Strategies for Safer Cycling
Interest and participation in cycling are growing in Waterloo Region and the Region has made strides in constructing cycling lanes on the edges of new Regional roads, making cycling paths, and considering connectivity in the Region. The Region currently has more than 500 km of on-road cycle routs and off-road multi use paths.
The Region’s active transport plan and Bike WR are full of information for cyclists to plan their trips and to become educated about cycling paths, safety and routes. What is still needed though is an investment in more separated cycling lanes to make the routes safer for cyclists of all ages and abilities to use. The lack of safe cycling options is particularly evident in the rural areas where having a narrow bike lane or paved shoulder may not be adequate to separate the cyclist from the traffic moving at 80 km/h or more.
Many large cities like Toronto and Vancouver are investing millions of dollars to make routes safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Separated bike lanes remove bikes from the path of cars and pedestrians and are key to safety of cyclists and pedestrians. Wider and better lit crosswalks and cycling and pedestrian traffic lights also improve safety for these vulnerable road users.
Closing some roads to cars altogether also improves safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Sharing the road is key to keeping everyone safe and all levels of government invest in education strategies for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Almost half of all cycling accidents involving cars that the police are called to are deemed to be the fault of the cyclist. This points to carelessness on the part both parties.
Most nations that have high cycling rates also have separated dedicated cycling lanes. This is a concept that is ingrained in many European countries. As the number of cyclists increases the number of drivers who cycle also increase. This may lead to the adoption of better driver and cycling habits leading to lower collision rates overall.
The Canada Safety Council has a good fact sheet on cycling safety. Here is a copy of the page:
Cycling is popular with Canadians of all ages. Many Canadian children 12 and under ride bikes. In addition, many adults ride bicycles to keep fit, for recreation and for transportation.
Overall, bicycling is a safe and enjoyable activity for riders of all ages who respect the rules of the road and keep a safety conscious attitude.
A bicycle is classified as a vehicle which belongs on the road. Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. You must obey the same rules of the road when riding your bike as you do when driving your car.
Traffic laws help road users predict each other’s actions. Cyclists, like motorists, must ride on the right side of the road (except on two-way designated bicycle paths), be sober, stop for stop signs and red lights, signal turns, and yield to traffic that has the right-of-way.
In addition, bicycle-related laws cover specific safety issues. Bicycles, as one of the smallest vehicles on the road, must be seen and heard. Since bikes are quiet vehicles, you must be equipped with a working bell or horn to announce your approach. Reflective tape, reflectors and a front light make you more visible to other road users. Consider these laws as a minimum. Whether required by law or not, for example, you should always wear a helmet and observe other common sense precautions.
Always ride defensively, anticipating the actions of other road users to avoid a collision and staying alert for all hazards. A car door could open at any time. A pedestrian or animal could dart onto the road without warning. Debris, grates or holes in the road could make you veer or crash. Wet or cold weather can make riding treacherous. If you must ride in those conditions, be aware of the challenges and handle your bike accordingly.
Whether it’s daylight, dawn, dusk or dark, make yourself easy to see. One of the reasons motorists often give for hitting cyclists is that they did not notice them. A cyclist may be hard to spot from far away when a vehicle is traveling relatively fast. When the sun is very low, cyclists and motorists can be momentarily blinded by the glare.
Bright clothing catches people’s attention in the daytime – the brighter the better. If you must ride at night, go beyond the required reflectors and front light. Wear clothing made with retro-reflective material, or retro-reflective tape on your clothing, to ensure you can be seen.
Protect your head by wearing a CSA-approved bicycle helmet; other types of sport helmets won’t do, as they are designed for different types of impact. The helmet should fit snugly, level and square on the forehead with the front covering the forehead. If it has been in a collision, it has done its job. Replace it.
Is Your Bike Safe?
First, your bicycle must fit you correctly. If it’s too big or too small, you won’t be able to control it adequately. You should be able to straddle it comfortably with both feet on the ground.
Next, keep it well maintained. Check it regularly to be sure it is safe to ride.
- Are the brakes adjusted properly, with brake pads and cables in good condition?
- Is the chain clean and oiled? (On ten-speeds, a chain that sags means the rear derailleur needs repair.)
- Do all the gears work well
- Are all bolts tight?
- Are the wheels centered and secure?
- Are the tires in good condition with the right amount of air pressure?
- Do you have an emergency tool kit? Be prepared in case a tire goes flat or a screw comes loose.
- If anything is broken, fix it.
Cycle for Health and Happiness
Cycling is good for your heart, improves your balance and co-ordination, helps with weight control, enhances your general well-being and promotes mental health. Beyond the health benefits, it’s an enjoyable way to get around.
Health experts believe that after just a few weeks of regular cycling, regardless of age, gender or initial physical fitness, the cyclist will be fitter and enjoy a greater sense of well-being.