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Learning all the required cycling skills will greatly increase your safety and comfort when cycling in traffic. Be able to control your bike at all times.

 

 

To improve your skills, knowledge and confidence on the road, consider registering in an approved cycling course such as CAN-BIKE Traffic Skills, or Skills 1 and 2, taught by certified cycling instructors.

Cycling in a straight line
Ride with your head up and keep looking one and a half to two blocks forward. Being able to ride in a straight line under varying conditions is the key to riding safely in traffic. Practice following a painted line as closely as possible at different speeds. With practice you can minimize wobbles. Riding in a straight line makes you predictable to other road users.

Also practice cycling in a straight line while looking over your shoulders, both to the right and to the left. This is not easy at first, but it is a critically important skill in traffic. A mirror does not replace the need to shoulder check in any circumstances.

Hand signals
Always make hand signals well in advance of any turn, not just when you think they are needed. Since making a hand signal requires cycling with just one hand on the handlebars, practice doing that while maintaining a straight line. The proper turning sequence is: first shoulder check, then a hand signal, and then, with both hands on the handlebars, shoulder check again before making the turn or the stop. In the case of an emergency manoeuvre, the need for the cyclist to keep both hands on the handlebars may sometimes outweigh their need to signal. In such cases, it is accepted that safety should prevail and the cyclist's discretion and skills must be relied upon to avoid incidents or injuries.

 

 

Always make hand signals well in advance of any turn, not just when you think they are needed.

 


 

Practice stopping as quickly as you can to get a feel for how much distance is needed at different speeds and under different conditions. You will need considerably greater stopping distances during wet conditions.

 

 

Stopping
On a bicycle with hand brakes, the front brake accounts for up to 80% of the stopping power during abrupt braking because forward momentum puts most weight over your front wheel. For optimum stopping power, shift your weight towards the rear and try to keep your centre of gravity low. This, in addition to using both brakes, will reduce the tendency for the rear wheel to skid and will increase stability. It is important to always keep both hands on the handlebars when applying the brakes. Practice stopping as quickly as you can to get a feel for how much distance is needed at different speeds and under different conditions. You will need considerably greater stopping distances during wet conditions. Also make sure you can stop in a straight line.

Coaster brakes are located in the rear hub and applied by pedalling backwards. They are much less effective than hand brakes.

Gear shifting
The basic rule is that low gears are for slow speeds, using a small chainring in the front and a large sprocket in the rear. High gears are the opposite. Always shift into a low, easy gear before you stop. Check ahead and shift into a lower gear well in advance of hills. On the level, use a gear that gives you a fast comfortable spin ('cadence') of around 70-90 rpm. Pedalling in a gear that is too fast can tire you more quickly. However, pedalling in a gear that is too hard can cause strain in your knees and lower back.

Turning
Practice turning to give you a feel for how sharply, and at what speeds, you can turn comfortably and safely. As you lean into corners, keep your inside pedal up to avoid catching the pedal on the road.

 

 

Ride DEFENSIVELY. The single most important rule is to remain alert and be prepared for unpredictable moves or mistakes by others.

 

 

Think and plan your next 30 seconds
Anticipate behaviour and movements of other road users and dangers that might appear. Make eye contact and observe the traffic on the road ahead, behind and around you. Practise this so that it becomes automatic behaviour.

Be assertive
Be assertive, but remember that a conflict between a cyclist and a motor vehicle usually results in injury to the cyclist. It is best to remember that, when in doubt, do not cycle beyond your confidence level.

By law, cyclists have the same rights and duties as operators of vehicles. The same rules of right-of-way, traffic signs and signals, apply to cyclists as apply to motorists. If you are in doubt about the rules of the road, obtain a copy of Road Sense for Drivers - BC's Safe Driving Guide from an ICBC office.

Ride on the right
Ride on the right, in the same direction as other traffic. Some people still believe that cyclists are like pedestrians and should ride facing traffic. This is not only illegal, but has also been shown to dramatically increase the risk of a collision.

How far to the right should you ride?
The law requires traffic moving at less than the normal speed of traffic to keep as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, but that does not mean hugging the curb or edge of the road. You always need some extra space to manoeuvre around road hazards without running the risk of hitting the curb or going off the edge of the road. This allows you to move away from traffic instead of directly into traffic in the event of an emergency manoeuvre. Motorists are required to pass 'at a safe distance' and must not return to the right of the roadway until they have fully passed you. As a general rule, ride approximately one metre from the curb.

 

 

The law requires traffic moving less than the normal speed of traffic to keep as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway, but that does not mean hugging the curb or edge of the road.

 


 

Ride on the right, in the same direction as other traffic. Ride no closer than one metre from parked cars to avoid being hit by an opening door.

 

 

Road surface hazards
Keep an eye on the road well ahead of you to see if there are potholes, gravel, glass, drainage grates or other hazards coming up. If you have to move over into traffic to avoid these, look over your shoulder first and use a hand signal if necessary. To abruptly swerve into traffic can easily lead to a collision. To make riding safer for you and other cyclists, report unsafe road conditions to local authorities as soon as possible.

Parked cars
Ride no closer than one metre from parked cars to avoid being hit by an opening door. The doors of some vehicle types can swing far into your lane. 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 car drivers on the road.

When to take a lane
If there is no shoulder or bike lane and the curb lane is narrow (i.e. when the right wheel track of most traffic is less than a metre from the curb), cyclists may choose to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it. This can be safer than riding near the curb, which may encourage motorists to squeeze by where there is not sufficient room. You should also consider taking the lane when you are travelling at the same speed as other traffic. This will keep you out of motorists' blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic. Be prepared for the occasional frustrated driver who is not familiar with the safe and legal operation of a bicycle.

If you are uncomfortable in the centre of the lane, consider taking an alternative route. On high-speed roads, it may not be safe to take the whole lane. It is important to cycle within your confidence limits and comfort when dealing with heavy or high-speed traffic.

It is important to know that there is currently no concrete legal definition of 'as near as practicable to the right side of the highway', so the cyclist should use discretion to decide whether to take the lane or how far to the right to ride. It is often safer to ride in the manner detailed in this guide. However, this issue is still undecided and it is possible that a police officer could issue you a ticket.

 

 

If there is no shoulder or bike lane and the curb lane is narrow, cyclists may choose to take the whole lane by riding in the centre of it. This can be safer than riding near the curb, which may encourage motorists to squeeze by where there is not sufficient room.

Approximately 60% of motorist-cyclist collisions occur at intersections.

 

 

Intersections and turning lanes
Approximately 60% of motorist-cyclist collisions occur at intersections. The majority of these happen when the cyclist is moving straight ahead. To minimize the dangers you must observe the following rules on 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 in the crosswalk instead.

If there is a straight-through bike lane, use it only if you are going straight ahead.

Ensure that you are away from the curb to increase your visibility.

Watch for vehicles turning across your path and be prepared to avoid them.

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.

 

 

When you approach an intersection with several lanes, choose the lane with the arrow pointing in the direction you want to go. To go straight through an intersection, ride in the right-most through lane.

Watch for vehicles turning across your path and be prepared to avoid them. Always enter intersections either ahead of or behind the vehicle in your lane.

 

 

Make eye contact with other road users, when necessary, to signal your intentions and to be sure that they have seen you.

Avoid entering an intersection on a yellow light, since it is likely to turn red when you are still in the middle of it. Most lights are timed for motor vehicles that can cross the intersection more quickly.

Treat every driveway like an intersection and watch for traffic emerging from the driveway. Do not assume that a driver backing out of a driveway has seen you.

It is illegal to cycle in a crosswalk unless authorized to do so by a municipal bylaw or otherwise directed by a sign.

When there are four-way stop signs, the first vehicle to come to a complete stop has the right-of-way. If two vehicles stop simultaneously or so close as to constitute a hazard, the vehicle on the right has right-of-way. However, legally you must not proceed until it is safe to do so.

Going straight through an intersection
To go straight through an intersection, ride in the lane that is closest to the right side of the road. Enter the intersection either ahead of or behind the vehicle in your lane. Do not approach or enter an intersection beside another vehicle. This way, cars in your lane cannot turn right across your path.

Right-turn-only lanes when going straight
When the curb lane becomes a right-turn-only lane, to go straight, change lanes to the right-most through lane. Shoulder check, signal, and then go to the right side of the chosen lane when an opening appears.

 

 

It is illegal to cycle in a crosswalk.

 


 

Never make a left turn from the right side of the road, even if you are in a bike lane.

 

 

Making a left turn
There are two main ways of making a left turn on a bicycle.

a) As a vehicle: As you approach the intersection, look over your left shoulder for traffic, signal your turn, and when clear, move over to the left side of the lane (on a two-lane road), or into the left lane or the centre-turn lane (1). You should be positioned so cars going straight through cannot pass you on your left. Yield to oncoming traffic before turning. If you are riding in a bike lane, or on a road with several lanes, you need to look and signal each time you change lanes. Never make a left turn from the right side of the road, even if you are in a bike lane.

b) Perimeter style: Proceed straight through the intersection on the right. Then stop, make a 90 degree left turn, and either walk your bicycle in the crosswalk (2), or proceed as if you were coming from the right (3). If there is a signal, wait for the green or WALK signal before crossing. Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. You must dismount and walk your bicycle when in a crosswalk.

On rural or high-speed roads, you should time your left turn so that you can complete the whole turn at once without compromising your safety. You do not want to get caught in the middle of high-speed traffic. If necessary, slow down or stop on the right edge of the road and wait until you get a large enough gap in traffic to make your turn safely. If the traffic is too heavy without a sufficient gap, continue on to the nearest intersection and do a perimeter or pedestrian turn.

 

 

On rural or high-speed roads, you should time your left turn so that you can complete the whole turn at once without compromising your safety. You do not want to get caught in the middle of high-speed traffic.

 


 

When overtaking slower moving traffic, you must pass on their left and should allow at least one metre of clearance.

 

 

Multiple turn lanes
When more than one turn lane exists, use the right-most turn lane.

If it is a lane where everyone turns left, stay on the right side of the lane.

If traffic can also go straight through this lane, stay to the left side of the lane.

If you turned from the inside lane, make sure you turn into the inside lane. Once the turn is complete, shoulder check, signal, and move over lane by lane to the right, as is appropriate for the road conditions.

Passing on the left
When overtaking slower moving traffic, you must pass on their left and should allow at least one metre of clearance. When passing other cyclists, warn them in advance by voice or bell.

Passing on the right
Passing vehicles on the right between intersections, especially in congested city traffic, is a topic of debate, even in the courts. Under appropriate circumstances, case law suggests that cyclists should be able to legally pass slower moving traffic on the right where the curb lane is wide, provided they are cautious.

Most often it is best to shoulder check, move into the middle of the lane and line up with the rest of traffic. This will also discourage motorists from making a right turn into you as you enter an intersection.

When cycling in narrow-lane traffic where many motorists attempt to squeeze past you before each traffic light, some cycling instructors suggest the following:

Rather than moving up to the first car, which will likely re-pass the cyclist, it may be more strategic for the cyclist to proceed only as far up the line as the last cars likely to make the next green light.

It is legal to pass on the right:

  • when you are in a bike lane; or
  • when the vehicle is turning left or indicating a left turn

When NOT to pass on the right:

  • when traffic is moving;
  • when there is a street, driveway or parking spot a car can turn into; or
  • when there is less than 1.5m between traffic and the curb.

 

 

Do not pass on the right when traffic is moving. Most often it is best to shoulder check and move into the middle of the lane to line up with the rest of the traffic.

 

 

Most often it is best to shoulder check and move into the middle of the lane and line up with the rest of the traffic. This will also prevent motorists from making a right turn into you as you enter an intersection.

Riding side by side
According to the BC Motor Vehicle Act it is illegal to ride side by side on the roadway. Although riding side by side is legal on the shoulder of highways, it is recommended that side-by-side cycling be limited to where there are wide shoulders and the weather is clear.

Buses, trucks and motor homes
Drivers of large vehicles have large blind spots where they are unable to see cyclists. If you cannot see the driver in their mirrors, they cannot see you. Avoid riding in these blind spots and only pass slow moving vehicles on the left.

In urban areas, watch for right-turning buses and tractor-trailers, since their length and rear overhang require more space than you might expect. Large vehicles will often move toward the left lane in preparation for a right turn. Never pass on the right unless you have a lane to yourself and are positive they are not preparing for a right turn. The most dangerous point in a turn is when the tractor has made the turn but the trailer has not.

When travelling at the same speed as a transit bus requiring frequent stops, use common sense and courtesy to avoid conflict and a potentially dangerous situation between you and the bus that can happen when you re-pass each other. Recognize that it is often difficult for the bus to pass you, especially in heavy traffic.

In BC, all traffic including cyclists, must yield when transit buses signal their intention to pull out into traffic. Drivers can underestimate the speed of cyclists, or they may not see you.

 

 

Use extra caution when cycling in traffic with large vehicles such as buses, trucks and motorhomes. Avoid riding in their blind spots and be prepared for wide turns.

 


 

Remember that in BC, all traffic including cyclists, must yield when transit buses signal their intention to pull out into traffic.

 

 

Large vehicles travelling at high speeds create varying degrees of air turbulence that can cause a cyclist to be pulled into the path of passing vehicles. On high-speed and well-travelled highways, cyclists may also encounter commercial vehicles with tandem trailers. Use extra caution to avoid being drafted (pulled) into the space between the trailers. Never assume that it is safe to adjust your road position until a large vehicle has passed you entirely and you have completed a shoulder check. Be especially cautious in windy conditions, where the draft can be magnified by the wind-blocking action of the trailer.

Drivers of certain types of vehicles such as motor homes and rental moving vans are often less experienced than commercial drivers. Be prepared for these drivers to underestimate the length and width of their vehicles.

Railway tracks
Cross railway tracks carefully. Watch for uneven pavement and grooves along the rails that could catch your wheels. Keep firm control of your bicycle. One way is to rise up from the saddle and bend your arms and legs so that your body acts like a shock absorber.

If the tracks cross the road at a sharp angle, consider changing your road position well in advance so that you cross them at close to a right angle. Ensure that you have indicated your intention to other traffic. Avoid swerving suddenly; this could cause you to fall or to veer into traffic.

Weather hazards
Rain makes roads slippery, especially after a long dry period. You need to adjust your riding accordingly:

 

 

Rain makes roads slippery, especially after a long dry period. Leave extra room for manoeuvring and stopping in wet or frosty weather.

 


 

Visibility is poor in wet weather; motorists may have more difficulty seeing you. Ride defensively and increase your visibility.

 

 

Visibility is poor in wet weather and motorists may have more difficulty seeing you. Ride defensively and see pages 8 & 9 on how to make yourself more visible.

Leave extra room and be prepared for sudden stops or swerves by traffic around you.

Brakes work less effectively when wet, especially during the initial exposure to wet conditions. If possible, try them out on a quiet street to test their stopping power before heading into heavier and faster traffic. Dry brakes by feathering (applying them lightly) before you need to stop or slow down.

Turn more slowly since you have less traction, and avoid manhole covers and painted road line markings as these are particularly slippery when wet.

Avoid puddles when possible, since they might hide potholes, broken glass or other exciting surprises.

Cold weather leads to frost, black ice and snow, all of which dramatically reduce traction. Remember that two wheels do not slide in the same manner as four wheels. A bicycle is most likely to slide out from under you on ice. Whenever traction is reduced, you should cycle more slowly and cautiously, especially at intersections. Using wider tires with lowered pressure can help.

Black ice is particularly dangerous since it is difficult to see and can suddenly eliminate your grip on the road. It is most common on bridges, metal surfaces and brick roads.

Frostbite can also be a problem since the increased air movement will increase the wind chill. Wear warm layered clothing and be particularly careful to protect your head, ears, hands and feet.

 

 

Brakes work less effectively when wet, especially during the initial exposure to wet conditions.

 


 

Black ice is particularly dangerous since it is difficult to see and can suddenly eliminate your grip on the road. It is most common on bridges, metal surfaces and brick roads.

 

 

Traffic signals
Many traffic signals are triggered by electrically charged wires buried under the pavement. When a vehicle stops over the wires, the metal disrupts the current, which sends a signal to a traffic light control box.

Most bicycles contain enough metal to trigger the light, but you should know where the most sensitive spots are. Look for cut lines in the pavement, filled with tar. Depending on the shape, the most sensitive spots are:

  • Diamonds: just inside one of the points.
  • Circles: about a quarter of the way in.
  • Rectangles: up front, in the middle.

If you cannot trigger the light, and you have waited an appropriate amount of time, treat the traffic light as an uncontrolled intersection and proceed when it is safe to do so.

Carrying children
Special care should be taken when transporting a child by bicycle. There are a number of options available for transporting children, depending on their size and age. For carrying younger children, a bike trailer offers more protection for the child if you should fall. Bike trailers are generally considered to be a safer alternative than a bicycle child seat. When using a seat mounted on the back of a bicycle, special care should be taken to ensure that the feet, hands and clothing of the child cannot be caught in the spokes or other moving parts of the bike. Bike trailers and trailer-cycles should be equipped with a taillight and reflector, if being used at night. Bike trailers should also have a bike flag attached to the trailer to improve visibility, since they are lower to the ground. All children should wear an approved bicycle helmet and should be secured by a seat belt system when in a trailer or in a bicycle child seat. Prior to taking your child out in any type of carrier, you may wish to practise turning, stopping, hill climbing and other manoeuvres with a sandbag or other weight, to simulate the effect of the additional load.

 

 

Special care should be taken when transporting small children by bicycle. All children should wear an approved bicycle helmet and should be secured by a seat belt system when in a trailer or bicycle child seat.

 


 

Because headphones can obstruct your hearing, they are not recommended while riding a bicycle and are illegal in some jurisdictions.

 

 

Riding two on a bicycle
Riding double is only permitted when carrying a child in an approved carrier or when riding a tandem or trailer-cycle.

Headphones
Because headphones can obstruct your hearing, they are not recommended while riding a bicycle and are illegal in some jurisdictions. Check your local bylaws.

Cycling restrictions
The Ministry of Transportation (MoT) restricts cyclists from riding on certain bridges and sections of highways in BC by signs posted at the bridge and highway entrances. To learn of possible restrictions in your area, contact your local MoT office or visit their website at: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca /cycling/bicycle.htm. .

Riding on sidewalks
It is against the law to ride on sidewalks, unless specifically directed to do so by a sign or local bylaw. Several studies have proven that cyclists on sidewalks face a far greater collision risk than cyclists on the roadway. The main danger points are driveways and street crossings where sidewalk cyclists surprise motorists and pedestrians by appearing from unexpected directions. Bicycle police and paramedics are permitted by law to ride on sidewalks.

 

 

It is against the law to ride on sidewalks. Several studies have proven that cyclists on sidewalks face a far greater collision risk than cyclists on the roadway.

 


 

On multi-use paths, other users, such as joggers, skaters, children, pets and pedestrians in general, often act unpredictably, and a cyclist riding at high speed can be a danger on such a path.

 

 

Riding on multi-use paths
Except for street crossings, paths are safe from car/bicycle collisions, and you don't have to endure the noise and pollution. However, other users, such as joggers, skaters, children, pets and pedestrians in general, often act unpredictably, and a cyclist maintaining a high speed can be a danger on such a path. Therefore, cyclists who want to travel quickly might opt to use roadways rather than heavily used paths. Remember that you are sharing the path with others. Reduce your speed where appropriate and when passing other path users, ring your bell or call out (e.g. 'passing on your left') to alert them. Helmets are required on multi-use paths and some paths may post speed limits. Respect user regulations for these facilities.

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