Cycling to work for beginners

Cycling to your work by bike is easier than you think.
Commuter cycling to work in Leeds
Commuter cycling to work in Leeds
Julie Rand's picture

Cycling to work for beginners

So you fancy saving money, getting fit and beating the traffic jams by cycling to work – but you're put off by the thought of the risks involved? Well, rest assured, the risks of cycling are about the same as walking per mile travelled – and the greater danger to your health is inactivity.

But knowing this may still not be enough reassurance for you to take to two wheels. In that case, a short course in cycle training may be just what you need to give you the skills and confidence you need to make you feel – and be – safer.

Don’t worry about being made to feel silly with memories of riding around bollards in the school playground when you did your Cycling Proficiency. Things have moved on apace since those days and cycle training now mainly takes place in the real world and could involve the journeys you actually want to make.

After an assessment of your ability to ride and control the bike, which takes place away from traffic and is called Level 1,  you will be shown how to negotiate quiet roads by riding in a more dominant position away from the kerb and making eye contact with other road users.

Once you feel confident at Level 2, you can then move on to Level 3 – here an experienced instructor will show you the best way to tackle busier roads, junctions, roundabouts and any other locations you wish to cycle in regularly.

But not only do instructors help with road skills, they are also a fount of knowledge about all things cycling, whether it’s finding the quietest routes, how to dress appropriately and which bike to choose for your style of riding. They will also teach you how to check your bike for faults and make simple adjustments to it, and can advise on the best equipment for commuting.

There is a national database of instructors, instructors usually charge anything between £10 and £25 an hour, so contact one and see how they can help you make the move to two-wheeled freedom. You could even invite an instructor into your workplace for a group session, like WWF did.

In the meantime, hear are our top tips for negotiating traffic safely:

Leave that lorry alone

Never ever, undertake a lorry on the left, especially if you are at junction. Don’t do this even if there is a cycle lane.

Remember if you cycle on the left hand side of a lorry you are in the driver’s blind spot and if the lorry turns, you will have no escape. It is difficult for drivers of large vehicles to see you, so don’t hide by the side of the vehicle.  

Make eye contact

Making eye contact with other road users, particularly at a junction, coming out of side roads and at roundabouts, this may tell you if the driver has seen you or not.

Look over your shoulder

Regularly look over your shoulders to see what is happening all around. Check behind you when moving away from the kerb, before you signal to manoeuvre and at regular intervals to communicate with other road users.

Look ahead

Look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, potholes and parked vehicles, so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Planning ahead helps you to be prepared for junctions, roundabouts and traffic lights.

Get out of the gutter!

Your road position should not be less than 1 metre from the kerb and should be further out if it is not safe for a vehicle to pass. If someone does pass you inconsiderately, then you have more room to get out of harm’s way. Keeping away from the gutter will enable drivers to see you and also help you miss the drain covers and debris on the side of the road too. Take extra care to hold your position near road humps and other traffic-calming features.

Don’t be floored by car doors

Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened into your path.

Make your intentions clear

Make your signal and manoeuvre well in advance, and only when it is safe to do so. Keep your position in your lane so vehicles cannot undertake closely on your left.

Cover your brakes

Keep your hands on your brake levers, so that you are ready to use them. Always use both brakes at the same time. Take extra care when it is wet or icy. 


By law, when it dark or there is bad visibility you must have lights on the front and rear of your bike. Always carry spare small lights in case your main lights are not working.



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