Bicycle Safety for the Road
Friday, June 5, 2015
Cycling is a great way to commute to and from work, get some exercise and reduce your carbon footprint.
However, it’s important to take precautions to stay safe and protect yourself while you’re riding, particularly if you are sharing the road with larger and faster vehicles.
Make sure your bike is ride-ready
Make sure that your bike is prepared and properly equipped for the conditions and area in which you are riding. To be extra confident, bring your bike to a local shop for a complete tune-up and expert advice. Check the brakes, chain, gears, and cables. Make sure you have the right tires on your bike.
In addition, ensure your bike has equipment required by law. In Calgary, bicycles must be equipped with a horn or bell, a brake, and, if operated at night, a white headlight, a red taillight and a red rear reflector. The lights must be on at night or when visibility is less than 150 m. ("Night" means 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise on pathways, and one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise on the roads.)
Make sure you’re ready
Once the bike is deemed road-ready, it’s your turn. Having the necessary cycling equipment is crucial: a helmet, reflective clothing and appropriate gear for the weather, such as a rain jacket.
Know your hand signals
All drivers, whether on a bike or in a vehicle, (should) recognize and understand hand signals. Your left arm straight out signals a left turn. Your left arm bent up at the elbow is a right turn. Your left arm bent down at the elbow signals a stop.
Use these hand signals prior to turns and lane changes in order to communicate your intentions with others. Make eye contact with drivers when using your hand signals, especially when turning, to confirm that they see you and know your intentions.
Obey the rules of the road
Motorists and cyclists have the same rights to be on the roads, and the same responsibilities for each other’s safety. Make sure you know your city’s cycling laws.
In Calgary, it's illegal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk - unless it's a designated pathway, you are under 14 years old, or are delivering newspapers.
Always obey posted signs, speed limits, and be very careful at intersections. Motorists won't look for you, sometimes won't be able to see you, and you don’t automatically have the right of way in crosswalks like pedestrians.
Cyclists must travel single file, and stay as close to the right curb as possible, or the left curb on a one-way street.
Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind while you’re sharing the road:
- Use designated bike lanes where they exist. Bicycles count as High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) and are therefore entitled to ride on Calgary’s HOV lanes.
- Stay to the right when you’re in traffic, Don’t pass cars on the right through intersections. (You never know when they might turn right.)
- Ride at least one metre away from parked cars.
- Always ride with the flow of traffic.
- Remember to look well ahead and to always scan intersections prior to riding across them.
- Don’t stop in the blind spot of a vehicle. Stop behind the car instead.
- Wear bright clothing - even during the day.
- Never move left (to avoid a pothole or something in the roadway) without doing a shoulder check first.
- Try to avoid busy, narrow streets.
- Do not wear headphones. It is important to hear what’s going on around you.
Around 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured each year, most of them during the afternoon rush hour. When you get on your bike, make sure you have given yourself the best chance of enjoying your ride and making it home safe and sound – so you can ride another day!
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