I have been thinking of road safety recently. A few near misses will do that.
Too often drivers are impatient, drive too quickly and pay little attention to traffic lights, signage, pedestrians and cyclists. For the past 2 years, I have walked or cycled around the city most of the time. I have become more sensitive to traffic congestion, noise, pollution and driver behaviour. I expect more from drivers but realize I also have a responsibility as a pedestrian and cyclist to make the roadways safer. I cannot control what drivers do but I can be more careful myself. When a collision occurs between a car and a cyclist, the car usually wins.
I mostly cycle in the city and use the traffic calmed bikeways as much as possible. Over the years, I have learned to ride defensively. Here are several tips to make your ride more enjoyable and safer.
- Be lawful. Obey all traffic laws and regulations. Drivers will be more respectful of you.
- Wear a helmet! They are not pretty (at least to some) and may mess your hair but it may also save your life.
- Be prepared to stop quickly. Make certain your brakes are well maintained.
- Use hand signals to indicate if you are turning or slowing down.
- Slow down. I enjoy fast rides but am careful to do it only in light traffic and on open roads.
- Make eye contact with drivers whenever possible when you are changing lanes or entering an intersection.
- Keep your hands on the handlebars. You want to be prepared for unexpected road hazards – potholes, bumps, railway tracks and anything else that may get in your path.
- Use city bikeways and separated bike lanes as much as possible even if the route is longer than necessary.
- Rides on the streets, not the sidewalks. Pedestrians do not expect you there.
- Watch for parked cars pulling into the traffic. I keep an eye on the car windows to see if there is a driver at the wheel, an eye on the left front wheel to see if it is moving and directed into the road and an eye on the tail lights to see if the car is on and, of course, an eye on the road at all times. I have a lot of eyes.
- When a traffic light changes, I proceed very cautiously into the intersection watching for cars running the late light. This happens way too frequently.
- Be seen. Put lights on your bike, both front and back, and have them flashing even in the daylight hours.
- And, one last thing, put your smartphone away. There is no need to talk, text, take pictures or listen to music while riding.
Check out the City of Vancouver’s safety recommendations.
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