Skip to main content

Cycling toolkit - things to get you started

Advice on buying and maintaining your bicycle and safe cycling in London

Safety tips

If you have been cycling for a while, you may have started using some of the busier and more direct routes. Whatever your level of experience, as a self-taught individual there may be gaps in your knowledge. 

When you first begin riding in London, stick to the parks and quiet streets as your confidence builds. Once you're able to signal and look around without wobbling, you can start to expand your journeys.

You are the best judge of the conditions and it is important to learn to trust your instincts. A free city cycling course will help refine your bike control, grow your confidence and offer a really useful introduction to the road.

Below you'll find some of our most important advice on staying safe while cycling, and some more general tips to help you enjoy the ride.

Remember - vehicles have blind spots 

Large vehicles, like HGVs, have blind spots along either side and just in front of them.

Be wary when passing them and never do so if there is a chance the vehicle could turn across your path. Listen for their turning warning sounds and look for indicators at the side of the HGVs.

Should you find yourself next to a large vehicle just before a junction, do not proceed until you are absolutely sure it is going straight on and not simply taking the turn wide. Be very careful around guard rails at corners - they can trap you. 

Make sure your bike is working 

Have it serviced or do a bike maintenance class. It is very simple to keep a bike in order with a small amount of knowledge and a few tools. Are the tyres pumped up hard? Do both the breaks work well? Is the chain running smoothly and lightly oiled? 

Take as much space as you need 

This means riding away from the gutter and well clear of parked cars in case someone opens a door. Imagine all the parked car doors are hanging wide open. Riding in this position makes you more visible to all other users including pedestrians who may step out between parked vehicles. 

Discourage close overtaking 

Where the lane becomes too narrow for people to pass you safely, look behind and move to the centre of the lane in good time. 

When using junctions, ride in the middle of your lane 

This will deter close overtaking. Whether turning or going straight ahead, it is best not to overtake just before a junction. 

Guard against the tendency to rush 

It can lead to problems. Sometimes it is best to get to the front, at other times it is better to hang back amongst the other traffic. You are already using one of the fastest modes of transport in London. Take your time and enjoy the ride. 

Use lights at night and in poor visibility 

If you ride between sunset and sunrise, you’re required, by law, to equip your bike with: 

  • white front light  
  • red rear light 
  • red rear reflector 
  • amber/yellow pedal reflectors 

It’s highly recommended that you use your lights whenever weather conditions make visibility poor, such as with fog or rain.

High visibility clothing will also make you more visible, particularly if it incorporates reflective strips, which are very effective at night.

General advice

In addition to all of the above, there are some more general steps you can take to stay safe: 

  • remember to look around, particularly behind you
  • look back and signal clearly and in good time before changing lanes or turning
  • ride with your fingers resting on your brakes at all times
  • look at the road ahead and get set up for any change in your road position in good time
  • make eye contact with drivers at side roads
  • ride in a predictable and positive fashion 
  • obey traffic law and respect pedestrian crossings 

Published: 15 December 2020

Last updated: 13 January 2021