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Road Safety When On And Around Bicycles

Cycling was up throughout Ontario, including Hamilton, during the pandemic lockdown. In fact, with most manufacturers being overseas, there was even a bicycle shortage at stores throughout the country.

Will the uptick in cycling be an ongoing trend? Only time will tell, but if it is, it’s probably best to brush up on some road safety tips, for both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers.

Drivers: Share The Road Safely

Here are a few essential tips for sharing the road with the cyclists safely:

  1. Slow down! If you’re coming up on a cyclist in the roadway, do not speed up to pass them. Slow down a little instead. It will be a smoother pass for both of you.
  2. If your roadway is very narrow, and there is no way you can pass within the lane and still give them a metre of clearance, remember that cyclists are permitted to take the entire lane. Do not shout out the window at them (yes, I’m talking to you, Hamilton) or otherwise engage in road rage. Also? Cyclists are entitled to use the left turn lane to execute a left turn in an intersection, and you have to leave them the space to do so safely.
  3. Speaking of a metre of clearance, as the driver of a vehicle, the onus is on you to provide the clearance when passing a bicycle. If you need to cross over a median line to do, make sure you are still being safe and watchful of oncoming traffic. If you cannot be sure of passing safely, you need to lag back and drive behind the bicycle until a safe passing opportunity becomes available. That said, don’t follow too closely. As bikes don’t have brake lights, you can’t always be sure when a cyclist will slow down. One would hope the cyclist will use hand signals, but leave plenty of room to brake, just in case.
  4. Failing to leave a metre clearance can result in a fine of $85 (plus a $5 court fee and a $20 victim surcharge, for a total of $110.) Feel like fighting the ticket? Just know that if you’re found guilty, that fine can go up to $500 and you’ll also get 2 demerit points.
  5. If you’re approaching an intersection on a road with a bike lane, the last 15 metres of the bike lane have a dash, instead of a solid line. That lets you know that you can merge into the bike lane for the purpose of making a right turn at the intersection. If there is a cyclist ahead of you in this section, you need to yield to them as they might not be turning right but in fact are going straight through the intersection. In that case, you need to hang back. By the same logic, a cyclist behind you will need to yield to you, if you signal to merge and turn right.
  6. Dooring a cyclist—or anyone else who is using the road—comes with heavy fines, to say nothing of the guilt of having catapulted a cyclist over their handlebars. What’s dooring? It means when you, or a passenger, open a car door to exit without properly checking for a cyclist coming up. The fine is $365 ($300 set fine + a $5 court fee + a $60 victim surcharge fee) AND 3 demerit points. Want to fight it? You could be looking at a fine of up to $1000 plus those 3 points.

TIP: The best way to avoid dooring anyone, when exiting a vehicle, is to get used to practicing the Dutch reach. In the Netherlands, drivers education and testing has included this method for years, hence the name. Here’s how it works:

When you’ve parked your car, and you’re about to open your door, you probably reach out with your left hand. DON’T!

The ‘Dutch reach’ means reaching over your lap and opening the door with your right hand. It’s not a natural move, so you need to practice it to make sure it becomes second nature.

Why it’s so effective in saving cyclist lives: The reach over your body requires you to turn and to look back as you reach, giving you the chance to see a cyclist coming. And if they’re really going fast and you still don’t see them coming, the movement prevents you from opening the door very wide. The result is that you can reduce a collision impact, or the cyclist might even have the time and space to swerve and avoid your door.

Cyclists: Respect The Rules Of The Road

I’ll often hear drivers say that they are wary of cyclists because many don’t observe the rules of the road, a factor that does matter if an accident ensues and a claim is made. Of course, when it comes to a collision between a bike and a car, the concept of ‘right’ matters less than the results, which is often serious injury or worse.

You don’t need insurance or a test to ride a bike, but you are required to obey the rules of the road, like any other vehicle.

  1. Make sure drivers can see you. You are required to have lights and reflectors on your bike. You can be fined for riding without the right equipment: $110, to be exact. ($85 set fine + $5 court fee + $20 victim fine surcharge.)
  2. If you’re under 18, you have to wear an approved helmet or face a $75 fine. Even if you’re over 18, you should wear a helmet. I’ve worked in many cases where the adult wasn’t wearing one and it rarely ends well for them. Plus it sets a good example for the under 18s. What’s an approved helmet? One that fits properly and meets safety standards. TIP: Avoid used helmets. You don’t know if they’ve already been through an accident and are still in good shape.
  3. New bicycle traffic signals are starting to be used in places with active bike lanes. If you come to an intersection that has bicycle traffic signals, you must obey them or face a fine of $85 ($120 in community safety zones.) (IMAGE SOURCE)

If you’re injured as a result of a collision with a vehicle, while on a bicycle, talk to a personal injury lawyer. You might not be fully aware of the extent of your injuries right away, and you need to be sure that you’re taking the right steps to protect yourself and your rights.

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