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Safe Cycle Commuting

By Jacqui Snyder

Bike To WorkThe weather is slowly warming, we’ve just had Bike Week and the Ride for Heart is almost on us. I hope many of you have decided to cycle to work.

The benefits are that it will give you great looking legs and gluts, it’s good for your health and the environment, you’ll feel fantastic, and you’ll save money on gas and parking . . . just to name a few.

The key is to stay safe. If you’re commuting in rush hour, everyone is stressed (perhaps you too). Drivers are tired and in a hurry, and you may be worried about the headwind you hadn’t accounted for or that rattling sound coming from your pedals.

Give yourself lots of time, so you are relaxed and can enjoy the ride. You’ll be more alert, so you’ll see the dangers around you more clearly.

There are a few simple steps that can help you be safe and make the ride more enjoyable. Be equipped, know the rules, watch for hazards and ride responsibly.


BE EQUIPPED

Get your bike properly tuned. Yearly you should have your brake and gear cables checked and lubed. The same applies to your chain. Make sure the chain is not stretched. If the bottom line is sagging you need a new one. Check for loose parts, like kickstands, and tighten them if necessary. Have the brake pads tested. Make sure your tires are properly inflated or you risk getting a flat.

Check the weather and ensure you have the proper clothing. In the spring and fall you may need layers and perhaps rain gear. ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET! It doesn’t take a hard hit to cause serious injury. If you’ve had 1 fall and hit your helmet, you need to replace it. Get sports glasses with interchangeable lenses. If you are cycling at dusk or dawn you can wear the clear lenses to keep dust, rain and bugs out of your eyes. As it gets brighter, switch lenses. If you cycle in the dark ensure you have lights and reflective tape on your bicycle and a red light on the back and a white light at the front. This is mandatory. Wear clothing that can be seen with reflective tape or bright colours.

If you need to transport files, laptops, clothing or other items for your day, ensure you have a proper way to do so. Never hang loose bags over the handlebars as they will make you unstable. Either wear a proper backpack that does up around the waist, or better yet, get some panniers. Panniers normally attach to a rack at the back of the bike. Keeping the load off your shoulders and back will tire you less. Keep the weight at the back and low. This will help stabilize you. Panniers come in all shapes and sizes, so you are bound to find something suitable for what you’re carrying. They even come appropriately designed to carry a laptop and look like a briefcase. Ensure that no loose straps from bags or clothing are in a position to get caught in the chain or something you are passing.


KNOW THE RULES

A cyclist has the right to be on the road, so cycle confidently. Under the highway traffic act, a bicycle on the road is considered a vehicle, and as such, must follow all the rules of the road. Fines apply. Rules are made to keep people safe. Here are some of the rules:

  • Stop at lights and stop-signs.
  • Have a working bell on your bike (and use it)
  • Don’t cycle in cross-walks
  • Signal your intentions . . . stop, right turn, left turn
  • Stay to the right, one meter from the curb or parked cars (ensure you have clearance in the event the door suddenly opens)
  • Always cycle on the right side of the road.
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way, even if they are wrong
  • Passengers are not allowed on bicycles made for 1.

If you live in Ontario visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website for more rules, or check out this driver handbook from the Government of Ontario website.

WATCH FOR HAZARDS

  • Be predictable. Ride in a straight line and communicate your intentions to other users of the road.
  • Look around to see what cars are doing. Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you.
  • Look at the pavement ahead for potholes and debris.
  • Before changing your position on the road, look over your shoulder to ensure it’s safe, signal your intention, shoulder check again, then move if you feel it is safe.
  • Cross railway or streetcar tracks at a 90 degree angle so your wheels don’t get caught.
  • If you are cycling across the grates you are too close to the curb.

RIDE RESPONSIBLY

  • Don’t squeeze yourself between lanes of cars. Drivers will give you as much room as you give yourself.
  • Remember: if you get in an altercation with a person driving  a car, motor vehicles are much heavier, and therefore you have more to lose. Pick your battles.
  • If you are in the right lane, going straight and a car pulls up beside you to turn right, make eye contact before making your move. If they don’t meet your gaze, they are ignoring you. Let them go.
  • Give trucks and buses lots of room. When they turn right, they have to swing out to the left first to clear their back end. They have huge blind spots. Don’t try to squeeze up beside them at the curb.
  • Painted lines at intersections are slippery when wet.

These are just a few pointers. I’ll do another edition on this sometime, so stay tuned. Happy & Safe Cycling!

Jacqui Snyder
ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations
CAN-BIKE Instructor
[email protected]
647-404-9380

Jacqui Snyder is an avid sports-person, trained Chef (George Brown College graduate; trained in Switzerland and England), foodie, people-person and traveler. She is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor and has cycled for as long as she can remember. Jacqui runs ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations, organizing skiing, cycling, and hiking vacations.

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