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Essential Safety Tips and Cycling Rules

We outline the top five rules for cyclists that should always be followed

A father adjusts the strap of his son's bike helmet

If you’re like many other Ontario cyclists, the warmer weather has already lured you back onto your bike. But before you begin your full summer cycling routine, experts say it's important to brush up on your responsibilities as a rider.

"Cyclists are vulnerable road users so they especially have to follow the rules of the road," says Const. Giancarlo Marrelli with the Toronto Police Service.

With that in mind, here are the four laws and one best practice that all cyclists should follow.

1. Your bike must have a bell

A red bicycle bell is shown

When you're on two wheels, communication is key, Marrelli says. And whether you’re signalling to a jay-walking pedestrian or warning a driver not to open their door into your path, a bell in working order is the best way to make your presence known.

2. Your bike must have lights

A white front bike light is shown

If you’re riding at night, or in low visibility situations like rain or fog, you need two lights on your bike: a white or amber light on the front and a red one on the back. Without them, you’ll be nearly invisible to vehicles. "It’s about making people aware you are there so they give you that space," Marrelli says.

3. If you’re under 18, you need a helmet

A father is shown adjusting the bike helmet on his son

There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: unless you're an adult you must wear a helmet. But if you’re over 18, don’t ditch this key piece of protective gear. Helmets can reduce your risk of a brain injury by 85 per cent.

4. Stop at red lights and stop signs

A traffic light with indicators for cyclists and pedestrians is shown

It might sound obvious, but Marrelli says he often sees riders “rolling through” intersections, something he calls a recipe for disaster. “Cyclists are expecting motorists to obey the rules of the road and stop at stop signs.” If riders don’t do the same, “someone’s going to get hurt and unfortunately it’s the cyclist,” he says.

5. Beware of the dooring zone

A yellow sign reminds road users to leave a one metre distance between a car and a bicycle

Every year, scores of Ontario cyclists are injured when they’re struck by an opening car door. Legally, it’s the responsibility of drivers to make sure they don’t “door” a rider. Drivers and passengers can prevent dooring by doing the Dutch Reach. By opening the car door with the hand furthest from the door, it forces your body to turn and perform a shoulder check. Check out this video to see the Dutch Reach in action.

Marrelli says to be on the safe side, cyclists should leave themselves a one-metre buffer between parked vehicles. “We’ve seen devastating injuries,” he says. “Even though you're in the right, leave that extra space when you’re passing vehicles that are pulled over.

Keep reading

To learn more, visit CAA’s cycling safety website. And if you have a few minutes, take this quiz to see how much you really know about cycling safety.

Image credit: andym80/ iStock.com; energyy/iStock.com; JasonDoiy/iStock.com; chpua/iStock.com; georgeclerk/iStock.com