Everyone, including cyclists, have a role to play in bike safety
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Cycling is great exercise and a viable means of transportation, but it can also be dangerous when vehicle traffic is part of the mix. It’s important for everyone to take an active role in bicycle safety.
“We always tell motorists that they have metal around them, while cyclists are vulnerable, but cyclists should be good road-sharing partners as well,” says Teresa Di Felice, director of government and community relations for CAA South Central Ontario. “We want to mitigate conflict and get to safety.”
It’s important for cyclists to think about safety and follow the rules of the road, since drivers can’t predict what cyclists are going to do. This includes riding with the flow of traffic (unless there’s a bike-specific contraflow lane), obeying traffic signals, and making eye contact with motorists at intersections.
Likewise, drivers need to give cyclists at least a metre of space when passing them, check for cyclists alongside when making right-hand turns, and look for oncoming bicycles when making left-hand turns. Drivers also need to stay farther back when driving behind a cyclist, since a bicycle can stop much faster than a car.
Cyclists have to use extra caution around big trucks, which have large blind spots despite their multiple mirrors.
“Cyclists are flexible and can get into smaller spaces, but that space between a curb and a car is different when it’s a curb and a truck,” Di Felice says.
“We tell cyclists to stay back behind the truck, to let it go and make its turn.”
Even though truck drivers make wide right turns, the trailer will always turn sharper than the truck, and a cyclist waiting at the curb could be crushed under the trailer’s rear wheels before he even realizes he’s in danger.
Di Felice also warns that while cars should move out to pass cyclists, trucks can’t always do this.
“There’s a responsibility for the trucker to give cyclists space, but they can’t easily weave out, especially if it’s uphill. We encourage truckers to do what they can, but cyclists must realize that no one’s trying to be aggressive, and they can’t manoeuvre a truck the way they would a car.”
Cyclists should also make themselves visible with lights or reflective clothing, especially at dusk, when those on bikes may still think it’s bright outside but motorists have less visibility through their windshields.
If one cyclist in a group has the brightest lights or clothing, put that person at the back of the pack, if possible.
“Cycling isn’t a fad, and we’re seeing it increase,” Di Felice says. “It’s important to address this, and our role is to look at what needs to be done.”
• Distracted cycling is dangerous, and cyclists shouldn’t phone or text while riding, or wear earbuds that could drown out traffic noise.
• To avoid “dooring” cyclists, drivers should open doors with their right hands, which forces them to look behind them.
• CAA.ca offers free tips on bicycle safety, as well as CAA’s Bike Assist program for members.