Cycle Safety: Making your Bike Road Ready

Edited by Admin
Cycle Safety: Making your Bike Road Ready

Many Canadians have been waiting for spring sunshine to get their beloved bicycles back on the road. Cycling can be a wonderful way to enjoy the world around you as you make your way across the city or go on a recreational country ride. Riding your bike is a great way to get exercise while enjoying the fresh air and spring flowers. Before you hop onto your bike this spring, take a few minutes to consider whether or not you are biking as safely as possible.


Get Equipped!


First, the bicycle. Many of us end up riding bikes that are unsafe because the frame is too large: a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to stand flat-footed over the bike frame’s top tube. Next, adjust the seat properly by sitting on the seat with the balls of your feet on the pedals. At the bottom of the pedal stroke, your knees should be bent only slightly, and your legs should be nearly straight. You should be able to rest your hands lightly on the handlebars with your weight distributed evenly. Be sure that both the handlebar stem and the seat post are fastened tightly and that they are not exceeding the maximum extension point.


Next, make sure that your bike is in good condition. Get regular tune-ups and check your bike before each ride. Make sure that:

  • Tires are inflated to the proper pressure (as shown on the tire.) Check for wheel wobbles or bent/broken wheel spokes.
  • Chain is tracking well, stays on the sprockets, and does not slip.
  • Brake levers are working, cables are in good shape, and brake pads are hitting the wheel rims and not the tires.


The paramount rule for staying safe on the road is to make sure that you and your bicycle are seen by drivers. Please make sure your bike has:

  • A bright white front light
  • A flashing red rear light (or reflector)
  • A working bell or horn
  • White reflective tape on front wheel spokes
  • Red reflective tape on back wheel spokes


Sensible bicyclists exceed the minimum requirements, adding reflectors wherever possible, and/or wearing reflective clothing. You might also consider a vertical safety flag, a horizontal safety flag, and a rear-view mirror.


Remember that bicycles can be hard for drivers to see. Stay out of a driver’s “blind spot” and work to make your presence known. This can mean using your horn or bell, since bikes are also silent, and drivers won’t get audible cues to your presence, either. Make sure that you can hear everything that’s happening around you – never wear headphones or earphones while biking. And of course, keep your phone safely stowed away until you reach your destination. If you have to check it, get off the road and wait until you can do so safely.


All children under the age of 18 are required by Ontario law to wear a helmet while bicycling, but it is prudent for cyclists of all ages to get into the habit of wearing CSA-approved, properly fitted helmets. In any fall or collision with a vehicle, a cyclist is very vulnerable, and without protection, may be at risk for traumatic brain injury or death. Yes, your hairstyle might be the worse for wearing a helmet, but the alternative can be devastating.


Bike Safely


Finally, know how to ride. If you’re just learning, or if it’s been a while since you rode regularly, you might want to take a bicycle safety course to brush up on your skills. Here are some of the basics:


  • Straight line. If you are wobbling and wavering, vehicles have a hard time understanding where you might be headed. Don’t go out onto the road until you can ride in a straight line in a parking lot or track.


  • Shoulder-checking. Practice checking over your shoulder to see what traffic behind you is doing. This is difficult to do without swerving, but a crucial skill.

  • Signal. Just as car drivers are required to signal before making a turn, so are bicyclists. Learn the arm/hand signals for turns and use them every time.


  • Hazards. You will often encounter hazards while biking. This might be potholes, which are particularly plentiful in spring, poor weather conditions, flat tires, streetcar tracks, or drivers opening car doors in your path. Stay alert.

  • The rules of the road. Know when you have the right of way and when you don’t. Obey your local by-laws regarding riding on sidewalks. Learn how to change lanes, how to go through an intersection properly, how to make turns, and how to navigate roundabouts and other difficult situations such as passing a school bus or a streetcar. Knowing what to do can save your life.



Enjoy your bike time this year -- and stay safe!