Top 10 ways to stay safe while biking!

Do you know the most common cause of bike vs. car accident?

I have been commuting to work on my bike for more than 10 years. The last 6 years include bringing my kids where they need to go (daycare, school, play dates, shopping). They have logged about 50% of my miles. I thought I had seen it all: cyclists smoking, toddlers eating choking hazards in bike seats, flips, falls and collisions. This week I saw the ultimate: texting while biking on College Street in Toronto. He was two bikes ahead of me and weaving in and out of our lane. He nearly took out one cyclist as she attempted to pass him, and countless cars nearly hit him, yet he remained oblivious to the honks and dangers. I decided we needed a top 10 list of how to stay safe on your bike in Toronto.

  1.  Do not text and bike. I know it seems obvious, but as noted above, apparently it’s worth mentioning.
  2. Choose routes that have bike lanes or suggested routes, even if it is a little longer. Getting there 5 minutes later is better than not getting there at all.
  3. Make sure your bike fits you.
  4. Keep it tuned (especially your brakes) and your wheels pumped. It’s harder to get a flat on properly inflated tires.
  5. Bike with your kids. It may seem counter intuitive, but cars seem to give you more room and you won’t be as aggressive, keeping you safer.
  6. Bike early in the am: less traffic = less likely to arrive in an accident.
  7. Bike single file. When you are doubled you take up the whole lane.  Faster cyclists can’t get by and cars don’t give much room to the outside cyclist, if they go down so do you.
  8. Accept that you are not the fastest cyclist out there.
  9. Light up your bike like a Christmas tree and wear reflective clothing and ankle bracelets.  Cars have enough trouble seeing us in the daytime hours; dawn and dusk are very difficult. Lights make you more visible, therefore less likely to be hit.
  10. Watch out for streetcar tracks. They are slippery in the rain and lock your front wheel when you get caught in them. I take them at a 30o angle, it seems to work.

But most importantly, PAY ATTENTION!! I’ve treated many cyclists who have been hit by an oncoming car turning left while their lane is stopped in traffic. Be alert to everything around you–you might want to rethink that music player. The most common cause of bike accident in Toronto is getting the door prize. Stay wide and use your bell when passing parked cars. Expect EVERY car door to open so you are not caught by surprise.

Cycling is a great exercise that can be done lifelong. I don’t bike because I am fit; I am fit because I bike. What’s your top tip for staying safe?

Ride safe!

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