Cycling is a great method of transportation, as it is both environmentally-friendly and an effective source of exercise. Cycling in urban areas, however, can present significant safety risks. It is recommended to remain alert at all times, particularly when in close proximity to motor vehicle traffic, or when approaching intersections.
For both your own safety and that of other road users, you should take all necessary precautions. For example, you should use bicycle hand signals appropriately, wear protective head-gear, and follow all of the rules of the road.
In case you get involved in a bicycle-motor vehicle accident, the law allows you to potentially claim compensation. Remember, motor vehicles such as cars and commercial trucks can inflict significant damage to a cyclist during a collision, and this is the primary reason you should remain proactive and use all reasonable means to avoid becoming an accident victim.
The HTA (Highway Traffic Act) regulates all vehicular traffic, including cyclists. Additionally, as of January 2017, Ontario enacted new laws concerning proper signal lights installed for cyclists. All such laws must be obeyed, or the cyclist may potentially face fines, especially if the infraction occurred within designated community-safety zones.
Bicyclists can be broken down into two groups; those who ride bikes for fun, and those who ride bikes for necessity. While there are plenty of people who are in both groups, the bottom line is that there are a lot of bicyclists who are sharing the road with all types of vehicles and those bicyclists need to understand the rules of the road to stay safe.
We at Momentum Mag would like to note that even though we all share a responsibility to keep the roads safe, the bulk of that responsibility must be placed on those with the greatest capacity to inflict harm. Drivers. So while it’s important that we remind cyclists of their responsibility please do not think we are relieving drivers of theirs.
Know Your State/Provincial & Municipal Laws
The first thing any bicyclist is going to want to do is to spend time becoming familiar with the laws for bicyclists in their state or province. For example, the state of New York has a helmet law as does the province of British Columbia that makes helmets mandatory when using public roads, while Montana and Quebec do not have any laws mandating the use of helmets.
It is also important to understand how bicyclists are expected to act when in traffic on public roads. A bicycle in most states is considered a vehicle just like a car or motorcycle. That means that bicyclists must stop at all stoplights and stop signs and make sure they are in their proper lane to allow for the safe flow of traffic.
Being a Productive Part of Traffic
There are plenty of traffic laws and responsible driving tips that bicyclists need to keep in mind as they enter into traffic on public roads.
Bicyclists should always be on the right side of the road and riding in the same direction as traffic. It is also important that bicyclists avoid darting out into traffic for any reason. Bicyclists should also avoid weaving in and out of stopped traffic at intersections or when there is a traffic jam on the highway. Motorists often do not see bicyclists who weave through traffic and the result can be a motorist suddenly opening their door and causing serious damage to a cyclist and their bicycle.
A big part of bicycle safety as it applies to road safety is visibility. When a bicyclist is sharing the road with other types of vehicles, it is important that the bicyclist has lights and reflectors on their bicycle so other motorists can see the bicycle. The more visible you are as a bicyclist, the better your chances are of avoiding a driver hitting you.
Tips for safe cycling
In addition to following bicycle laws, there are many common sense things that you must do as a cyclist to avoid accidents. These include:
- Take extra precaution while crossing streetcar and railway tracks;
- Always make sure you’re visible to drivers, especially in low visibility situations. For example, when cycling at night, consider wearing a reflective vest or bright colors (i.e. orange, yellow);
- Ensure that your bicycle is equipped with properly functioning reflective gear; and
- Wear your helmet and other necessary protective gear, such as knee and elbow pads.
- Seek immediate medical attention to determine the extent of your injuries accurately. Even if you believe that you haven’t sustained injuries, it’s recommended to get evaluated by a doctor;
- Notify the authorities immediately. The police will help properly document the accident and create a motor vehicle accident report. If you decide to pursue a personal injury claim, the accident report will be a crucial piece of evidence;
- When possible, collect and document the information of individuals and potential witnesses at the crash scene. Take some time to get important details such as the name, address, and contact information for all other drivers or witnesses involved in the accident. You should also document the license numbers and insurance details of those drivers.