Its been said that those who succeed in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.
To truly gain bicycle mastery, you must become proficient in cycling safety. In order to do so, we have provided you with an overview of safety equipment, a guide to cycling in traffic, and recommendations in the event you are involved in an accident.
Before riding your bicycle, it is important for you to check that it is in proper working order. Pay particular attention to the following bicycle parts to ensure that:
- Quick-release levers are tight;
- The headset turns freely;
- Brakes are functioning properly and not rubbing against the rims;
- Axles are not loose;
- Tires are appropriately inflated;
- Spokes are not bent or loose; and
- Wheels are centred in the forks.
Under Ontario law (Section 104 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, as amended), you must wear an approved bicycle helmet when riding a bicycle. To determine whether a helmet is approved, look for a tag on the helmet from a safety organization such as the Canadian Standards Association. If you are involved in an accident, an approved helmet can significantly reduce your risk of serious and permanent injury.
Cycling in Traffic
Given that a bicycle is considered a vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act, you have the same rights and responsibilities to follow all traffic laws as other users of the road. This means that you must obey all traffic signs, signals, and road markings, without exception. You must also use appropriate hand signals to alert other drivers of your intention to change lanes, turn, or stop. In addition, and as with driving a car, it is illegal to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or prescription drugs.
While cycling in traffic, use designated bicycle lanes wherever possible and, on unmarked roads, stay no more than one (1) metre away from the curb. It is imperative that you look back over your shoulder to determine the activity of the traffic behind you before you change lanes, turn, or stop. Be vigilant when passing parked cars or slow-moving vehicles and be conscious of blind spots when doing so; especially, in relation to buses and trucks. Also, be alert for road surface hazards such as holes, depressions, raised surfaces, loose gravel, wet pavement, and sharp objects.
If you are cycling with a group, ride single file on two-lane roads or when traffic is heavy on multi-lane roads. Remember to keep at least one (1) metre apart from other cyclists in the group and increase your spacing accordingly when travelling downhill or at high speed.
Cycling Accident Recommendations
If you are involved in an accident while riding your bicycle, we recommend that you take the following steps:
- Seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries;
- Obtain the name, address, phone number, driver’s license, car make and model, and insurance details for all parties involved in the accident;
- If you have car insurance, report the accident to your insurer within seven (7) days of the accident;
- If you do not have car insurance, immediately report the accident to the insurer of the party that is at fault for your accident;
- Seek medical treatment from your family physician and any other recommended treatment provider; and
- Consult with an appropriately skilled and experienced lawyer at Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP.
As the warmth of the summer months open our lives to the fun and enjoyment of outdoor activities such as cycling, the exposure to potential life-altering accidents increases as a result. However, by reviewing and following the above safety measures and recommendations, you are that much closer to gaining mastery of the bicycle and, by extension, to gaining (and safeguarding) mastery of your life.