Safe cycling in the city

Nine easy-to-implement tips that will immediately make your everyday cycle safer

Despite the attention-grabbing headlines, cycling is a very safe mode of transport. Nevertheless, when you’re riding on a busy road, cars whooshing past, cycling can feel quite dangerous. This feeling can even put people off cycling altogether. In the long run, our cities need a complete redesign, with far more space being given to non-motorised traffic. In the city of the future, no one will have to be afraid of cycling, but even in our cities, there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself.


  • Confidence is everything
  • Give turning trucks a wide berth
  • Steering clear of tram tracks
  • Always have a finger on the brake
  • Use cycle paths wisely
  • Stay on your side
  • Seeing clearly
  • Being seen
  • Think about your head

Unfortunately, we don’t all live in Amsterdam or Copenhagen and dreaming about perfect infrastructure projects won’t help you on your daily cycle to work, but with our tips, your journey through the city will be easier and safer. We’re going to show you how to recognise and avoid dangerous situations in advance. Give our suggestions a go!

Confidence is everything

The space you need to travel safely is yours by law – so take it! If the road is clear and there are no obstructions, then around 70 centimetres (measured from the left-hand end of the handlebars to the kerb) of side clearance is the minimum. If there are parked cars, leave at least one metre between the end of your handlebars and their doors. So-called “dooring” (getting hit by a carelessly opened door) is one of the greatest dangers in city traffic – so make sure you stay away from this danger zone. It can feel strange, and maybe even confrontational to give yourself space and ‘take the lane’ but always remember: you’re not obstructing traffic, you’re part of the traffic!

Give turning trucks a wide berth

Trucks and cars that turn across your lane are disproportionately responsible for serious collisions so extra care should be taken around trucks and vans. Don’t rely on cars using their indicators – if drivers are already making dangerous turns then the odds are that they won’t be using their indicators either. Perhaps the most dangerous point in city cycling is where cycle paths run parallel to the road and you’re approaching a junction. You can be hidden behind parked cars in the cycle lane, for example, so cars approaching the junction think they are free to swing across your path. Of course, if you’re riding straight ahead, you usually have the right of way over turning vehicles, but drivers often do not, or cannot see you. Even if you have the right of way, it pays to be extra vigilant in these situations.

© Focus

Steering clear of tram tracks

Trams are a wonderful form of transport. Unfortunately, one distinct disadvantage is that their tracks are perfect traps for bicycle tyres. Unless you’re riding a mountain bike with really fat tyres, you should be on high alert when approaching these tracks. This is doubly true when it rains because then they become as slippery as ice. As long as you can cross them at a right angle, everything is fine, but if you’re approaching them diagonally, extreme caution is advised. You can lift the front wheel slightly when crossing the rail so that it jumps over the gap and doesn’t get stuck in the rail. If you’re not confident enough to do this manoeuvre, there is no shame in getting off and pushing.

Always have a finger on the brake

Having the right of way doesn’t mean you should always exercise that right. Do you want to be right so badly that you assert your right of way against a vehicle that is twenty times heavier and significantly harder than you? Unfortunately, not all people behave as they should in traffic, you could even argue that there is something about traffic that makes people act irrationally, and since you are not protected by 1.5 tonnes of steel, airbags and crumple zones, you should ride confidently and know your rights but also be prepared to back off when things get a bit hairy.

© Endura

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Use cycle paths wisely

Most cycle paths are great, they make cycling in the city safer and more relaxing. Some, however, seem to have been built as an afterthought and can actually make your ride more dangerous. Be aware and think about whether the road may be safer than the cycle path. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to use cycle lanes and the Highway Code advises you to use cycle lanes “where they make your journey safer and easier”. For example, cars often park on the cycle path and make it impassable so since it is forbidden for cyclists to cycle on the pavement, you should cycle on the road until the cycle path is free. If the cycle path is full of bins on bin day, or full of glass after a bank holiday weekend, then the road is again the safer option. In any case where there is a safety risk for you, you can and should switch to the road.

Stay on your side

Cycling on the wrong side of the street is the main cause of cyclists being at fault in collisions. Since city planning is so car-centric it can be very tempting to take shortcuts on the wrong side of the road or to quickly ride the wrong way down a cycle path to avoid some terrible bit of infrastructure. Nevertheless, always use cycle paths (and roads!) in their intended direction. Even if a cycle path is open in both directions, you should take extra care to stay on your side, because there is no guarantee that other cyclists are paying close attention.

Seeing clearly

It’s not up for debate: lights are a must if you’re cycling in the evening or at night. Most new bikes come with lights already installed. If your bike doesn’t have a fixed dynamo light system, battery lights are now so small that they won’t ruin the sleek lines of your road or gravel bike. With good lights, you can see where you’re going or what’s in your way even in the dark. Lights also make you much more visible to other road users.

© Cube

Being seen

With a few small tricks, you can massively increase your visibility in poor light conditions. Reflectors are a light, cheap and simple-to-install upgrade for any bicycle. You can also use reflective elements on your body to draw attention to yourself. However, sometimes less is more: a yellow high-visibility waistcoat is less visible than strategically placed reflective elements on your legs or feet. Because these spots are moving as you cycle, you make yourself more noticeable, and specifically more recognisable as a cyclist. Reflective elements on gloves also help enormously because they make your hand signals more visible too.

Think about your head

Wearing a helmet features prominently in many guides on road safety. However, it only becomes effective when it is already too late. Real safety can only be achieved by preventing potentially dangerous situations from arising in the first place. This is primarily a question of good infrastructure and comprehensive protection for more vulnerable road users. The first tips on this list are more important than a helmet because they actually contribute towards avoiding, recognising and reducing unsafe situations.

Of course, we still recommend wearing a helmet, because it can actually prevent some head injuries or reduce their effects. But make sure that it fits you and that it fits properly. This helmet guide gives you a good overview of the types of helmets available and how they should fit. Nevertheless, always remember that a helmet is not a magic bullet. It can only protect you in certain situations and is no substitute for prudent riding or a set of good lights.


As you can see, cycling in the city has no special rules of its own (apart from the traffic rules, of course). But because it’s busier than the countryside, you need to take some extra steps to stay safe. Simple measures can have a big effect and will quickly become second nature to you. A confident but defensive riding style combined with a few reflectors, a well-fitting helmet and a trained eye will make your journey through the city much safer. Now nothing can stop you!

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