Cycling Safety: Roundabouts

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Negotiating roundabouts can be quite nerve-wracking for the best cyclist, especially at busy times with angry drivers. However, they’re not as dangerous as they look, and as long as you ride assertively and with awareness you’ll most likely run into very few problems. Unfortunately the highway code in this instance isn’t too helpful, so in this article I’m going to look at the main tips for traversing roundabouts with confidence.

Danger Zones:

There are a couple of places on roundabouts that you should be particularly aware of when cycling in them. Firstly, the areas of road just in front of the entries and exits can be difficult to negotiate as cars may not see you and quickly pull out in front of you, so always make sure that you look for any oncoming traffic in case you need to make a sharp turn.

Secondly, if you’re cycling on the edge of the roundabout, it is likely that cars leaving their lane from your right could crash into you as they will be looking at the centre of the lane. Therefore it’s always preferable to keep to the centre of your lane so you are always in plain view of drivers.

Approaching a Roundabout:

As with most things, good preparation will lead to an easier job, and so in the distance leading up to the roundabout you should make sure that you are in the centre of the lane for where you want to go.

This is really important even if there’s only 1 lane of traffic because otherwise cars could end up trying to beat you to the roundabout, especially the more impatient drivers, and it prevents cars that are turning left from cutting across you. Making sure you’re in a position to accelerate is also important, as is signalling to let other drivers know what you’re doing: you would indicate in a car, so you should do the same on a bike!

Your Options:

When you get to the roundabout, you’ll be facing 3 options:

  • Turning left
  • Turning right
  • Going Straight over

For each of these situations there are slightly different ways you should cycle:

Turning left:

When turning left on a roundabout, give way to the oncoming traffic until there is a clear space to go (don’t rush it), and take up the centre of your lane. When you reach your exit, firmly signal to the other cars and make an assured move to exit the roundabout. Almost too simple! It’s almost exactly how you would drive your car, and as long as you are firm and authoritative, other cars won’t be nervous around you as they will know what you are doing.

Turning Right:

When turning right, it’s a little more complicated but still pretty simple. You should do the same as before and wait until there is space to go, and join the inner lane if there are only 2 lanes. If there are more than this then you need to pick the lane furthest to the left that will take you to your exit, as this will help you take the exit without having to cross cars in other lanes. Once you reach your exit, follow the same steps as before and leave the roundabout. Again it’s not too hard.

Going Straight Over:

If you’re heading straight over the roundabout – normally the 2nd exit – then just wait for a gap as usual, take the left-most lane that will take you straight over and signal and exit when you reach it.

As you can see, there really isn’t a secret to this, it’s all about control of your bike and surroundings that will mean you aren’t the victim of dodgy driving, which is mostly caused by a miscommunication between the cyclist and the driver.

Of course, if you feel like a particular roundabout is just too dangerous, there’s no shame in getting off and walking round: it will only add a minute at most to your journey, which is more than enough sacrifice for your peace of mind.

Finally, always be careful in slippery conditions such as rain and ice, as you will be turning and it’s all to easy to slip off, something made much more dangerous with the presence of cars and trucks around.

So that’s it, I hope that this will be helpful to anyone who doesn’t feel confident on roundabouts: it’s all a matter of confidence and communication, and if you feel like you belong in your lane, this will translate to other cars, giving you a much easier ride.

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