Rules of the Road for Bike Safety

If you’re looking to get outside, get mobile and stay fit, all while reducing your carbon footprint, than look no further than the trusty bicycle! But whether you’re a fair-weather rider, a regular two-wheeled commuter, or a driver sharing the road with cyclists, the key to safety is in knowing the rules of the road 

Equipment

When it comes to bicycling safety, nothing’s more important that your helmet.  In some parts of the country, they’re mandatory-even for adults!  A helmet doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to work but a proper fit is crucial. Look for one that’s approved by an appropriate testing agency (CSA, ASTM, Snell, ANSI, BSI, or SAA).

Visibility is the key to staying safe on the road so make sure you have good working lights which can be seen from a least a kilometer away – white on the front and red on the back-along with reflectors or reflective tape. A good, loud bell is another important piece of equipment that’s required by law in most provinces.

Riding in Traffic

When it comes to maneuvering city streets on two wheels, it’s important to ride both defensively and responsibly. The key to cycling safety is being predictable on the road, so that drivers can anticipate what you’re doing to do.

“Cyclists need to know that they have the same rights as other vehicles on the road,” says Leana Garrison, Transportation Coordinator with Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre, “but they also have the same responsibilities.”  That means respecting stop lights and signs, signaling, and travelling in the same direction as traffic.

Know Your Rights

“Cyclists have a right to use a part of the roadway, and are allowed to take an entire lane when their safety requires it,” says Herb van den Dool, a Toronto-based cycling activist and blogger with ibiketo.ca.

Whether you’re feeling squeezed out by traffic or you need to make it safely around a pothole that’s in your way, don’t be afraid to claim the space you need, even it forces the traffic around you to slow down. He also recommends riding at least a meter away from parked cars to avoid being hit by car doors.

It’s also crucial to check over your shoulder any time you move out in to traffic or make a turn, just to make sure you’ve been seen and that no vehicles are trying to pass you.

Tips for Drivers

Garrison says drivers can help ensure cyclists feel safe on the road by “slowing down and giving them plenty of room.”  She says drivers frequently misjudge the speed at which cyclists are traveling, and that’s when the accidents happen. 

van den Dool agrees, explaining that “drivers should never pass a cyclist and then suddenly brake or turn in front of the cyclist, because it may cause the bike rider to crash into the rear of the car.”  Because most collisions between drivers and cyclists happen at intersections, Garrison recommends approaching them with extra care, and making eye contact whenever possible.

Know the Rules

Whether you’re a driver or a cyclist, the key to safety is in knowing the rules of the road.  “Nobody is void of responsibility,” says Garrison, “and both drivers and cyclists make mistakes.” If you’re a cyclist, pay close attention to what’s going on around you when you’re on the road.  “I always have my eyes peeled for people turning right or left and cutting me off,” says Garrison, stressing the importance of riding defensively. “At the end of the day, you’re the more vulnerable one, and you’re the one who is going to get hurt, even if it’s the driver’s fault.”  

The best way to brush up your cycling skills is through a CAN-BIKE bicycle safety course.  Happy and safe biking!

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