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Bicycle Safety

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A man on a bicycle rides down a crowded urban street

Smart cycling 

York Region is a beautiful place to explore on two wheels. Every day, thousands of residents take to the streets on their bicycles to travel to work or school, or simply to get some exercise. Cycling is a safe, fun and environmentally friendly way to get around - as long as motorists and cyclists share the road, obey all laws under the Highway Traffic Act and ensure they are equipped with appropriate safety equipment. 

For cyclists

Safety check

Ensure your bike is ready for the road before you take off:

Tires and wheels

  • Inflate tires to the recommended pressure printed on the tire
  • Replace any bent or broken spokes and check for wobbles in your wheels by watching them spin past the brakes and frame

Chain and gears

  • Make sure your chain doesn't slip when you're not changing gears

  • While changing gears, the chain should moves freely and easily from sprocket to sprocket while the pedals are turning

Brakes

  • Squeeze your brakes to make sure there is space between the handlebars and the levers when the brakes are fully engaged

  • Make sure the entire each brake pad is making contact with the wheel, but never the tire

Equipment

Helmets are the law for riders 18 years old and under, but safety looks smart at every age. While biking is a safe activity, all cyclists should be prepared in case of an accident. 

Helmet

An approved bicycle helmet can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death in the event of a fall or collision. Ensure your helmet:

  • Is replaced in the event of a collision or fall, even if it is not damaged
  • Fits snugly on the head, with one finger's width of space between your chin and the strap
  • Has a safety standards sticker that meets the approval of safety organizations such as Snell, ANSI, ASTM, BSI, SAA or CSPC

A bicycle equipped with a shining white light attached to the handlebarLights, reflectors, bells and horns

The law requires that you equip your bike with:

  • A bell or horn in good working order
  • A white front light and a red rear light or reflector if you ride a half-hour before sunset, or after sunrise
  • White reflective tape on the front forks and red reflective tape on rear forks

Bicycle locks

To prevent your bike from being stolen, invest in a portable, quality bicycle lock. When locking up your bike:

  • Ensure the lock passes through the bike frame as well as any easily removable parts, such as wheels
  • Record your combination on your phone or in another safe place, or have a duplicate key available
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While riding

Making a turn or changing lanes

While travelling on the road, cyclists are responsible for signalling to let other road users know their intentions.Cyclists should always signal their movement at intersections and before changing lanes, including while passing moving or parked vehicles. 

Cyclists should signal early enough to allow other road users time to react. Before making your turn, check over your shoulder and make eye contact with motorists and other road users.

Signals

  • Turning left: To signal a left turn, extend your left arm straight out from the body
  • Turning right: To signal a right turn, extend your left arm out from the body and point your hand up toward the sky
  • Stopping: To signal a stop, extend your left arm out from the body and point your hand down toward the ground

Obeying the rules of the road

Your bike is just like any other vehicle out on the road. If you're taking your bike to the streets, you need to obey the rules of the road:

  • Cyclists, while moving slower than traffic, should keep to the curb lane whenever possible, unless you are passing other vehicles, following a bike lane or preparing to make a turn from another lane
  • While in the curb lane, you should keep to the right when possible, though hazards such as potholes, sewer grates or debris may force you to take a lane. Do not sacrifice your safety for the convenience of motorists behind you - they must wait until it's safe to pass 
  • Follow direction indicated by all traffic lights and road signs

For motorists 

A cyclist rides in a green bike lane while a car turns in his pathMaking a right turn

When making a right turn:

  • Check your blind spots for cyclists after signalling and before making your turn
  • Do not speed up to get ahead of a cyclist, only to turn across their path. Slow down, merge to the right behind the cyclist and turn when you can do so safely
  • If the turn is across a bike lane, merge into the bike lane before making your turn, so that you do not cut off a cyclist between your vehicle and the curb

A cyclist rides near the curb while cars passPassing a cyclist

When passing a cyclist: 

  • Always leave at least one metre of distance between your vehicle and the cyclist
  • You may enter the oncoming lanes if you can do so safely, in order to provide the cyclist with enough space 

Opening your door

Opening a car door across a cyclist's path could lead to serious injury. Before opening your door, check your mirror and blind spots for cyclists. 

More information

For more information about safe cycling and applicable laws and fines, see Cycling Skills, Ontario's Guide to Safe Cycling.  

For information about riding a bike in York Region, including local maps, cyclist-friendly roads and local programs, projects and initiatives, see the region's cycling website.