Start and stop safely with the right technique

Pushing your pedals to start is much safer than “scootering” along with one foot.It’s relatively easy to handle a bicycle when you have a bit of speed. How confident are you when you have to slow down? Stopping and starting again can be easy and safe with some simple techniques under your belt.

First, you need to get on your bike. It’s best to get astride it before you push off. Pushing off on the left pedal and then getting your right leg over the bike means you’re moving before you’re securely settled on the bike and more likely to make a wobbly start. Getting astride and balanced over the bike first gives you much better control at those critical low speeds.

I’ve watched many people “scooter” along with their free foot to get going. The less time your feet spend in contact with the ground while you’re moving the lower the risk of slipping or snagging your foot on the road. The safer way to start is by using your strongest leg to make the first push on the pedal.

Bring your pedal up to the 2 o’clock position while you’re waiting to start. Now just push down on the pedal, then bring your other foot up ready to push across the top of the next pedal stroke and then down. You’re away! No need to “scooter”.

Stopping is a different story. Watch traffic conditions so you have plenty of warning when you have to stop. Pull on both brakes steadily. If you’re riding with other people it’s good practice to call out “slowing” or “stopping”.

Start changing down your gears. You want to be in an easy gear to get started. A high gear makes the bike hard to handle at low speed because you have to push so hard to get moving.

If you have cleats or toe clips release early the foot you’ll need to put on the ground. It’s one less thing you have to think about when you actually stop.

There’s a good argument for getting into the habit of using your left foot. It means you’re leaning away from traffic and if you happen to lose your balance you’ll fall away from the cars.

Check the stability of the surface beneath your foot so you don’t slip. Wait until the bike has stopped then put your foot down. Just like “scootering” to start, braking with your foot puts you in a lot of danger.

Now you’re all set to get started again. See you on the road soon, God willing.

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