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Tips for sharing the road with bicycles this summer

7 minute read Published on May 18, 2021 by BrokerLink Communications

Tips for sharing the road with bicycles this summer

The sun is shining and the weather is finally starting to warm up. That means that many people will bring out their summer vehicles, motorcycles, and their bikes. Cyclists will once again be out and about on the roads. To keep everyone safe on the road, we’re sharing a few reminders for non-cyclists to remember, so they can share the road in a friendly manner. Keep reading for tips about how to share the roads safely with cyclists this summer.

Safety tips for sharing the road with cyclists

While you’re out driving this summer, make sure you are sharing the road safely with everyone, including cyclists. We compiled the following tips to help you better understand how to make the roads safer for anyone on a bicycle.

1. Use caution when turning

Just like any other vehicle, cyclists ride on the right side of the road. If you are not careful enough, you may hit an unsuspecting rider with a quick turn. Check your mirrors and be aware of all of your blind spots before turning. While at a stop sign or red light, make a complete stop in order to let bikers pass, and check for unseen riders.

2. Pass cyclists slowly and with caution

Allow ample room for your car to safely pass and travel ahead of cyclists. Furthermore, take caution to pass at slower speeds. If you do accidentally hit or swipe a cyclist, the speed of impact can dramatically affect the amount of injury caused.

3. Stay out of bike lanes

When pulling over or parking (even if it is just for a short amount of time), check your blind spots first and always steer clear of the bike lanes. These lanes are designated sections of the road for those on bicycles to ride safely and freely. Maneuvering out of the bike lane and into the lane of traffic in order to avoid your car can be a tricky and dangerous move for riders.

4. Give cyclists as much space as possible

Leave enough room between your car and bicycle riders ahead of you and/or beside you. In Ontario, when passing a cyclist, drivers of motor vehicles are required to maintain a minimum distance of one metre, where practical between their vehicle and the cyclist. For laws in other provinces, please check your local municipality’s website.

5. Remember to yield

Give bikers the right of way. Allowing them to go first is always a safer option, so they have an open, safe path to travel along. Make eye contact with cyclists at intersections to acknowledge their presence and signal to let them know they are free to pass.

6. Don’t assume

Not all riders are proficient: they may swerve, brake suddenly, or even fall. There can be many obstacles on the side of the road such as debris or potholes that even experienced cyclists have a hard time avoiding. So don’t assume they will always stay in a straight path along the side of the road − be aware of their movements.

Unfortunately, there are some cyclists who do not obey the laws of the road and may partake in unsafe activities such as: running through stop signs; weaving between cars in heavy traffic, or sidling up to the side of cars at a stop light instead of keeping proper distance behind. However, in the event of a collision, the law usually sides with the cyclist as does the court of public opinion, and in many cases, motorists are often held responsible in the event of a collision. So, drivers must be extra vigilant because you are not just protecting the cyclists, you are protecting yourself.

7. Watch for children

Children riding bicycles are smaller and harder to spot on the road, especially for drivers of bigger cars. They are also less experienced and may be caught up in the freedom of cycling so they don’t pay attention. Be careful and considerate at crossways and intersections. Kids are less aware of their surroundings and when it is safe to cross. Allow them the right of way, and wait for them to cross safely.

8. Avoid “dooring” cyclists!

In case you haven’t heard, here’s some cyclist slang for you: being “doored” is when the occupant of a parked car swiftly opens their car door on an unsuspecting cyclist who is hit by it or runs into it. Before you open your door, check to ensure the surrounding area is clear.

Why isn’t the cyclist using the bike lane?

A common question that non-cyclists may ask is: “why don't the cyclists just use the bike lane?" The answer is that sometimes, using a bike lane can actually be quite unsafe for a cyclist. The shoulder of the road is where all the car tire debris ends up and it can be littered with dirt, rocks, glass and other materials that are unsafe for cyclists to ride over. This debris is usually present in early spring as it accumulates over the winter months, as snow usually conceals what is hiding underneath and it’s likely been months since a street sweeper has been around to clean up.

Another reason why some cyclists find it difficult to ride in a bike lane, versus on the road, is because of certain bicycle tires on a road bike. Oftentimes cyclists ride on tires known as "slicks". These are preferable to cyclists because the lack of tread actually allows for greater surface area contact with the road. However, as their name suggests, these tires can be pretty slick, which makes it difficult to ride so close to the gravel on the side of the road.

Cyclists should use bike lanes when they are available and safe to ride on. However, drivers must still give them proper space.

How can cyclists make their experience safer?

Although it’s important for drivers to make sure they are sharing the road as safely as possible, this responsibility also falls on the cyclists. If you are planning to ride your bicycle this summer, follow these tips in order to have a safer trip.

  • Observe traffic regulations: Cyclists are not immune to traffic violations. Pay attention to red lights, road signs and practice arm signaling. Do not ride aggressively or weave in and out between cars and lanes.
  • Stay to the right: Street cyclists are required to stay to the right side of the road. Avoid swerving and check if the lane is clear before moving farther into traffic lanes. If traveling in a group, ride in a single line so cars have enough room to get around you safely while passing.
  • Wear a helmet: Traveling on the road puts riders at a higher risk of harm in the event of an accident, so it is just as necessary for a cyclist to wear a helmet as for a driver to wear a seatbelt.
  • Make sure you can be seen: Invest in bright-colored or reflective clothing to make yourself visible to drivers at all times of the day. This is especially important if you are planning to ride your bike at night, as visibility is extremely low when it is dark outside.

Protect yourself

Accidents can happen anytime and the damage it can cause might cost you – financially and emotionally. Aside from following safety precautions, it’s also a good idea to purchase an auto insurance plan that will cover liability and damages caused by accidents that happen on the road. Professional advice from BrokerLink's experienced insurance brokers can help guide you through an accident.

It’s easy to get in touch with a BrokerLink insurance advisor!

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FAQs when Sharing the Road with Bicycles During Summer

What is the “Dutch Reach” door opening trick?

The Dutch Reach is a safety practice for drivers and passengers to use when opening their car door. Rather than using your hand closest to the door to open it, you use your far hand. This practice requires you to reach across your chest to open the door, forcing you to swivel your upper torso. This enables you to look in the rear-view mirror, out to the side, and then look over your shoulder to see any oncoming traffic. You can then look back through the window and begin to open the door, which allows a continuous view of oncoming traffic.

Are bicycles allowed on all roads?

A bicycle is considered a vehicle under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Cyclist's have the same rights and responsibilities to obey all traffic laws as other road users. You can legally ride your bike on any road in Ontario except when the road is a major expressway or freeway highway. The laws may be different in each province, so it is important that you check on your provincial government’s website.

What is the size of an ideal bike lane?

The width of an ideal bicycle lane should be no less than 4 feet – however, the recommended width is 6 feet. This width does not include the road gutter section. If the road lane and the bicycle lane are placed together, the width of the combined lanes should be approximately 14 feet.