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How to Stay Safe And Visible On A Bicycle Commute

Updated on October 2, 2012
CyclingFitness profile image

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Make sure you stay safe during your bicycle commute
Make sure you stay safe during your bicycle commute | Source

A guide to bicycle safety for commuters

Whether you're riding during the light of day or dark of night, as a commuter cyclist it's imperative that you remain safe. Cycling is a great activity for both fitness and fun, However, without the right amount of care and attention it can be a very dangerous activity.

Below is a guide to staying safe on your bicycle commute

Always wear a helmet while commuting

In many areas of the world cycling helmets are now a legal requirement and it's recommendable to wear a helmet for any cycling activity that you do. It could prove to be invaluable in terms of your safety, whether offering protection from low tree branches or even more serious incidents.

Cycling Helmet Safety Standards

A key requirement for any cycling helmet is that it meats the relevant national safety standards. For the UK that standard is (BS EN 1078:1997) and this standard exceeds that of many other national standards (including US standards), making it a good marker to look for.

How often should you replace a cycling helmet?

To be effective at the job it does, it is recommended to replace a cycling helmet every 3 years. Over time the internal structure of a helmet can weaken and therefore cause greater risk of malfunction in an event of it's use during an accident.

Cycling helmet fit recommendations

Ideally your helmet should fit relatively snug whilst sitting squarely above your eyebrows. The straps should be relatively snug- you should be able to squeeze two fingers between the strap and your chin as a guide to it's snugness.

Making sure you can be seen while commuting during the daytime

Commuting during the daytime

Many cyclists mistakenly assume that people can see them during the daytime

If you're commuting during the daytime it's imperative that other path and road users can see you. You don't have adjourn yourself in head to toe fluorescent clothing to do this. The main consideration is to choose colours that get a driver or pedestrians attentions. Block colours like red and yellow provide great contrast without the need to resort to hideous fluorescent items.

Visibility can be limited during overcast conditions and particularly rain. In these situations during the daytime there is nothing wrong in considering the use of a flashing LED light to obtain the attention of motorists and pedestrians.

Safe bicycle commuter visibility at night

Many of us aren't lucky enough to do all of our commuting by bike during the daytime. Many commuters are put off by the additional risks of riding at night. However with the right emphasis on visibility you can do so in a safe manner.

Compulsory use of bicycle lights for riding at night

British Law states the following compulsory requirements

  1. A front white light with a stationary beam
  2. Rear red light with astationary beam
  3. Rear red reflector panel

Whilst the above are compulsory requirements any regular night time commuter cyclist will know that this is the bare minimum you should be using and when it comes to bicycle lights- More is safer.

A rear red LED 'blinkie' for maximum attention

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo bike tail light
Planet Bike Superflash Turbo bike tail light

This rear flashing LED light has a separate 1 watt ultra bright central flash bulb to really catch a drivers' attention for safe commuting


Using flashing LED lights to get drivers' attention

When you see many cyclists at night you often see the use of just flashing LED lights which aim to get a drivers attention. Unfortunately these flashing lights do not keep a drivers attention due to their flashing nature. The human brain struggles to maintain the depth of field of a flashing light and therefore cannot always determine exactly how far away a cyclist might be. For safe bicycle commuter visibility a rider must use a stationary beam rear light and then add 'blinkies' to catch driver's attention.

Basic road etiquette rules for commuter cyclist safety

Here are a few simple safety points to consider before your next bicycle commute.

  • Motorists and pedestrians can be unpredictable- try to anticipate what they might do.
  • Always look where you're going
  • Signal, check over your shoulder. Ensure it's safe BEFORE you start to turn
  • Try to ride 20-40 cm away from the curb and out of the gutter
  • Never run a red light

When you're out riding be aware that you're carrying the weight of the cycling world on your shoulders. If you ride like an idiot drivers assume that all cyclists are idiots.

For More on bicycling etiquette please visit Road Etiquette To Stay Safe On A Bicycle Commute Or Training Ride

Wishing you safe bicycle commuting

Liam (CyclingFitness@Hubpages)


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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Great tips, but in CA flashing head lights are against the law. My husband was stopped for having his flashing. They personally annoy me, but I love them for tail lights.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      6 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      These are great tips. Safety results from preparations and common sense. Unfortunately, many don't prepare and hlack common sense. Don't be shocked when you visit the Philippines and see cyclist weaving through a 4-lane road with vehicles passing by at 60 km/h. What's worse is that they do not have safety gear on, not even a helmet or safety pads. Now, add the dark night and rain, things can really get scary.


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