articles,  healthy lifestyle

Staying Safe On Your Bike This Summer

Cool brisk air, a warm summer’s mist and the freedom of nature are just a few reasons why riding a bike acts as natural anti-depressant.

“But, what about the traffic?  These road’s are so congested, nowadays.  Is it even safe?”

Sure, obstacles can encourage anxiety for the unexperienced cyclist.  But, the risk of injury is minimal.  Alleviate the feeling that people are honking at YOU by learning the basics of bike riding etiquette before you’re riding down the wrong side of the street.

Safety is in knowledge.

How Safe Is Riding A Bike In Canada?

How safe is riding a bike and what can you – as a cyclist and a motor vehicle operator – do to ensure everyone’s mutual safety on the road?

Every year, approximately 7,500 cyclists are injured or killed in Canada.  70% of those injuries and deaths occur on city streets with speed limits of up to 70 km/h, while the remaining 30% of injuries and deaths take place on rural roads.

So, before you even get on the road, what can you do to ensure your own safety?

What Are The Basics Of Personal Bike Riding Safety Gear?

A helmet, of course.  Common sense, right?  Not so much.

In a 2017 study released by Statistics Canada, only 42% of polled Canadians age 12 and up always wore a helmet when riding a bike.  The most diligent age group to wear a helmet were those ages 50 and up.  49.3% saying they wear a helmet all of the time.  Unsurprisingly, young adults ages 18-24 were the least likely to wear a helmet with only 25.3% of those polled saying they always wear a helmet.

Besides a helmet, cyclists should always ensure that they are visible to drivers.  Specially designed reflective bike riding gear is available, but unnecessary.  A less-expensive high-vis safety vest will do the trick and will cost you much less.  Even if your bike trip starts in the mid-afternoon when the sun is still out, it is still a good idea to wear something reflective.  Too much visibility isn’t a bad thing.

You should also utilize a cheaply available blinking or reflective light under the bike seat or built into the helmet to help alert a distracted driver’s wandering attention.

Another courteous and safe accessory that costs less than five dollars is a bell to alert pedestrians, dog walkers and other cyclists that you’re coming up behind them to pass.  It is a simple way to avoid a collision around a blind corner.

A mirror is another cheap accessory that will minimize your chances of being plowed over from behind by a cyclist who collides with you as you go to pass an elderly couple walking their small dog without looking over your shoulder.

Using Your Hand Signals.

Now that you’re outfitted with the basics of cyclist safety gear, there’s one last thing to brush up on before you peddle out of your driveway: hand signals.

I’ll let the picture do the talking …

Got it?  Good.  Let’s keep going.

What Side Of The Road Do You Ride Your Bike On?

A rule of considerable danger when unfollowed is what side of the road to ride your bike on 

In Canada, cyclists ride with traffic on the right-hand side of the road, unlike pedestrians who walk against the traffic.  Riding your bike against traffic is highly discouraged.  Only do so when it is unsafe to ride on the correct side of the road.

Take The Earbuds Out, Bud…

Last thing before you get on the road: remove your earbuds, or minimize the volume, so you are better able to focus on your surroundings and not become a distracted rider.

Okay, now that you – the cyclist – are prepared with the basics of cycling safety etiquette, there’s nothing to worry about, right?

Not exactly…

What Time Of Day Do Most Cyclists Get Injured?

Let’s start with distracted drivers; they are everywhere and a huge threat to cyclist and pedestrian safety.  Whether they’re looking at cell phones, sipping on a double-double, fiddling with the radio, or lighting a cigarette, they are simply not paying attention.

The most common time of day for a cyclist to be injured or killed is during the afternoon rush hour when the streets are congested with vehicles hurrying home from work and picking up kids from school.  The distractions to drivers also increases during these periods as pedestrian traffic overflows from sidewalks and wobbly toddlers balance on their training wheels.

Crosswalks and intersections where traffic lights and signs direct multiple lanes of traffic are the most common areas where cyclists are injured or killed.

Crosswalks And The Four Most Common Car/Cyclist Collisions

Get off your bike and walk it across the street and never start walking your bike across until you have made direct eye contact with the driver of the vehicle.

There are four other conditions that represent a large percentage of injuries or death to cyclists due to collision with motor vehicles.

  1. A cyclist and a driver are both in the right-side lane and the driver makes a right-hand turn, not seeing the cyclist coming up behind them, causing the cyclist to collide with the side of the car.
  2. The cyclist is in the right-side lane and a car driving towards them, in the opposite lane, makes a left-hand turn, not noticing the oncoming cyclist, cutting him off and possibly colliding.
  3. When a car is parked on the side of the road and the driver opens the door without checking the rear-view mirror for the oncoming cyclist.
  4. Cars pulling out of driveways and parking stalls and when merging back into traffic from businesses.

Keep Your Bike On Flat, Stable Surfaces.

It may be fun, but is not safe to ride your bike through large, unknowingly deep puddles, as you could slip or sink in mud or stumble on a large rocks and lose balance.

Loose gravel can be dangerous in bike lanes and can make quick emergency stops hard for cyclists and can cause the rider to lose tractions when turning corners.

How Much Room Should A Driver Leave A Cyclist When Passing?

Drivers can minimize the chance of an unstable cyclist falling into traffic and being injured by always leaving  at least a meters worth of space when passing and it is courteous, but not always possible, for the driver to slow down if they can’t merge over and provide that safety zone.

Cyclists carrying children strapped to infant bike seats also can veer after sudden movements from their small passengers. Remember, beginning cyclists who have just removed their training wheels aren’t as stable as their parents.  18% of cyclist deaths are children under the age of 16 in Canada.

Riding Your Bike At Night.

Lastly, there is night time cycling.  1 in 3 cyclist deaths occur at night when there is no light or artificial lighting.  Visibility, as in you being able to see what is in front of you, as well as you – the cyclist – being visible to drivers, will save your life during night-riding conditions.

A headlight is highly recommended, and again, highly affordable.  Pitch blackness is just that, so don’t think you’re biological sense of direction will keep you from riding your bike off it’s straight path and into a ditch.  It won’t.

When riding at night, be highly aware of oncoming traffic.  You will be temporarily blinded by the vehicle’s headlights and – without a high-visibility vest – be invisible to the driver, especially when traffic is coming from behind.  It is a safe practice to stop your bike in these scenarios.

So, Buckle Up Your Helmet and Start Peddling Today!

Cycling can be an exhilarating sport, a scenic and leisurely stroll for yourself and the family, or a feasible and frugal way to minimize the growing costs associated with operating a vehicle.  It’s an excellent way to explore the many twists and turns, green spaces and trails of your community and it can be safe when both cyclists and drivers share the road and obey traffic laws.

Practicing safe bike riding etiquette and teaching your children early is the best way to stay safe on the road.  Injuries and accidents can’t always be avoided, but being prepared could be the difference between life and death for you or someone else.