Cycling in Kenya has been around for the longest time but it is only now that now a good number of people have taken it up both as a hobby and as a means of keeping fit. Sadly, our roads are not designed with pedestrians or cyclists in mind in as much as we are told that Kenya is a walking nation. This situation has sadly led to accidents involving both pedestrians and cyclists leading to a clamor for the bodies that are charged with building roads to make them more friendly to both those walking/jogging and also cycling.
However, as it stands, cyclists are still at a great risk of being hit by motor vehicles and the recent death of Caleb Omwoyo after being hit by a bus on Thika Road has uncovered the extent of danger they are exposed to on Kenyan roads. This death led to a protest by other cyclists and ironically one of the cyclists, Terence Gicho got hit by a lorry at Chiromo as he was heading home from the protest. Luckily, he sustained minor injuries and he is well on his way to recovery.
This goes to show that there is a lot more that needs to be done to make our roads safe for cyclists. However, here are a few tips on how they can stay safe while on the road.
1. Avoid Busy Sections
Many highways have traffic hotspots, especially during rush hour, where vehicles move from right to left trying to avoid a jam. Such spots are very dangerous for a cyclist since motorists only notice them when it’s too late. If you can, avoid such place by taking another route. If not, get off the bike and walk past the area then continue cycling. Most times, it’s usually a short distance that you can manage on foot.
2. Don’t Use Headphones
This may seem obvious but whether or not you’re riding on a busy road, you should never use headphones to pick a call or listen to music. They can be distracting and you won’t hear approaching vehicles until it’s too late. You can sacrifice entertainment for a few minutes to ensure your safety on the road.
3. Familiarize Yourself With The Road
Like other road users, familiarizing yourself with a road helps you avoid accidents. You should learn where every bump, pothole, intersection, exit and pedestrian crossing is to improve your predictability as it reduces your chances of stopping suddenly or swaying unexpectedly. This, in turn, reduces the risk of being hit by a vehicle. If you’re new on that road, ride at a comfortable speed that allows you to brake safely.
4. Map Out Your Route
Before hitting the road, scan the route you’ll be taking using apps like google maps. Check whether there’s heavy traffic on the road and if you’re unfamiliar with the road, try to master the route paying close attention to intersections and exits.
5. Anticipate Anything
They say assume everybody on the road is mad except you. It seems like an extreme measure but this is essential in building good judgment and reaction. As a road user, you should have a quick solution for anything that might happen on the road. It’s more crucial for a cyclist since slight contact with another vehicle could lead to serious injuries or even death. Therefore, you should always ride when you’re fully alert and capable of making good judgment.
6. Keep Both Hands On The Handlebar
While you’re riding a bicycle on a busy road, the slightest swerve could be catastrophic. Therefore, you need to maintain better control by keeping both hands on the handlebar so that in case of an emergency, you won’t lose your balance. If you have to let go of the handlebar, check your surrounding for any hazards first.
7. Choose The Right Bike Size
You should always ride the right size bike based on your height to ensure maximum comfort. The general rule is that you should be able to stand flat on the ground while the bike is immobile. Secondly, you shouldn’t slouch too low to reach the handlebar. You can invest in a bike that has adjustable seat height. Make sure the saddle is also in a flat position since if it’s slanted you’ll slowly slide of the seat putting pressure on the handlebars.
8. Keep Your Bike In Good Condition
Make sure everything on your bicycle is working properly. Your bicycle has to be in top-notch condition at all times and should be inspected regularly by a professional. Pay close attention to key features such as the brakes, tire pressure and lights as this helps maximize your safety on the road. Even something as simple as the seat could minimize your risk of getting into an accident.
9. Wait In The Middle Lane
When approaching a stop light, always move to the middle lane. This is a good position to allow you to move safely once the lights go green. Vehicles normally stop closer to the kerb leaving you with little space to cycle if you’re on that side. Additionally, drivers are able to maneuver past you easily in the middle lane than next to the kerb.
Unfortunately, cyclists don’t go through training on how to ride on a busy road and most of them have to learn the hard way. If you’re a new cyclist, seek out more experienced cyclists to give you first hand tips on ensuring your safety on the road. For experienced cyclists, it helps to ride as a group since you’re more visible and you’ll also learn something new from other cyclists.
11. Cycling Gear
Always wear bright clothing both during the day and night to increase your visibility. A cyclist who does not wear bright is almost invisible to a driver until the very last moment.
Also, one should always wear a helmet, this is because statistics showed that the usage of helmet is estimated to reduce probability of serious head injuries by 50%. The helmet should also be the right size and should fit the circumference of your head.
12. Rear Lights
Rear lights are important both during the day and night to help you be seen. One should set them on flashing mode to attract the attention of drivers behind you.