By Steve Nagle
Well, Bike to Work Week is over for another year and another great success it was.
Now that it’s over, the weather is sure to improve (it always rains on BTWW) and with the summer nearly upon us and more people out on their bikes riding on the roads, a little refresher on the basics of road riding is in order, so here we go…
Ride on the right: Ride on the road and on the right, in the same direction as traffic. Some people still think that cyclists are like pedestrians and should ride facing traffic or on the sidewalk. This is illegal! It is against the law to ride on sidewalks, unless it is a specific bike lane like Dogwood Street or the Rotary Seawall. The main danger points are driveways and street crossings where sidewalk cyclists surprise drivers and pedestrians by appearing from unexpected directions. Bicycle police and paramedics are permitted by law to ride on sidewalks, but for the rest of us, we have the same rights and duties as operators of motor vehicles. The same rules of right-of-way, traffic signs and signals, apply to cyclists as apply to motorists. PERIOD.
How far to the right should you ride? Don’t hug the curb, or ride too close to the edge of the road. You always need some extra space to move around road hazards like glass, gravel and drains without running the risk of hitting the curb or going off the edge of the road. As a general rule, ride about one meter from the curb.
Road surface hazards: Keep an eye on the road well ahead of you to see if there are potholes, gravel, glass, drains or other hazards coming up. If you have to move over into traffic to avoid these, do a shoulder check and use a hand signal if necessary. To swerve into traffic can be extremely dangerous. To make riding safer for you and other cyclists, report unsafe road conditions to the City or Highways Department as soon as possible.
Parked cars (see photo above): Ride no closer than one meter from parked cars to avoid being hit by an opening door. The doors of some vehicles open really wide. If you can see that the car is occupied, be particularly careful. Where cars are parked intermittently, ride in a straight line instead of swerving in and out between the parked cars. This increases your visibility and predictability for drivers.
Passing on the right: This can be dangerous. Most often it is best to move into the middle of the lane with the rest of traffic. Many drivers don’t look to their right before turning right and if you happen to be in their way, you are going to collide! Be really careful when there are large panel vans or trucks. Semi trailers need a lot of space to make turns and many cyclists have been crushed or run over with this maneuver.
Intersections: Most cyclist/driver collisions occur at intersections. To minimize the dangers you should observe the following rules at intersections and turn lanes. When you approach an intersection with several lanes, choose the lane with the arrow pointing in the direction you want to go. You may get cut off by turning cars if you are not in the appropriate lane. If you cannot make it across traffic to position yourself in the correct lane, you have the choice to dismount and walk your bike in the crosswalk instead. Always enter intersections either ahead of or behind the vehicle in your lane. You may not see the turn signals of a vehicle directly beside you and the driver may not see you.
Be Alert: Keep an eye and ear on what is going on around you, be especially aware of what is going on behind you and listen for cars approaching from behind, listening to music with earphones is downright dangerous and even more so in heavy traffic.
As a footnote, last weekend, local cyclist Krista Houston was leaving Vancouver riding her bicycle on a nine day marathon ride to Banff to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis. You think you have tough rides some days? Good luck Krista! That’s it for this week, ride safe and enjoy your bike!
Steve can be found at Outdoor Addictions.www.outdooraddictions.ca