Cycling Safety Tips
Obeying provincial legislation and using common sense will help enhance your safety as a cyclist on the road. Wearing a helmet and using lights after dark are required by law and could save your life. Additional safety tips include riding a well-maintained bike of the right size and wearing reflective clothing.
In BC, all cyclists are required by law to wear an approved helmet (Motor Vehicle Act, Section 184). Studies have shown that a helmet will greatly reduce your chances of a serious head injury in the event of a crash. Head injuries account for 75% of all deaths from bike injuries and 85% of serious head injuries can be prevented by wearing a bicycle helmet. Your helmet should have CSA, ANSI or SNELL standards approval clearly marked on it. Hockey or other types of helmets are not legal for cycling as they are designed and tested for other types of impacts.
Research also shows that helmet use has increased as a result of helmet laws. A study of helmet use in BC found that there was a substantial increase in helmet use following the implementation of the comprehensive helmet law from an overall wearing rate of 46% in 1995 to 70% in 1999. Across Canada, five provinces have helmet legislation but only three of these cover all ages.
Check out these tips on bicycle safety and correct helmet fit from Safe Kids Canada, the national injury prevention program of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children:
- Got Wheels? Get a Helmet! Checklist (pdf)
- Is Your Child Ready to Ride?
- FAQs about Helmets
- FAQs about Bike Carriers and Trailers
After dark, all cyclists are required by law to have a front white light visible for a minimum of 150 metres, a rear red light that should be visible for a minimum of 100 metres and a red rear reflector visible for a minimum of 100 metres (Motor Vehicle Act, Section 183). Check with your local bike shop on the most appropriate set up for your needs and to ensure that the lights you intend to purchase meet or exceed these requirements.
It is particularly important to increase your visibility after dark, at dawn or dusk, or in difficult weather conditions such as rain, fog or snow. Wear brightly coloured clothing and/or a safety vest with reflective strips. Put reflective materials on your bike and clothing including front forks and rear stays, wheels, pedals, helmets, wrists and ankles. Reflective bands or lights on wrists make hand signals more visible.
Bike Size and Maintenance
Make sure your bike is the right size and adjusted to fit you properly. The right size bicycle is easier to control and more comfortable. Its also important to have all equipment operating smoothly and properly. Your local bike shop can help you choose, adjust and equip the right bicycle for your needs. Click here for a safety checklist (pdf) of the mechanical items you should review on your bike.
Use hand signals well in advance of any turn and always do a shoulder check for traffic before you signal a turn. The correct sequence is:
- Keep both hands on the handlebars and scan backwards over your left shoulder for traffic.
- If the way is clear, signal and proceed with the turn, and keep shoulder checking for approaching traffic or change in traffic patterns.
- If traffic will obstruct the turn, wait until the way is clear, then check again and if clear, proceed following Points 1 and 2 above.