Safety is a feeling – Tips for safe cycling

  • scroll down for my tips for safe cycling

How safe is Slovenia as a cycling country? It is an impossible question to answer. Is the increase of accidents with cyclists a safety issue or is it just due to the fact that every year more Slovenians start to ride a bike? The number of deadly accidents is so low (not surprising for a country with only two million people) that a single accident immediately makes a big impact in the statistics.

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Statistically Slovenia seems to be a safe cycling country. In 2015 15 cyclists died in traffic, the year before 11 cyclists lost their lives on Slovenian roads. From 2003 to 2014 the number of cyclists in traffic accidents increased by 13 per cent. In the same period also the number of cyclists increased, but nobody knows by how much. And that makes it difficult, if not impossible to make any objective judgment about road safety in Slovenia.

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Safety is not a number, safety is a feeling. Why do almost all Dutch ride their bike without helmet? Because they feel safe on the bike. They feel protected by a proper cycling infrastructure and motorists who know how to deal with cyclists on the road. Slovenians don’t feel protected. Many Slovenians wear a helmet on the bike. A repeating conversation: ,,Why don’t you ride a bike to work?’’
,,Well I would love to but it is too dangerous. There is no cycling path and there are so many cars on the road.’’
Having to share the road with cars is a red flag for many potential cyclists. It feels much unsafer than it is.

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The only real danger is us

How do I feel? I often feel unsafe on the bike. Not because of dangerous roads. There is no such thing as a dangerous road. The only real danger is us. Almost all accidents are the result of our mistakes and bad actions. They don’t just happen by coincidence.

During every bike ride I see cars driving too fast, I see drivers on the phone and I see drivers taking corners too wide or cutting them too short by which they end up on the opposite lane. Drivers often don’t leave enough room when overtaking cyclists and overtake traffic on the left lane when cyclists approach from the opposite direction. So far things always went well for me. Sometimes just by an inch. So I have been safe, but I haven’t been feeling safe.

I wish Slovenian police would do more to check traffic because the threat of a huge fine, unfortunately, is still a more effective way to make drivers drive better than the risk of an accident. But I don’t want to blame the police for the bad behaviour of drivers. Danger is not caused by the absence of police. Safety is only in jeopardy when drivers don’t take the proper care.

Maybe Slovenian drivers need to be re-educated. It seems that many of them don’t know what they are doing and are not aware of the danger they are putting others in. I wonder if drivers realize that their bad driving is life threatening for cyclists. If they want to risk their own lives okay, but why do they have to risk mine?

How to deal with a cyclist on the road?

You are in a car and you see a cyclist. What to do?

1. Consider that a cyclist has just as much right to be on the road as you. Just think of the cyclist as a slow car or tractor or maybe a motorbike.

2. Be patient with cyclists and don’t become nervous when you see one. If you overtake a cyclist wait for a safe place to do this.

3. When you overtake a cyclist go around him or her and leave at least a meter and half between you and the cyclist. Pretend you are overtaking a tractor in stead of a cyclist.

4. Reduce your speed when overtaking a cyclist.

5. Don’t overtake a cyclist, motorbike or car when there is a cyclist (or car or motor) coming from the opposite side. Overtaking cars often bring cyclists coming from the other direction in danger.

6. Always look over your shoulder when making a right turn, there can be a cyclist coming from behind.

How to ride your bike safely

1. Keep things in control. Don’t count on drivers to always stop for you, even when you have priority. Always be ready to react in time for cars making wrong moves.

2. Reduce your speed at crossings and watch out, even when you have priority.

3. Don’t be nervous. If you ride insecure you will make drivers more nervous too.

4. Ride at one third of your lane. Riding at the edge of the road makes you less visible at crossings and cars might try to pass you while staying in the same lane while there might not be enough room for it.

5. Work on your skills. If you know how to handle your bike, you will ride more secure and you can react quickly in dangerous situations.

6. When going for a ride avoid rush hour. Between 7 and 9 in the morning and 4 and 6 in the afternoon traffic is most dangerous.

7. Choose quiet roads. There are many small roads with hardly any traffic. Find these roads and ride here.

8. Wear a helmet. A helmet doesn’t make you any safer but it will protect you better in case you fall.

9. Be seen. Use lights and reflecting clothes in the dark, bright colours during cloudy days.

10. Maybe you ride a race bike but remember, when you are in normal traffic you are not in a race. Don’t ride constantly fast. The faster you ride, the slower you will react. The more tired you are, the more mistakes you will make. Only ride fast on places where it’s quiet and you can see traffic from far.

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