Defensive Riding: Bike riding is statistically a very safe activity – but you are vulnerable! Taking an active safety approach is the first ‘line of defence’ in maximising your own security on the road:
- against physical hazards – potholes, rubbish, glass, roadworks, poor road or bikeway design etc and…
- the dangerous driving of others.
Why an ‘active’ approach? Because safe bicycle use starts with the rider! We are responsible for the interactions we undertake with other road users. We really do need to look out for our own safety all the time! We recommend that all new commuting cyclists in particular:
- know the Road Rules – especially the new Cycling Laws.
- become familiar with ‘Cycle Instead: A Guide for New & Rusty Riders’
- try to do one of MAC/BicycleSA’s ‘Be Safe, Be Seen’ cycling safety courses or undertake similar ‘safe cycling’ training
- ride with a ‘commuting buddy’ to help learn your route.
The reality is that – unlike motorists – bicycle users are not enclosed in a tin box providing some collision protection. Bicycle users are quite vulnerable to the careless behaviour of other road users. Police can’t be everywhere all of the time to monitor such behaviour. So ride alert & ride defensively!
Defensive Riding is… Very much about taking as much personal responsibility as you can for your own safety & for the safety of others. Bicycle use is very ‘public’ – everyone can see what you are doing & the decisions you are making. An active approach to bicycle safety is a great opportunity to ‘model’ the responsible behaviour we want to see in others:
- know & observe the road rules – both the general ones and those that apply to bicycle use
ring your bell when approaching & passing others, especially when approaching & passing pedestrians on the bike path!
- look around & stay alert at all time – a mirror is strongly recommended!
- stay visible in left & right turn situations – position yourself ahead of waiting traffic or take the footpath if necessary when approaching difficult turning situations.
- be conscious of your position on the road, particularly around heavy vehicles & trucks
- be considerate & responsible on the footpath – if you are on your bike, the law makes it clear that you are responsible for the safety of the pedestrians around you. Maintain bikeway etiquette, be considerate & know the rules for approaching & passing pedestrians.
- use a Greenway or bike path if you are not confident on the road and if one is available
- don’t ignore red lights or stop signs
- use your lights day & night. The law requires you to use bright red & white lights at night & you are encouraged to wear brightly coloured & reflective clothing too. However about 60% of car/bike collisions occur from the front (the classic ‘turning across’ collision) and during daylight hours! So we encourage your use of a bright flashing white light at the front of your bike during daylight hours too!
The New Footpath Cycling Rules… “Cyclists of all ages are allowed to ride on footpaths. Footpaths provide a safe and sometimes more direct alternative for cyclists. When riding on a footpath or shared path, a cyclist must:
- Keep to the left unless it is impracticable to do so
- Give way to any pedestrian on the footpath or shared path
- Give a warning (by bell, horn or other means) to pedestrians or others using the footpath, if it is necessary to avert danger.
It is still an offence for a cyclist to ride where a sign prohibits bicycle riding on footpaths which are considered unsuitable for shared use.”
The PortBUG suggests… There are a number of very good reasons why we might take advantage of SA’s footpath riding laws. However we suggest only riding on the footpath when you feel it may enhance your own safety. This will always be a subjective decision based on judgement and past experience – as it indeed should be! We are just suggesting that you always balance your right to use the footpath with consideration for other users. Remember – you can also walk you bike those last few metres to the coffee shop, or get off and walk your bike if the footpath is narrow or congested.