Safe bicycle riding
Things to consider before setting out on your bicycle. Bike riders should be aware of risks of wet weather, drugs, alcohol and fatigue.
Plan the safest route
Before you set out, plan the route that provides the safest road conditions. The quickest route may not be the safest.
Maximise your use of off-road and on-road bicycle lanes, and roads that have low traffic volumes and speeds.
Check the weather
When you're riding a bicycle, the weather can affect your safety and those around you. If possible, get a forecast for the day ahead before cycling.
If you find yourself riding in poor conditions, keep the following advice in mind.
Riding in the rain
- Use your front and rear lights and wear a reflective vest to make yourself visible to other traffic when riding in dark, wet and slippery conditions.
- Try to stay upright and steer with your arms rather than leaning into corners with your hips.
- Take corners slower. Wet riding surfaces reduce traction between the tyres and the surface.
- Apply the back brake smoothly and prepare yourself well in advance before entering a corner. Using the front brake only in a sudden stop has the potential to send you over the handle bars.
- Avoid hazards such as potholes and storm water grates.
- If you're riding along a poorly drained road, avoid water channels by moving towards the centre of your lane – but remember to look over your shoulder and give a hand signal before doing so. Move back to the left of the lane once you have passed the hazard or when it is safe to do so.
- Wear bright waterproof clothing.
Drugs and alcohol
Riding a bicycle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and dangerous for you and those around you.
Drugs and/or alcohol can inhibit your ability to respond quickly and safely in a hazardous situation.
Prescription drugs can cause you to feel drowsy and may slow your reaction time. Medicines that may affect your ability to ride safely include:
- some painkillers
- some medicines for blood pressure, nausea, allergies, inflammation and fungal infections
- tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills
- some diet pills
- some cold and flu medicines.
You can reduce your risk by:
- reading the label of any medicine you take
- not cycling after taking any medication that warns of an effect
- not taking someone else's medication
- asking your doctor if in doubt.
Alcohol is a depressant that reduces your ability to cycle safely because it:
- slows the brain's function, and ability to respond to situation decisions or react quickly
- reduces your ability to judge the speed of other road users
- makes it harder to do more than one thing at a time
- affects your sense of balance and concentration
- makes you sleepy.
If you are going out drinking, arrange a lift home by taxi or a non-drinker. Leave your bike at home.
The safest blood alcohol concentration for any road user is zero.
Fatigue is a term used to describe the feeling of being 'sleepy', 'tired' or 'exhausted'.
It's your body's way of telling you that you need sleep. While many people think fatigue only affects drivers of cars and motorcycles, fatigue can also affect bicycle riders.
For bicycle riders, the problem with fatigue is that it severely reduces your concentration and judgement and slows down your reaction time.
Warning signs of fatigue
- poor concentration
- tired or sore eyes
- slow reaction
- feeling irritable.
If you are experiencing any of the warning signs, you may be suffering from fatigue. For safety, delay your bicycle ride until the symptoms disappear.
Useful tips for managing fatigue
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
- Avoid too much coffee or sweet soft drinks.
- Stay away from alcohol.
- Eat small amounts of simple foods frequently, such as fruit, nuts, a muesli bar or a small chocolate bar.
- Avoid fatty foods and large meals before or during a ride.
- In winter, don't make yourself too snug and warm - it's good to be a little cool.
Fatigue on the road
If you feel fatigue while you're out cycling, pull to a safe area on the side of the road and have a rest. If possible, discontinue your ride.