in fact every instrument and accessory of passive safety ( helmet , lights , jacket, etc …) is advisable and can do its part under certain circumstances, there is no protection that holds in front of a crash with a car traveling to speeds exceeding 30 km / h (this is why the EU, the World Health Organization and others recommend the introduction of the 30 km / h limit in the city).
Where the percentage of accidents to the detriment of cyclists in relation to the number of journeys made is very low (see Netherlands and Denmark), the merit is in fact the administrations that were able to create a urban context suitable for cycling and pedestrian, slowing down the speed of cars in the city center and separating the car-bike flow with appropriate cycle paths on medium-fast roads.
This brief handbook therefore proposes to present some precautions that the cyclist can take to pedal with a greater perception of safety ; advice that, in some circumstances, may prove useful and sometimes decisive.
Although at first glance one might think that pedaling “refugees” on the right side of the carriageway is safer, it’s not exactly that. On the other hand, it is necessary to leave at least one meter of distance between its own trajectory and the sidewalk (or guardrail) to preserve a right-hand maneuver to avoid cars coming up from behind in speed.
Motorists have in fact the bad habit of occupying all the space of the carriageway at their disposal: if you give them 3, 4, 5 meters of width to surpass them, they will take. Minimizing this distance means that overtaking is a conscious, studied, and not unconscious maneuver . A marching car that sees a cyclist on the roadway is more likely to slow down, dodge and make a “conscious” overtaking; if instead he sees it in the extreme of it it is more probable that he does not even modulate the speed thinking to have all the space available for the overtaking.
2) Cycling in groups
One of the “must” of cyclists’ safety is: the more you are pedaling, the safer you are . A group of cyclists is more visible and causes the cars to slow down more. For this, if you spot a cyclist on your way, join (instead of maybe setting up a race, we are not at the velodrome), keep company and ensure more security for another. Furthermore, those who use the bicycle every day are not uncommon to meet other daily cyclists on their journey. It could therefore be useful to make an appointment, to complete the journey between home and work or a part of it. It is also an excellent opportunity to keep company and get to know each other. It is on the basis of these considerations that the experiences of “bicibus” for bike to work and bike to school have spread in Europe but also in Italy.
3) Watch motorists
It is important, in traffic, to establish a visual contact with the drivers who proceed near you during the march : obviously this is only possible at moderate speeds, but it can be very useful. In fact, if you are well aware of the dangers that you can run from the collision with a car, the same is not true for those driving the motor vehicle, which often drives “inertia” without keeping the senses always alert.
4) Choose the routes
Often those who start to ride a bike recently tend to follow the same roads that traveled when he used a motor vehicle . There is nothing more wrong. One of the great advantages of using the bicycle is to be able to choose the route with much more flexibility than a car can and have available a much wider range of possible routes. Depending on your needs, try to plan your home-work itinerary (or for other purposes) on the basis of safety / pleasantness criteria. You will discover that, with the same or almost the same time, you can reach the destination by passing through less busy streets, or very narrow and winding and therefore where cars are slower or even, for example in the case of Rome (but not only), passing for the many parks and paths in the green scattered around the city.
5) Use the body
It can be very useful, in certain situations, to use the arms to “communicate” with the drivers . They see us, it is clear, but if they are in doubt whether to slow down or not, your gesture can be decisive in the decision they will make. In narrow streets, for example, when a motorist might think ” overtaking, not overtaking? “, A wave of your hand can convince him to wait and overtake later, with more space available. The arms are also very useful to signal the right or left turn. For all these reasons, it is advisable to ride without holding anything ; keep phones, snacks and various items in a jacket or handlebar pocket, frame or seat.
6) “Advanced houses”
By “advanced house” we mean a space, near a traffic light crossing, placed slightly forward (“advanced”, in fact) with respect to the position in which the cars await the green and then proceed. This is a measure in favor of cycling mobility successfully adopted in many European countries, while only in some cases isolated in some Italian cities.
However, if there are no advanced houses in your city at intersections located along your route, try to create your own personal . Place at least a couple of meters ahead of the cars at the traffic lights, get in full view: this will allow you to avoid breathing the exhaust fumes of cars, be visible and prevent the possibility that the cars themselves accelerate abruptly beyond the due when taking green.
7) Passive security
As mentioned at the beginning , although the speed of the cars is the main cause of the seriousness of the auto-bike accidents, there are some common accessories that can be very useful for your safety, to avoid a crash or at least to limit the damage. The helmet, up to speeds close to 30 km / h, can be decisive to protect from trauma to the head, so in the event of a crash with a car at low speed or in case you like to run and for some reason you go alone . The use of a helmet is not mandatory.
The use of the lights on the bike, front and back, is essential in the dark hours and still mandatory . In particular, the rear light is essential (to be seen from behind).
The reflective jacket is useful in the circumstances in which it is already made mandatory by law by the Highway Code , or in the gallery, before dawn and after sunset. Another useful accessory for passive safety is the rear-view mirror. Those who have never used it, can do without it, those who have tried it for an initial period will be able to confirm that they can no longer do without it.
8) Friendliness, always
The attitude of cyclists and pedestrians to be the most mistreated users of the road has led over time to the spread of some behavior decidedly on the edge between the bizarre and the education. One of these, for example, is to thank, when you are on foot or by bike, the cars that make us cross the crosswalks, which should be a sacrosanct right, obvious and out of every discussion. However, exchange gestures of cordiality with passers – a smile, a thank you with your hand, a nod with your head – on any medium you travel and also not necessarily due, helps to relate better with others, to instill serenity and mutual respect .