A Guide to Urban Cycling

Urban cycling is growing fast and bikes are becoming more and more integrated into city traffic. Here, we are going to give some tips to maximise your safety.

Riese and Müller Homage Riese and Müller Homage urban bike

The Benefits of Using a Bike in the City

There are several important advantages to cyling in the city, whether it is for personal, social or collective interests:

  • No pollution, apart from walking, cycling is the most environmentally friendly means of transport.
  • It isthe most economical means of transport, both in terms of cost and subsequent maintenance and the option of renting bikes is becoming increasingly popular in cities.
  • It ishealthy, as it is excellent cardiovascular exercise, with all the benefits this entails.
  • It isthe fastest means of transport for short distances in city centres, but, over all, it is the most fun, as we will see in this video of a car vs bike race in Madrid.:

In order to enjoy all these benefits safely, it is important to have the proper gear, respect road regulations and take certain precautions, as the bicycle is the most vulnerable vehicle on the road. Let’s look at the gear more closely:

The Bike and Accessories

You can use the same bike for city rides as you use for leisure or sport, but specific city bikes offer interesting advantages over MTB and road bikes. Folding bikes, for example, are perfect if you need to combine cycling with another form of transport on part of your commute or if you have problems of space. Ebikes make pedalling easier, so they attract a wider range of riders. If you would like to read more on the different kinds of city bikes, you can read our article on How to choose an urban bike.

Bici Mammoth

Whichever bike you choose, there are several safety-related accessories that are either compulsory or highly recommended:

  • Lights and reflectors which we will see in the next section on visibility.
  • Braking system.
  • Bell, always compulsory on all roads, according to current regulations. But it is especially useful for alerting pedestrians to your presence, on city streets.
  • Rear-view mirror, highly recommended for greater control of surrounding traffic.
  • Cycling helmet, is not a legal requirement, but it is highly recommended and considerably increases your safety in the event of a fall or accident.

A basic tool kit with items for fixing a puncture is also advisable, as with any other cycling activity.

Bags or panniers are very useful for transporting items such as your laptop, documents, tools, locks, shopping, etc... It is always better to carry items on the bike, rather than on your body in a backpack or bag. Mudguards are an essential accessory for riding in wet weather and when wearing street clothes.

Make Yourself Highly Visible

To avoid accidents, start by making sure you are visible to other road users. To achieve this, equip yourself and your bike with lights, reflectors and high visibility elements correctly so that you at least comply with the legal regulations of your country.

According to the UK Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR), it’s illegal to cycle on a public road between sunset and sunrise without lights. Rule 60 of the Highway Code also states that your bike MUST be fitted with a:

  • White front light
  • Red rear light. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.
  • Red rear reflector (not triangular) and amber pedal reflectors
  • Reflective clothing when riding on roads. This is not compulsory, but it is highly recommended. It does not have to be a vest or jacket, but this is the most recommended garment when sharing the road with other vehicles.

White reflectors on the front of the bike and spokes are also highly recommended..

We advice cyclists to use lights on all journeys, day and night, and increase visibility by wearing light-coloured clothing and accessories, such as helmets and shoes.

You can find more information in this video on visibility when cycling:

We go into more detail on lighting, in our article on how to choose bicycle lights, and in the video below:

Protect your Bike

If you have to leave your bike parked outside, it is essential to choose a suitable anti-theft system based on how much you value your bike and how often it is exposed to possible theft. There are no totally foolproof systems, but the harder it is to unlock a bike, the less likely it will be stolen. Breaching a high security lock requires sophisticated methods and time to manipulate, which is enough to discourage most bike thieves.

Locking a bike How to lock a bike securely

10 Tips on Commuting Safely

Except in a few pioneering cities, most European countries still have a long way to go to fully integrate bicycles into urban traffic, but they are gradually gaining progress. Infrastructures have increased and road safety rules and regulations are gradually being adapted to offer cyclists greater protection. All this has made it possible for bicycles to become a viable alternative for urban mobility and for their use to be as safe as other means of transport, providing the safety measures below are followed.

1. Respect Road Regulations

The bicycle is a type of vehicle and cyclists must therefore comply with all traffic regulations in order to stay safe and be respected by other drivers. Cyclists are also subject to the same restrictions, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Let's look at the most frequent offences in urban environments:

  • Not stopping at traffic lights. Bicycles must respect traffic lights, like all other vehicles, unless there are exceptions, such as specific traffic lights for cyclists. Check if there are specific regulations in your area to see if there is anything in this regard. If not, you should follow the general regulations.
  • Cycling on pavements and in pedestrian areas, when it is forbidden for all vehicles. However, shared pavements are an exception, but pedestrians always have priority and this should be respected, as should the 1 metre safety distance.
  • Cycling across a zebra, pelican, puffin or equestrian crossings is not permitted and in these cases the cyclist has to cross on foot. However, cyclists can ride across toucan crossings, which are push-button, light-controlled, cycle track crossings.
  • Using headphones, mobile phones or other electronic devices is illegal in many EU countries, but not yet in the UK. However, cyclists can be prosecuted according to rule 68 of the Highway Code, which says you Must Not ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner.
Brompton Electric Brompton Electric

2. When possible, Use Bicycle Lanes or Pavements.

Cycling lanes can often be impractical, especially for road bikes, or unsafe if they are also used by pedestrians. For this reason, it is not compulsory to use cycle lanes, but cyclists are advised to use them where they make your journey easier and safer.

3. Drive in the Centre of the Road Lane.

Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible. There are two main reasons for riding in the centre:

  • Riding next to the kerb may encourage cars to overtake without respecting the minimum 0.5m safety distance, which is often physically impossible on city roads and streets. If a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely.

  • If you drive too close to parked vehicles, you expose yourself to the risk of a door being opened suddenly or a car pulling out in front of you. In rule 239, the Highway Code now includes a section encouraging drivers to use the hand on the opposite side to the door being opened, which forces them to turn their head and look behind, so that they are more likely to see cyclists.

  • You are more visible to other vehicles when approaching junctions if you are in the centre of the lane.

Cycling in the centre of the lane Cycling in the centre of the lane

4. You Can Change Lanes

When there is more than one lane in the following situations:

  • There is a separate lane for turning right.
  • If you need to overtake a slower vehicle. The updated code confirms that cyclists may pass slower moving traffic on their right or left.

Signal the manoeuvre correctly and avoid riding between two lanes, as this is the most dangerous location for a cyclist. Stay in the centre of one lane until you can safely change to the other. And remember that you cannot use the bus lane, during its period of operation, unless otherwise indicated.

5. Always Signal Manoeuvres and Drive in a Predictable Manner.

Avoid zigzagging and abrupt manoeuvres. Use hand signals that are internationally recognised.

Cycling hand signals Cycling hand signals

6. Roundabouts

It is usually safer to position yourself in the centre of your lane and cyclists can stay in the left-hand lane when continuing across or around the roundabout, but it is important to signal right to indicate you are staying on the roundabout. Be extremely careful, as these are very conflictive points for cyclists. We recommend that you try to make eye contact with drivers who are about to enter the lane. If they do not look back, consider that they may not have seen you. And, if it is unclear if they are braking, brake if you have to. It is always better to give up your priority than to be run over.

The Highway Code now gives priority to cyclists on a roundabout informing drivers that: Cyclists will be travelling more slowly than motorised traffic. Give them plenty of room and do not attempt to overtake within their lane. Allow them to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout.

7. Avoid Blind Spots of Vehicles

Blind spots are zones that are not visible in the rear-view mirror, especially in large vehicles such as vans, trucks or buses. Be aware and stay out of blind spots wherever possible, especially when vehicles are turning.

Blind spots of vehicles Blind spots of vehicles (National Institute of Safety and Health at Work)

8. Pay Special Attention When Vehicles Cross Over a Cycle Lane or Pavement.

Drivers are required to give priority to cyclists when they are turning into or out of a junction and priority on the cycle path is always given to the cyclist. But this is often a danger for cyclists, due to the ignorance of drivers, blind spots or simply a lack of attention. Once again, we recommend that you take extreme caution in these situations.

9. Respect Traffic, But do not be Afraid of Cycling.

Don’t be afraid to take to the roads and cities and lay the foundations for a sustainable future and a healthy mode of transport. Cycling is safe, if you observe these recommendations, but never let your guard down and be aware of other vehicles at all times. Anticipating their movements or reacting to unforeseen events is your best guarantee of safety.

10. Be Good-natured, Avoid Arguments and Enjoy the Road.

Apart from the usual anger and irritability of some drivers when letting off steam, many are unwilling to accept the presence of bicycles on the roads and highways, and regard them as “getting in their way”. We would like to encourage riders to show that the bicycle is also the best medicine for these tensions and disarm their aggressiveness with kindness.

We hope that these tips and recommendations on urban cycling will help those of you who are already urban cyclists as well as anyone considering commuting to work or just city cycling for pleasure.

At and in our Mammoth stores, you can find professional advice and the widest range of urban bikes and recommended accessories and complements for city cycling.

More information in related articles and videos:

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