In 2017, there were over 170k road casualties and 1,793 fatalities in the UK 1. Whilst car occupants accounted for the greatest number of casualties and fatalities, motorbikes (19%) and bicycles (6%) made up a quarter of accidents 2, demonstrating the need for greater awareness of bike users. When drivers expect to be, or are used to encountering bike users, they take greater care. Just look at countries such as the Netherlands where cycling is commonplace; 78% of Amsterdammers own a bike, and with the country being among the top five countries in terms of traffic safety, cycling is considered safe.3
To mark Road Safety Week (19-25th September), we’ve compiled some tips to help drive better awareness of all road users, with some simple ways to help reduce the likelihood of an accident
How many times do you do something on autopilot and then regret not thinking before you did it? Getting out the car is the same. Whilst many of us absentmindedly open the door to get out of the car, checking over your shoulder could make all the difference for a cyclist. Objects can appear in the road in a flash, so take your time to assess whether it’s safe. The Dutch Reach technique is best for achieving this, and is a method of opening a car door with the hand furthest from the handle. This means motorists must turn their body towards the door, giving them the opportunity to look over their shoulder to see whether a cyclist – or motorcyclist – is coming.
As a driver, travelling behind a cyclist going considerably slower can be frustrating. However, don’t take unnecessary overtaking risks as it could hurt not only the cyclist, but other road users too. Remember to leave at least 150 cm (the equivalent of two large strides) between you and the cyclist, so you’ll need a clear road ahead as to accommodate this you’ll likely venture onto the other side of the road.
45% of all cyclist deaths occur at or near junctions 4. Therefore, when you’re edging out and looking both ways, make sure you’re really looking, as it can be easy to not see a cyclist coming up on your inside. The same goes for motorbikes too. Even when traffic is stationary, bikes can still weave in and out of the traffic, so take nothing for granted and remember to take your time as you pull out.
One of the most important rules of the road is to be prepared for anything – which you can’t do if you’re tailgating the car or bike in front. Remember to hold back and give yourself the space to react if you need to, so working on the two second rule (or ideally more) will help give you this time and avoid any potential accidents. If it’s raining or conditions are hazardous, extend the space in front to give yourself and your car even more time to react
If you’ve had a close shave on the road, it can affect not only your concentration but also your ability to control your car. Shock or anger can trigger physical responses such as shaking. If you feel a reaction such as this, pull over and take a minute to regain composure. We don’t make rational decisions when we’re riled, so don’t jeopardise others’ safety due to distractions.
For more information on Road Safety Week and Brake’s ‘Bike Smart’ Campaign visit http://roadsafetyweek.org.uk/
Sources and further reading:
 Department for Transport, Reported road casualties Great Britain 2017 https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/744078/infographic-2017-annual-report.pdf