bicycle safety bike month A\J AlternativesJournal.ca Graphic: Anežka Gočová

Being a non-courteous cyclist is not only unsafe, it taints the overall perception of cyclists and compromises their acceptance on the roadways. “The willingness of drivers to share the road is often impeded by the erratic behaviour of cyclists that are still learning the ropes with limited resources,” explains Toronto bike advocate Yvonne Bambrick. Given the lack of a longstanding cycling culture, many of us are unsure of how we fit on streets without bike-specific infrastructure.

“Like many North American cities, we’re not established in our ways. We’re in transition; with that comes newbie cyclists that don’t know the rules. And we’re not doing a good enough job at educating people about best cycling practices,” adds Bambrick. Ultimately, she says, it comes down to a little understanding towards other road users and common courtesy on everyone’s part, but “common courtesy in not as common as we’d like to think.”

According to Bambrick, riding on sidewalks in the core is bad bike etiquette. Colleen Cooper of last week’s How to Be Safe post shared in an interview that sidewalk and counter-flow riding are the most common types of cycling accidents in Waterloo Region. But in the suburbs, sometimes sidewalks can be the safest option, though you can be ticketed. “If you do have to ride on the sidewalk, there’s a way to do it right. You go slower, you dismount if there’s a group of people that you’re approaching and always give the right-of-way,” explains Bambrick.

Cyclist etiquette tips by Australian bike club Spring Cycle

On Shared-Use Paths (SUPs)

  • Give way to pedestrians at all times.
  • Move off the path when stopped.
  • Be courteous to other path users.
  • Slow down near children, playgrounds, shops, etc.
  • Ring your bell to warn others you are approaching.
  • Give clear hand signals.
  • Keep right where possible.
  • Be predictable.
  • Indicate hazards to other riders.

On Roads

  • Be courteous to all other road users.
  • Avoid riding in drivers’ blind spots: if you cannot see the driver, the driver cannot see you.
  • Do not hold onto vehicles.
  • Use the road shoulder or right-hand lane to avoid obstructing other road users.
  • Avoid riding too close to parked cars to reduce the chance of colliding with pedestrians or opening car doors.
  • If riding uphill in a group, be considerate of other road users and ride in single file.
  • Give clear hand signals.
  • Be predictable.
  • Do not use your phone or listen to music while riding on the road.
  • Indicate hazards to other riders.
  • Use bicycle lanes where available.

A\J’s motorist etiquette tips

  • Treat bicyclists like drivers of other motor vehicles; they have the same rights and legal access.
  • Wait until you are certain you have enough space before passing.
  • Do not try to pass right before an intersection or in other tight spaces where the cyclist may need to move into the middle of the lane.
  • Be patient. You will get to your destination much faster than a cyclist even if you have to wait to pass safely.
  • After parking, check for bicycles before opening your door.
  • Some cyclists may not follow the tips outlined above. Be courteous even if their behaviour is frustrating; a crash involving a bicycle is much more likely to hurt the cyclist than you.

Next week we’ll share tips on getting stuff done by bike.

Bambrick’s exhibit, Streets and Alleys will be shown at the #Hashtag Gallery from June 19th to the 23rd, featuring photographs of her exploratory bike rides.

Enter to win a copy of Velo 2nd Gear: Bicycle Culture and Style and other great bike books by sharing your favourite place to bike in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter throughout Bike Month (May 27 – June 30). Visit our cycling page for more bike-related content, including How to Maintain Your Ride and How to Be Safe while cycling in the city.

Julie is an urban planning graduate student at the University of Waterloo, focusing on sustainable transportation.

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