Cycling Safely in the City

Cycling infrastructure such as the Scarborough Railpath, pictured above, keep different modes of traffic separate, making the roads safer for everyone.

The City of Toronto currently lacks an extensive network of interconnected cycling infrastructure such as bike lanes and trails. Under the Highway Traffic Act, bicycles are considered vehicles and cyclists must ride on the road, not on the sidewalk. When riding in mixed-traffic it is important to keep some safety tips in mind.

Cyclists under 18-years of age are required to wear a helmet by law or risk a $75 fine. Adult cyclists should also wear a helmet because the majority of riders who are killed or seriously injured in traffic collisions were not wearing one.

A helmet’s effectiveness increases if it is being worn properly. The helmet should not be placed too far back or too far forward on your head. It cannot protect you if your forehead or the back of your head are exposed. The helmet’s buckles must also fit snuggly under your chin, otherwise the helmet is being worn incorrectly.

It is important to wear clothing that will not get caught in the wheels, chain or gears of the bicycle otherwise it can lead to falls and injury.

When riding at night, cyclists need to make themsevels visible to motorists by wearing light-coloured or reflective clothing that glows in the dark.  They also need to use a white front light and a red rear light or reflector 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise. Improper bicycle lighting can lead to a $30 fine.

In warm summer weather, riding is an intense physical activity. Wear sunscreen while cycling and carry a water bottle at all times. Drink one bottle of water every 20 minutes to prevent dehydration.

The majority of traffic accidents involving cyclists occur at intersections during afternoon rush hours. Be careful when turning at intersections. Ride in a straight line and look ahead so you can spot and avoid hazards on the road. Perform a shoulder check and signal before turning or making lane changes.

A City of Toronto by-law allows cyclists with a tire size of 24-inches or less to ride on the sidewalk. The intent of this by-law is to allow children to learn to ride in a safe environment. Cyclists with bicycle tire sizes over 24-inches must ride on the road. Riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can result in a $90 fine and aggressive cyclists whose actions are a danger to others can be charged with careless driving. Riding on the sidewalk is very dangerous and can result in serious injury if a cyclist hits a pedestrian.

It’s a common sight in parts of Toronto to see cyclists proceed through an intersection on a red light. This is dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists are at risk of being hit by other vehicles. Similarly, pedestrians crossing the intersection are at risk of being hit by cyclists. Cyclists must obey traffic signals and stop at red lights behind the white stop line.