8 safe cycling tips for Londoners

Transport for London shares its advice

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Cycling in a major city like London can be beautiful and rewarding, but it also presents many challenges. There are millions of people travelling to and from work, with cars, bicycles, buses and heavy goods vehicles all crowding the streets. Staying safe is your priority as a cyclist, so Transport for London have sent us their top tips to keep your riding safely on the city streets.

The advice is based around the findings of the Construction Logistics and Cycle Safety (CLOCS) report which was published in 2013, and investigated how construction work in London affects cyclists. While it may be aimed at London cyclists, this advice is useful for most urban riders and most cyclists in general. CLOCS will be exhibiting at the London Bike Show later this week (11-14 February), see more info below.

We’ve got a 10% discount off advanced adult tickets to the London Bike Show – just enter the code ‘BR1620’ when registering at www.thelondonbikeshow.co.uk.

1. Be prepared before you set out

Cycle lanes often mean you can whizz past stationary traffic in the capital, though we’d always recommend keeping your wits about you. it is sometimes safer to take the lane rather than adhere strictly to the cycle lane. :

There are many things you can do before you even leave the house that will help make your cycling safer. This includes simple things like making sure you are familiar with your route, so you know how you’ll navigate the junctions and roundabouts you’ll encounter.

Using mobiles phones or headphones when cycling is a bad idea, as it can hamper your ability to sense the traffic around you and recognise approaching dangers.

If you’ve had a drink, don’t cycle, for the same reason you wouldn’t drink and drive. The alcohol will affect your mental processing and your physical ability to react. This is also true of illegal and some legal drugs.

It’s worth brushing up on the Highway Code, so you’re aware of what you and those around you can and can’t do on the roads.

2. Choose your route wisely

Is there a more rewarding way to see the city than by bike?: is there a more rewarding way to see the city than by bike?

There are designated cycle lanes and cycle-friendly routes across London, including the Cycle Superhighways. These are designed to help you get across the city more safely, so it’s worth utilising them when possible.

Related: How to stay safe on your ride to work

Lorries in London are a major danger on the roads, and it can be worth avoiding routes that have a lot of heavy goods traffic and taking quieter streets.

TFL has an online Cycle Journey Planner which can suggest tailor-made routes from A to B across the city for you. You can also order a free cycle guidebook which lists the Greenways, parks and canal paths you can use. These not only make your journey safer, but also more pleasant and it’s a great way to explore the greener side of the city.

3. Check your bike

Making sure your bike is in good working order is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your safety when cycling.

Give it a visual inspection, checking for any damage or wear to the components and frame. If your chain is dry, add some oil to get it running smoothly. Having brakes that work is essential, so make sure they’re doing their job, and that pads haven’t worn down too far.

Check your tyres are fully inflated; most tyres will have an optimum pressure range listed on the tyre wall. Soft tyres won’t just make for slow and inefficient riding, they can also negatively affect the handling of the bike.

If you use a helmet or bell, make sure they’re both fitted correctly and in good working order.

Finally, make sure you have a working white front light and red rear light attached, secure and visible.

Related: How to safety check a bike

4. Safety tips on the road

Large vehicles such as trucks and busses have blind spots in front, behind and to the side, which render you invisible to the driver if you enter them, so try and keep your distance where possible.

When turning and maneuvering, use the relevant hand signals beforehand to indicate what you plan to do to the traffic around you.

Junctions are always accident risk spots, so approach them carefully. Keep an eye out for traffic turning ahead of you, and in particular don’t undertake or pass vehicles waiting to turn or turning left on the left hand side. If you’re ahead of the traffic at traffic lights, try and make eye contact with the driver behind you to ensure he or she has seen you.

While it might be tempting to weave between parked cars, it’s a much better and safer approach to hold a straight line parallel to the stationary vehicles, ideally leaving enough space so that were someone to open a door, you wouldn’t be knocked off your bike.

Plus there’s some common-sense advice like only overtaking when you’re sure it’s safe to do so, not riding the wrong way down a one-way street, and not jumping red lights.

5. Get bright and stay visible

The clocs team will be at the london bike show with several hgv cabs to demonstrate the blind spots around the vehicles, and the new cab designs that aim to reduce them:

City streets are often busy, packed with moving shapes, bright lights, and in autumn and winter they can be dull and dark – especially in the mornings and evenings. Making yourself stand out against this visual assault and visible to other traffic will help improve your safety when riding, and is actually pretty easy to do.

Bright coloured or high-viz clothing during the day, and reflective material at night, will help, as will a bright, working white front and red rear light.

These latter two aren’t just a good idea, they’re a legal requirement and if you do venture out without them you’ll be liable for a £50 fine if you’re caught after dark.

The good news is with LED technology it’s possible to get good bright lights without breaking the bank.

Related: The best bike lights for road cycling

6. Get a HGV cab’s eye view

New HGV cabs are have been designed to improve the driver’s vision of the road around him or her, based partly on feedback from the CLOCS report, and you can get a taste of the HGV drivers experience at The London Bike Show. 

Both one of the newly designed cabs and and a standard HGV cab will be there, so you can experience exactly how much visibility the driver has in each case. If you’ve not been in one before, it’s an eye-opening experience.

7. Try some cycle training

If you feel daunted by the thought of cycling in London, don’t worry – help is at hand. Every London borough offers free or heavily subsidised training that will help build your confidence and give you the skills you need to navigate the city on two wheels.

They cover everything from choosing a route, how to signal, and the ideal way to position yourself in the road when approaching tricky junctions. They’re also perfect for riders of any age. Just search for ‘TFL Cycle Training’ online.

8. Avoid bike theft

Always carry a strong lock and remember to use it properly:

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to ensure your bike is still there when it comes to hometime. Unfortunately, bike theft is a very common crime in cities like London, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the chances of your bike being taken in the first chance, and increase the likelihood of getting it back it is stolen.

The first step is to register your bicycle on a system. London’s Metropolitan Police Service use Bike Register. Enter the make, model and distinguishing features of your bike, plus a few other details, and this will help retailers and the police verify the legitimate owner of any bikes that raise suspicion.

Lock your bike up in a well lit area, and lock it to something that is fixed in place and that the bike can’t just be lifted off. Ensure you lock through at least your back wheel and frame, and ideally both wheels and the frame. D-locks are one of the most popular and secure designs, though you may want to combine two different types of lock for added security.

Related: Buyers guide to bike locks

If you’re unlucky enough for your bike to get stolen, you should always report that theft to the police. These crimes often don’t get reported, but once on the record and added to the relevant database, you increase your chances of getting the bike back if the police recover it.

More info on the London Bike Show

There’ll be more than 300 bike brands exhibiting at the London Bike Show from Thursday 11 to Sunday 14 February at ExCel London, ranging from road cycling to mountain biking, commuting, BMX, cyclocross and more.

Adult tickets cost £15, with concession tickets at £9, and children under eight going free. A ticket gets you entry to three other events that are running simultaneously: the Triathlon Show  London, The Telegraph Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show, and the London International Dive Show (Saturday & Sunday only).


We’ve got a 10% discount off advanced adult tickets to the London Bike Show – just enter the code ‘BR1620’ when registering at www.thelondonbikeshow.co.uk.