Bicycle Safety Tips

Cycling is a fun and healthy activity that provides you with an inexpensive way to get around and explore. It’s good for the environment and requires no registration, plates, licences or insurance. With the warm weather and start of the summer for many school aged kids, it is important to learn and follow the rules of the road. As a cyclist, you must share the road with cars, pedestrians and other cyclists ─ just like any other vehicle. You must obey all traffic laws and you have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.

Helmets
By law, every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear an approved helmet and the fine for not wearing a helmet is $75. It is strongly recommended that all riders wear helmets however, it is not compulsory for adults over 18. Studies have shown helmets can greatly reduce the risk of permanent injury or death if you fall or crash so take that into account before deciding.

The best helmet is one that fits level and square on your head. It should fit snug and not slip around when you move your head. Look for a helmet that has a safety standards sticker meeting the approval of safety organizations, such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Snell, ANSI, ASTM, BSI, CPSC and SAA. These helmets have been manufactured to meet strict safety standards.

Visibility
Bicycles are often the smallest vehicles on the road so it is important for cyclists to be as visible as possible. Yellow and white clothing are the most visible at night while darker colours are difficult to see. By law, bikes require white reflective strips on the front forks and red reflective strips on the rear stays. When you ride between 30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after sunrise, law requires you to have a white front light and a red rear light or reflector on your bicycle.

Pedal reflectors and reflective material on wrists, ankles, heels, clothing and helmets will help others see you. When riding directly into or away from the sun at dusk or dawn, leave extra room and be ready for sudden stops or swerves by traffic around you. Be particularly alert at intersections and scan carefully. Bicycles are very quiet, so it is important to warn other cyclists and pedestrians of your approach. By law, all bikes must have a working bell or horn to announce your approach. At times it is just as effective and more courteous to shout something like “behind you” when approaching and overtaking other cyclists and pedestrians.

Riding on the Road
Always be alert when riding in traffic with other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Making signals requires being able to ride with only one hand on the handlebars. Because it is very easy to go off course when riding one-handed, practice signalling while riding along a straight line. Ride in a straight line at least one metre away from parked vehicles. Keep to this line even if the vehicles are far apart to avoid continuous swerving. Keep both hands on the handlebars while actually turning.

It’s also important to practise shoulder checking before signalling to make turns. The proper technique can save you from a severe collision with vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians. The proper sequence to follow involves shoulder checking, signalling and shoulder checking again before moving ─ when changing lanes or position within a lane.

Even though other people may have seen your signals or you think there’s no one around, always shoulder check before turning. Taking a simple look-back over your shoulder to see what the traffic behind you is doing before you turn can save your life.

Hazards
The first step in collision prevention is to scan the road ahead for potential hazards. Steer clear of debris and holes in the pavement, and learn to anticipate errors by motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists. Never assume they see you. No matter how skilled or careful a rider you are, you will encounter hazards that leave you little time to react. Quick stops can be crucial in an emergency. Caution is required when braking quickly to ensure you don’t flip over your handlebars. Keep a space cushion around your bike to ensure you have time to react and stop safely. In wet weather, roads become extremely slippery. You should be extra cautious when braking and turning corners. Bike brakes work poorly in wet conditions and tires will have less traction.

When protective gear is worn and rules of the road are followed, cycling can be a very fun and healthy activity the whole family can enjoy. It provides an inexpensive way to get around and explore ─ and maybe will help you catch that elusive rare Pokémon you’ve be searching for.