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How to cycle safely

Whenever green or sustainable transport is mentioned, cycling is the first thing that most people think of. And why should they not?  Bikes and trikes are a cheap, quick and a fun way to get around and the only CO2 emissions are the breathing of the rider!

But not only does cycling get you from A to B, it is also an excellent form of exercise. It helps you get fit and toned as well as being an excellent stress buster. According to Harvard University, an average person will burn between 300 and 400 calories every 30 minutes whilst cycling.

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One of the biggest concerns putting people off cycling is not feeling safe, particularly when cycling along busy roads filled with faster moving vehicles.

To help counter this BCP and Dorset councils are investing in a network of 78km of new cycle lanes as part of our TCF programme.

The aim is to provide safe infrastructure that will encourage more people onto their bikes, particularly for shorter local journeys to school, work, meeting friends or going shopping. 

Our ambition is to reduce people’s reliance on their cars, particularly for short journeys, by offering a range of attractive alternative travel choices.

It is important to remember that not everyone has the option to drive, therefore the Council has a duty to make other options as safe and convenient as possible. Reducing non-essential car journeys will reduce pollution, improve congestion, make other modes safe, and improve the local environment for us all.

Cycling Considerations and Etiquette

Sharing the road with motor vehicles can be dangerous, which is why the Council is in the process of installing new infrastructure, which keeps walkers, cyclists, scooterists and motor vehicles separated and safe.

In the meantime, a little consideration and perhaps training can go a long way to help protect yourself. While you can't control what drivers and other road users do, you can control how you ride and conduct yourself on the road and that can make a big difference to how other road users interact with you. 

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Bike training and maintenance

Many schools within the BCP Council area offer Bikeability courses for their pupils and there are also many adult cycle training courses available across the conurbation.

Do's and Don’ts for good cycling practice

We have produced a quick guide to help you be safe and to enjoy your local cycle journeys and the health and eco-benefits they bring.


If you follow the below do's you will be much safer while cycling.

Use bike lanes and suitable crossings wherever possible

BCP and Dorset councils are currently investing over £100m in the provision of new separated cycle lanes to help you cycle safely around our conurbation,  make use of them where you can.

Be extra careful at junctions

Most collisions involving a bike happen at junctions. Cycling UK has an excellent video which will help you position yourself most safely on the road.

Leave yourself space when passing parked cars

Give yourself at least an arms-length between you and the curb, road verge or parked cars. Should anyone suddenly open their car doors without looking, this will give you some room to react.

Be aware of what is around you and of other road users

This is the same for a car or lorry driver, cyclist, scooterist or any road user. Don’t use your phone whilst moving because it distracts you from the most important task of cycling safely.   You could potentially be committing the offence of careless cycling, so it’s best to pull over to use your phone, just as you must whilst driving.

Moderate your speed to your environment

Cycle at a speed that best suits where you are. Look out for cycle-specific speed limits and keep your speed down on shared paths through parks where there may be children, dogs etc. If you typically cycle faster than 15mph then it may be better to use the road rather than a shared pavement. 

Pass correctly

When overtaking slower cyclists, particularly when in cycle lanes, try to alert them to your presence (i.e. ring your bell or call “on your right!”) and give them space as you pass.

Alert other riders and pedestrians to your presence

It is highly advisable to use a bell or give a friendly shout to alert people to your presence, particularly in a shared space, but remember that people may not hear you.

Make sure that you and your bike are properly equipped

You are required by law to have lights on your bike if cycling at dusk or at night. Whilst it’s not a legal requirement, consider wearing a helmet and hi-vis clothing.

Be consistent

If you are cycling in a consistent way, and ideally indicating appropriately, then it is easier for a following driver to predict what you will do and will help them to pass you more safely. Remember, you can’t control what they do, but you can control what you do.


Avoid the following Don'ts to make yourself and fellow road users safer.

Don’t ride through red lights

This is the single biggest complaint made by motorists about cyclists. As a cyclist, you are considered to be a vehicle on the road so you must obey the Highway Code. This means stopping at traffic lights when red and complying to their changes just as drivers must.

Don’t ride on the pavement unless it marked as shared

Riding on pavements as an adult is against the law and potentially dangerous to pedestrians. If you feel unsafe on the road because of heavy, fast traffic, then get off your bike if you are physically able and walk it along the pavement. Don’t ride it.

Don’t ride in the gutter

Hugging the kerb is a bad idea as it puts you in a position that is less visible to drivers, and the gutter is where debris tends to accumulate which can give you a puncture. It is recommended to ride around 75cm to 1m (or an arms length) out from the kerb, and you may “take the lane” – i.e. ride centrally – where the road narrows and it would be dangerous for a driver to attempt to overtake.

Don’t ride against the flow of traffic

Riding on a road against the flow of traffic is illegal and very dangerous. Only cycle with the flow of traffic – unless there is a marked contraflow.

Don’t leave your bike locked up where it can cause an obstruction

Consider visually impaired people, people with mobility scooters etc and don’t block pavements or private accesses when you lock up. And don’t scrimp on a decent bike lock!

Useful links


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