This week I went in to a local bicycle shop and picked up a few free “Share the Road” bumper magnets to display on my car and for the cars of my family. I fully believe that as drivers of motor vehicles we need to be more conscientious and more careful to share the road safely with those driving smaller vehicles (bicycles, electric scooters, etc). However, my experience is that just as many of the drivers of these bicycles and scooters are endangering their own lives and the lives of those around them by making poor decisions out on the road.
The most common thing that I see, is cyclists riding in places they have no right to be – namely sidewalks. I understand the argument that many raise about the preferred safety of riding on the sidewalk, however, besides being illegal, there are actually more safety concerns with being on the sidewalk. When you are riding your bike on the sidewalk, no one knows what you are going to do next! I’ve seen cyclists riding on and off roads and sidewalks leaving pedestrians and drivers alike trying to guess what they will do next. This puts everyone on the road and sidewalk in danger. Additionally with riding on the sidewalks, drivers of motor vehicles are much less likely to see you. That means that if they go to turn into driveways or onto other roadways they are much more likely to hit you. If you are cycling with children, use appropriate cycling paths and parks until they are confident with road safety rules.
I also frequently see cyclists flagrantly disregarding the rules of the road. All the laws of the Highway Traffic Act apply to you as you ride your bike. That means that you must obey all stop signs and lights, ride only in the direction of traffic (no going the wrong way on one-way streets) and must indicate your movements and turns with appropriate hand signals.
The most deadly mistake I see cyclists making is failing to wear a helmet or wearing it incorrectly. It is still law in Ontario that every person under 18 yrs of age must wear a helmet at all times while riding. Cyclists over 18 yrs are equally responsible (although not under the law, unfortunately) to protect themselves with proper use of a helmet. Other safety equipment must include a bell or horn on your bike, and lights used within half and hour of sunrise and sunset. Your bike must also be equipped with reflectors and it is recommended to wear reflective clothing to make yourself more visible. You should also save your music-listening for another time and make sure you are fully engaged with your surroundings while out on the road.
I am all for the use of bicycles to improve health and reduce environmental impact and just because they’re a fun way to get around or to get out with the family. However, I find I am too frequently cringing when I see cyclists out around the community with seemingly little regard for their own safety or that of anyone else, never mind the law violation and risk of fines with their actions. It is my hope that we will continue to improve the safety of our cyclists by creating and improving bike lanes and pathways around Hamilton but as cyclists we also are fully responsible to the laws of the road and to the safety of ourselves and others as we venture out on our bikes.
If you are unfamiliar with bicycling safety or if you have a new rider in your family, I highly recommend a bicycling safety course such as CAN-BIKE. Adult and children’s programs are available at the following website: http://www.ontariocycling.org/web_pages/edu_canbike.php
For more information please visit:
The Ministry of Transportation: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling-guide/index.shtml
Ontario Cycling Association: http://www.ontariocycling.org/