Here at Gluckstein Lawyers, we want to make sure you are using best practices when riding a bike in your community. Here are some guidelines you should always follow:
- Always wear a helmet! Although Ontario law only requires children under 18 to wear a helmet, it is crucial that you do so at any age, as it could prevent serious brain injury in the case of an accident. Set for Safety, a nonprofit organization that we work with, provides free helmets for children who cannot afford them.
- Conduct a safety check: Check your tires, chains, gears, brake levers and pads, and lights and reflectors.
- Install a working bell or horn, a white front light and red rear light (if you ride your bike before dawn and/or dusk) AND white reflective tape on the front of the bike and red reflective tape on the back at all times.
- Wear bright, reflective clothing, especially if you are riding at night.
- When sharing the road with cars, trucks, motorcycles, and buses always stay to the right side of the lane. Good practices also include shoulder checking and hand signalling if you need to change lanes or make a turn.
With all of these tips in mind, it is important to review what makes bike-riding and lane sharing so dangerous and what makes it safer for all parties involved.
Is there a middle ground between a separation of cyclist and motorist and a mingling of the two? While many biking enthusiasts enjoy sharing the road with motor vehicles, others are less enthused.
When it comes down to data and statistics, places with high rates of bicycling, like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, have the highest amount of protected bike lanes and trails. This correlation is not coincidental–when cyclists feel safe and know that they are in a lane of their own, the desire to go out and ride raises. Establishing protected bike lanes eliminates one of the riskiest factors for cyclists; they no longer have to worry about "dooring": getting hit by car doors, which is potentially fatal.
Although on the whole it is seemingly safer to ride on protected paths and lanes, these facilities are not always available in every city, and some cyclists must choose between staying in their comfort zone or getting accustomed to sharing the road, if they want to continue riding on a daily basis.
There are valid opinions on either side of the aisle. On the one hand, cyclists urge motorists to use excessive caution when sharing the road, and to use the Signal, Mirror, Over-The-Shoulder, Go! Or the (S.M.O.G) method whenever changing lanes or making turns. Motorists have similar concerns, often discussing the quick and almost transparent nature of cyclists; they disappear and reappear in a flash, and oftentimes appear in drivers' blind spots. The best middle ground we can establish is an open dialogue between both drivers and cyclists, so that they can discuss what practices work for both parties.
In the meantime, the best thing to do is to follow the list of best practices above and to be as vigilant as possible when sharing the road with motor vehicles and vice versa. Safe driving and cycling!
Do you think we need to establish safer, protected lanes for cyclists in Toronto? Let us know below!