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Tips for Cyclists and Motorists Who Need to Share the Road -

May 1, 2013

Share the Road - A Guide for Both Cyclists and Drivers

According to Transport Canada, approximately 60 bicyclists are killed each year in collisions with motor vehicles. This sobering statistic highlights the very real danger that cyclists face when peddling their bikes from place to place. Cycling is growing more popular in Canada by the day, so it's more important than ever for drivers and cyclists to learn how to share the road. Motorists often blame cyclists, and cyclists often blame motorists. At the end of the day, both parties are responsible for maintaining safety on the road.

Learn more about how motorists and cyclists can share the road and the benefits of doing so.

How Sharing the Road Benefits Us All

Which came first: the automobile or the bicycle? If roads were designed for cars, shouldn't drivers be in charge? Neither one of these points really matters. The fact is that bicycles aren't going anywhere, and there's obviously no way that cars are going to be banned. For both of these reasons, it is critical for cyclists and drivers to learn to share the road responsibly. Practicality is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of sharing the road.

Tips for Motorists

As a motorist, there's a lot you can do to enhance safety while sharing the road with cyclists. The following 10 tips will help you share the road more effectively.

  1. When leaving your driveway remember to watch for cyclists in addition to other motorists and pedestrians.
  2. Once on the road and you see a cyclist, imagine a buffer zone of three feet around all sides and steer clear of that buffer zone to give plenty of room.
  3. Only pass a cyclist when there's plenty of room to do so for both you and the cyclist, and don't honk; it could startle them and cause an accident.
  4. Don't drink and drive. A simple message that often gets overlooked making the roads more dangerous for everyone. Read our article on distracted driving for insights on how poor driving habits affect safety on the roads.
  5. If turning left, watch for approaching cyclists and err on the side of caution by waiting for them to leave the intersection-they may be travelling faster than you realize.
  6. Exercise extreme caution when turning right and watch for cyclists who may be to the right of your vehicle. Also watch for cyclists approaching from behind, check to see if they're signalling to turn as well. Always use your turn indicator.
  7. Be especially mindful of children on bicycles; they can be unpredictable.
  8. When street parking look carefully before opening your car door to get out.
  9. If in doubt, give the cyclist the right of way; it's simply safer for everyone involved.
  10. Remember, cyclists are equals and are legal road users with the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of vehicles.

Tips for Cyclists

Did you know the accident rate among cyclists is 26 to 48 times higher than it is among motorists? It's important and sharing the road works both ways; if you're a cyclist, keep these tips in mind to be a safer rider.

  1. Learn important handling skills and safety maneuvers. There are online guides available, such as the Ontario's Cycling Skills Guide. Or if you prefer the more hands-on approach, attend courses taught by certified instructors that teach important skills so you're prepared to use them at a moment's notice.
  2. Make sure your bike is ready to ride; a bicycle that is in need of repair is also unsafe to ride.
  3. Always wear a helmet because it could save your life in the event of what may even appear as a minor accident.
  4. Be seen and heard by wearing brightly coloured clothing, having your bicycle equipped with lights and reflectors, and using your bell or horn as you approach pedestrians, other cyclists and intersections.
  5. At sunrise and sunset, and riding directly into or away from the sun leave yourself extra room.
  6. Ride in a straight line and always signal when planning to turn. Before turning, do a quick check over your shoulder to ensure it is safe to do so and signal your intention to turn. If you don't know the hand signal for turning (and stopping) learn them.
  7. As a typically lower speed vehicle, bicyclists should stay right and ride about one meter from the curb or, if there is no curb, to the right edge of the road (exceptions include if turning left, moving faster than the flow of traffic or if the lane is too narrow to share.)
  8. Be especially careful at intersections (small and large) because this is where many collisions occur. Never assume that a driver sees you before proceeding. Here are some rules to ride by:
    • Give way to pedestrians and vehicles already in the intersection,
    • At an intersection without traffic signs or lights, if you arrive at the same time as another vehicle, you must yield right-of-way to the vehicle approaching from the right,
    • At an intersection with an all way stop, the vehicle that arrives first has the right-of-way; if two arrive at the same time, then the vehicle to the right does.
  9. Don't drink and ride; you have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles on the road and this includes not riding impaired.
  10. Obey all of the rules of the road; a bicycle is technically a vehicle, so make sure to obey all traffic laws. It makes it easier for motorists to know what to expect too.

Coexisting in Peace: Making it Happen

In addition to the tips that are outlined above, there are ways to improve the existing infrastructure to promote safety between motorists and cyclists. One way to make this happen is by building "complete streets" which include bicycle lanes, designated lanes for mass transit vehicles and sidewalks for pedestrians. Streets like these will not only improve the flow of traffic but also improve safety for drivers, riders and pedestrians. In the meantime, watching out for motorists and cyclists is the best way to coexist peacefully with one another.

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