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Sharing the Road with Cars, Buses and Trucks

By Sheila Ascroft

Share the Road

Cycling in city traffic demands constant focus and skill from cyclists at all times, but there are ways you can do to make yourself safer. The City of Ottawa offers some safety tips that apply to cycling in almost any town. The italics below are mine.

Sharing the road with cars:

• Follow the rules of the road at all times. (Make sure you know the rules!)

• Be bright at night! Use a headlight, taillight, reflectors and light-coloured or retro-reflective clothing so motorists can see you. (And also in the early morning for half-hour after dawn.)

• Motorists may not anticipate a cyclist, so ride defensively. (Defensively really means when in doubt give way to these steel boxes and save your skin.)

• Never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist. (Hold the middle of the lane if it is not safe for a car to pass you.)

• Where possible, ride in a straight line and avoid dodging between parked cars, into bus bays or around obstacles. (Be predictable.)

• Know where you are going and look ahead to position yourself in the correct lane. Avoid being in a ‘right-turn only’ lane if you plan to proceed straight through an intersection.

When there are big buses on the road:


Avoid riding in the blind spots at the sides and rear of the bus where the operator cannot see you. If you can’t see the operator’s eyes in the bus mirror, the operator cannot see you. (This applies to all motorists.)

  • Stay well back and to the left side of the bus and remember that buses make frequent stops.
  • Always pass a bus on the left side. Don’t get trapped between the bus and the curb. (Sure, I’d love not to get trapped between the bus and the curb, but when the bus pulls in front of me and angles in to the curb, I’m left with nowhere to bike! It’s too late to pass on the left and I’m forced to stop suddenly and wait for the bus to proceed.)
  • Allow plenty of room when passing a bus, and never race.
  • Avoid repeat passes (‘leap-frogging’). (If possible; so much depend son the traffic lights.)
  • Stay out of bus bays when cycling.
  • If making a left-hand turn, ride in the far left lane to reduce conflict with turning vehicles. To make a right turn, signal and change lanes one at a time.

Below are a few tips for sharing the road with trucks, but I truly question whether that’s really possible. They rule and all cyclists know it. When they come barrelling down a road, it doesn’t matter how much legal right you have to be in there, they will make it their own. Gravel and dump trucks are the worse. Well, an argument could be made for semis as they really can send a cyclist off the road with the blast of wind and/or dust as they pass. (I wonder if big transport companies actually bother to train their drivers about cyclists?)

  • When stopping behind a truck, remember that it may need space to roll back when it starts up again, especially on a hill.
  • See and be seen: trucks have large blind spots on both sides, directly behind and in front. Stay away from these areas as much as possible. If you’re cycling behind a truck and you can’t see one of its side-view mirrors, the truck driver cannot see you.
  • Give turning trucks lots of room. Never pull up into the open space on a truck’s side if the driver has signalled a turn because the driver may be setting up or completing a turn.
  • The size of the truck will directly affect the size of the blind spots, length of time it takes to stop, and the amount of space needed for turns.

Finally, here’s what you as a motorist should do!

  • Follow the rules of the road at all times.
  • Bicycles are considered vehicles under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, so treat them as you would any other vehicle on the road.
  • Cyclists generally ride in the right-most through lane, about one metre (three feet) from the curb or parked cars.
  • People who ride bicycles are not obligated to use bike lanes or pathways, and are entitled to cycle on all roads in Ottawa except the major highways.
  • Motorists are prohibited from driving or parking in all designated bicycle lanes.
  • When passing a cyclist, the Traffic Act requires that you leave a safe distance (one metre or three feet) between your car and the bicycle. Extra passing distance should be given when slippery road conditions exist.
  • Cyclists are entitled to ride in the centre of a lane when they feel it is too narrow for a motor vehicle to pass them, or if they feel their safety is compromised.
  • Slow down or avoid puddles when passing cyclists.
  • Cyclists can ride on the paved road, paved shoulder or unpaved shoulder in rural areas.

Let’s all share the road!

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2 comments to Sharing the Road with Cars, Buses and Trucks

  • jill feikema

    As they say, you become the vehicle ….take the lane when necessary and “be a car”. Dress colorfully, use lights and make sure the driver notices you. It takes guts to take the lane but eventually you will feel comfortable and everyone will know you intend to belong tere.
    I also find it important to avoid roads with a high differential in speed. I prefer roads with lower kmh where the differential between my speed and the cars is only 15-20kmh.

  • deborah nixon

    I experienced a scary ride in the city yesterday. I agree about holding the middle. One of the biggest challenges is how to navigate bumper to bumper traffic. I tried to do this and found myself squeezed closer and closer to the sidewalk until a woman on a cell phone got so close to me that I was pushed into the sidewalk, knocked by her side mirror, and thrown off the bike. She didn’t even open her window, get out of her car or ask if I was okay. I will never ever ride on a road with a long line of traffic again. Too hazardous

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