Biking safety and accident prevention is always key when cycling. By following some basic rules you can vastly decrease the likelihood of a crash. Here are our top ten safety tips.

  1. Be visible 
  2. Wear a helmet
  3. Perform bike maintenance and carry repair kit
  4. Reduce distractions 
  5. Make eye contact with motorists 
  6. Communicate with other road users
  7. Be aware of your surroundings
  8. Leave room to manoeuvre and not get doored
  9. Don’t pass on the right or weave in and out
  10. Take bike specific paths, whenever possible

Be Visible

Whether you are riding on the road or on a trail, make sure you can be seen when you are biking by following these suggestions:

  • equip your bike with flashing front and rear lights
  • wear reflective gear such as a high visibility jacket or vest
  •  wear bright clothing that contrasts with your environment

Wear a Helmet

Recent studies show that wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head and brain injuries to cyclists by as much as 85%. The helmet absorbs the energy of the impact and extends your head’s stopping time to reduce the impact to the brain. It takes very little effort to put a helmet on, so it seems like an easy choice. The fit of the helmet is essential, so follow these tips when choosing one:

  • measure your head and buy the right size
  • adjust the fit using the adjuster wheel to ensure it does not move around from side to side, or front to back
  • the helmet should sit level across your forehead, just above the eyebrows
  • the straps should fit tight and the chin strap should feel snug when you open your mouth
  • make sure the helmet has a certification sticker from the CSA, EN, ASTM, CPSC or Snell B90/95
  • if you are doing anything beyond basic mountain biking, buy a helmet specific to mountain biking, if possible

And remember to replace your helmet after a major impact, even if you can’t see any visible damage.  Helmets are no longer safe after a major impact.

Perform Bike Maintenance and Carry Repair Kit

Perform regular maintenance and safety checks on your bike or take it in to a bike shop for a tune up. Before you head out for a ride, preform a pre ride bike inspection, using the A, B, C technique:

  • Air: Check your tire air pressure.
  • Brakes: Make sure your brakes are functioning properly.
  • Chain and cranks: Make sure your chain is clean, oiled and your gears are shifting well.

Carry a basic repair kit on your bike containing the following:

  • spare tube
  • tire patch kit
  • basic tools including Allen key and tire levers
  • pump or compressed air
  • identification
  • cell phone

Reduce Distractions

Listening to music is great when you are training indoors, but when you are riding outdoors its best to leave the headphones or airpods off.  Reducing your ability to hear the cues around you that alert you to potential hazards is an unnecessary risk that’s not worth taking.

While you’re cycling, resist the urge to check your phone.  Using your phone while biking is a huge distraction and also hinders your ability to safely handle your bike.  If you really need to use your phone, pull off the road or trail.

Make Eye Contact with Motorists

Never assume that you have been seen, especially at an intersection.  Motorists often don’t notice cyclists even if they are riding in a designated lane.  Make every effort to be seen early and often and ensure you have made eye contact with a motorist before making a turn or proceeding from a stop.

Communicate With Other Road Users

Communicating with other road users will vastly reduce the occurrence of an accident.  Using proper hand signals allows motorists to know your intentions.  Signal early to let others know if you are planning to turn, change lanes, slow or stop.

When you are riding near other road and trail users, be sure to use a bell in order to let cyclists and pedestrians know you’re passing.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Be on the lookout for loose gravel, ice, sand, puddles and other road hazards so that you can safely ride around them.  Also be sure to shoulder check every time you change lanes or make a turn.  In order to avoid being the victim of dooring, ride slowly when approaching parked vehicles, check for lit brake lights and be especially cautious if you see a vehicle is occupied.

Be sure to stop and look left, centre and right before you enter a road from a parking lot or alley.

Leave Room to Manoeuvre and Not Get Doored

Try to leave space between yourself and either the right edge or curb of the road or a parked car.  This makes it easier for motorists to see you and gives you a safe distance to manoeuvre around road hazards such as debris and drain grates.  The general rule is to leave a 1 metre buffer between yourself and either the right edge or curb of the road, but you should always use your discretion as this won’t always be possible or safe.  When passing parked vehicles, leave between 1 to 1.5 metres between yourself and the vehicles in order to stay out of the dooring zone.

Don’t Pass on the Right or Weave In and Out

You might be tempted to pass a line of traffic on the right, but don’t do it.  In order to protect yourself, when you approach an intersection you should position yourself in the centre of the lane, as part of the traffic.  If the line of traffic is very long and you want to get around it, you could dismount your bike and walk it along the sidewalk until you are pass the line of traffic.  When safe to do so, remount your bike at the beginning of an intersection and continue to ride.  This should be done with extreme caution.

Don’t weave in and out of parked cars.  Every time you weave in and out of parked cars your riding becomes less predictable and visible to drivers, putting you at risk.  Ride in a straight line to ensure you are seen by cars approaching you from behind.

Take Bike-Specific Paths

Use designated cycling routes and bike lanes as much as possible.  Cycling routes are usually wider and equipped with much better signage to remind motorists of our presence.  Bike paths and bike lanes are designed specifically for cyclists and provide a measure of protection from motorists.  Consider planning your route in advance to avoid routes that are known to contain dangerous conditions.

Above all, whenever you are out riding, use your common sense and never assume anything.  Even the safest cyclist can be injured by a negligent motorist.  So always remain vigilant and ready to react to a potential road hazard.  Awareness combined with the ten tips in our list can go a long way in preventing a crash.

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