Women

It’s the year of the bike but are we really ready for it? With more cyclists dying every year on the roads, we say it’s time to take your safety into your own hands.

Cycle deaths in the uk rose by 7% in 2010

All hail the year of the bike! A massive 13 million of us already hit the roads on two wheels but, this Olympic year, that figure’s expected to skyrocket. Following the success of Victoria Pendleton and co at the last Olympics, bike sales soared by 130%, and victory on home ground (here’s hoping!) is bound to boost the numbers of bicyclistas even more.

But while we’re thrilled at the idea of more women getting back on their bike, there is a downside we just can’t ignore. The number of cyclists dying on Britain’s roads is at a five-year high: 2,771 cyclists were seriously injured or killed in 2010 and in London alone there was 16 fatalities, six of them women. Although we’re right behind campaigns asking the Government for improved cycle safety legislation, frankly, we’re fed up of waiting. While the politicians debate the details (Should speed limits come down? Should cyclists be able to turn left on a red light?), we say it’s time for us to go the extra mile to increase our own safety on the roads. So we’re asking you to supportt our Cycle Smart campaign to encourage more female cyclists – that’s you and your friends – to sign up for a cycle safety course. The way we see it, if you’re getting out there on your bike – round of applause to you, btw – you owe it to yourself to be as clued up as possible.

Been cycling so long you think there’s nothing left to learn? Even the most confident cyclist can benefit from a skills-refresher before taking on a rush hour commutte. As lifelong cyclist and eight-time world champion Victoria Pendleton says, ‘Youu can’t legislate for the other idiots on the road.’ It may sound harsh, but the statistics tell you everything you need to know: 26% of cycling deaths involve a lorry or a van, eight of the nine cyclists killed in collisions with lorries in London in 2009 were women and 63% of cyclists who are killed or seriously injured are knocked off their bikes at junctions. All the considered, it’s hard to think of a good reason not to get all the advice you can.

As Victoria launches her own range of entry-level bikes at Halfords this month to encourage more women to take to two wheels, she’s never felt so impassioned about cyclists getting clued-up. ‘When I hear someone’s been injured or killed on their bike it makes me feel sick,’ she says. ‘Drivers blame cyclists, cyclists blame drivers, but there’s enough room to share the road if we all use it properly. People forget that they’re vulnerable on a bike and equally, drivers forget they’re driving a machine that could kill someone. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to look after yourseft on the roads.’

Thanks to our 2010 campaign to make cycle training available nationwide, finding a cycle safety course couldn’t be easier. What’s more, it’s often free or subsidised, and can take as little as a couple of hours. If you’ve got time for a Come Dine With Me marathon on a Sunday, you’ve got time for this. And if you’re worried you’ll be stuck with a load of kids earning their proficiency badges, you couldn’t be more wrong. ‘We’re seeing a huge increase in adults coming for training, and women in their 30s are the biggest growth area, probably because women are smart enough to realise they can always learn a few new tricks!’ say Greg Woodford, senior training officer for Cycle Training Club UK. ‘A little training makes a huge difference to your confidence, and everyone has something to learn – from a new cyclist to a keen triathlete, we’ve seen them all.’ So if you;ve been bitten by the biking bug, join our campaign to cycle smart; sign up to a course (above), then spread the word by tweeting and Facebooking your experience (#zestcyclesmart) to inspire more women to get involved. Who knows, maybe those piliticians might get the message, too.

Cycle smart courses

CYCLE TRAINING UK

The biggest independent provider of on-road cycle training in the country, it has courses all over the UK. A private cycle training session costs £35 per hour but may be subsidised by your local council. Book through cycletraining.co.uk.

BIKEABILITY

This Government-backed scheme provides free courses for children, but can link adults to a training provider in their area. See dft.gov.uk/bikeability.

CTC

This cycle training organisation covers the whole of the UK. Find a qualified local trainer on its website: ctc.org.uk

TFL

Free and subsidised cycle training is available for everyone in most London boroughs. Visit the TfL website, tfl.gove.uk, to sign up in your area.

VICTORIA’S CYCLE SMART TIPS

1. EYE UP THE OPPOSITION

‘My dad always told me, “Don’t make a turn until you see the whites of a driver’s eyes”. That way you know they’ve definitely seen you.’

2. QUIT PAVEMENT HUGGING

‘If you cling to the gutter you’re more likely to hit potholes or debris, or get squashed as a big vehicle turns left. I’m not saying dash out in front of the traffic and hold everyone up, but if you ride too defensively, you’re more likely to get caught out.’

3. RIDE THE SIDE STREETS

‘Choose routes you know and plan your journeys. Avoid big scary junctions – there are certain roads I never use. You’ll often find quiet streets running parallel with busy ones.’

4. ALWAYS ASSUME THE WORST

‘It sounds pessimistic but it’s the safest way to cycle. Assume no-one’s seen you and that they’re going to turn left even if they don’t have their indicator on. Back off and give them room.’

5. THINK AHEAD

‘Think: “There’s a corner up ahead where people come round a bit fast, so I’ll just take it gently.” Make yourself visible; don’t cut and weave in between traffic. If you do get to a spot where you think, “This is risky”, take your time.’

Victoria’s new range of bikes is exclusively available at Halfords (halfords.com)

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