By Jeremy Rochow
Last updated on: June 22, 2020 at 11:08 am
Every January sees South Australia swept up in a cycling spin, and 2021 is no different with the 6-day Santos Festival of Cycling – an exhilarating new event stepping in to replace the Tour Down Under this year – in full swing.
Featuring a 4-stage National Road Series event for both men and women, track cycling and BMX racing, mountain biking and a paracycling wheel race – there’s plenty to watch if you haven’t registered to ride in an event yourself.
Don’t cycle? Don’t worry. Spend your time soaking up the electric atmosphere in and around Adelaide. Perhaps enjoy a gin tasting before settling in to view a leg of the National Road Series in the Adelaide Hills or tuck into a picnic while you watch the action on the big screen in Birdwood.
If all this cycling talk makes you want to dust off your treadly, strap on your helmet and take a ride, you’re not alone. But before you head off, it’s best you brush up on some bike safety tips.
South Australia has a large network of shared paths that can take you across the state. Whether you want to ride through the Barossa or from McLaren Vale to the CBD, there’s a shared path for you.
As the name suggests, cyclists and pedestrians share these paths, so there are a few things to consider before you strap your helmet on and start pedalling.
1. Keep left
Pedestrians and cyclists alike need to keep left while using these paths to ensure people travelling faster can overtake easily.
While social distancing is important, both pedestrians and riders should avoid spreading out 2 or 3 abreast across a lane. Doing so can be hazardous for people travelling in the opposite direction and for people trying to overtake.
2. Pass with caution
Before you overtake a pedestrian or fellow cyclist, slow down and ring your bell. Try to do this a few metres in advance though, as ringing it too closely could give them a fright.
As you approach, make sure nobody is coming in the opposite direction and check behind to ensure you’re not being passed.
Once it’s clear, overtake, then merge back into your lane. Make sure you give people behind you 2 to 3 bike lengths of room.
If it’s wet and you don’t have fenders, give even more room before merging, so the cyclist or pedestrian you’re passing doesn’t get hit by your wheel spray.
Be careful when passing walkers and joggers as many wear earphones, which might make it hard for them to hear your bell. Also, ensure you maintain a safe distance.
3. Look out for dogs and children
Take care around dogs and children as they can be unpredictable. While dogs will most likely be on a leash, they can still dart across cycle paths, so slow down and be alert as you pass.
Children aren’t always the most confident cyclists, and may not be focussing on their surrounds. If you’re approaching a child, be aware they might not see you and could make unpredictable movements.
On the road
Over the past 4 years, 21 cyclists have lost their lives on South Australian roads. All road users need to play their part to prevent further fatalities or injuries.
When driving, maintain a minimum distance of 1m when passing a cyclist where the speed limit is 60km/h or lower, and a distance of 1.5m where the speed limit is higher.
Drivers also need to watch out for cyclists when turning at intersections and junctions, as well as when they’re parked on the side of a road.
When parked and opening your driver’s door, always check for approaching cyclists. If passengers need to get out on the right-hand side, remind them to check for approaching cyclists too.
Tip: use your left hand to open the door when getting out of the right side of your car. This forces you to turn around and makes it easier to spot approaching cyclists and cars.
Here are some more simple steps we can take to protect cyclists on the road.
1. Be seen
If you’re cycling at night, you legally need a front white light and a rear red light. Failure to fit these could see you slapped with a $60 fine and a $60 Victims of Crime Levy. It’s also a good idea to wear bright coloured clothing so you’re visible to other road users.
Making sure you’re visible at night is important, but did you know that dawn and dusk are risky times as well? Here’s why.
At dawn and dusk, the sun is low on the horizon, making it tricky for motorists and cyclists to see. Lights and reflectors are good, but you can’t necessarily rely on them to make you visible. Make sure you ride predictably and keep to bike lanes if they’re available.
2. Be a courteous road user
This is the responsibility of all road users. We all need to share the road and common courtesy doesn’t cost a cent.
If a motorist does something considerate, like letting you cross in front of them, give them a quick wave to say thank you.
The same applies for drivers. There’s no need to be aggressive towards cyclists if you’re having trouble passing them on a narrow road.
3. Be alert
While you’re cycling on the road, you want to be aware of your surroundings and potential dangers, whether it’s a motorist turning left and failing to see you or a driver veering into the bike lane.
It may be tempting to listen to some tunes through headphones during your morning commute, but they can drown out the outside world.
Headphones can stop you from hearing a cyclist who’s trying to pass or a car beeping you to alert you of danger. When cycling, try to keep your ears music-free. They’ve got a much more important job to do.