Whether you’re on a bike seat or in the driver’s seat, chances are you’ll be sharing space on the road this summer. Here’s how to do it safely:
Tips for Cyclists
- Ride like a pro. Keep both of your feet on the pedals and both hands on your handlebars, except when you’re signalling. Ride single file and never carry more people than the bike was designed for (one bum per seat). And please, people: wear a helmet. Cyclists without helmets are three times more likely to suffer head injuries in a crash and 20 times more likely to die.
- Act like a car. When you’re sitting on our bicycle, you’re a vehicle, not a pedestrian. So stay off sidewalks and crosswalks, and brake for pedestrians just as a motor vehicle would.
- Be visible and predictable. Equip your bike with a headlight, tail light, reflectors and bell. And ride as predictably as possible — try to avoid making sudden movements or swerving unexpectedly in traffic. That means keeping an eagle eye out for potholes, debris and other obstructions down the road, so that you can avoid them safely.
- Assume nothing. Don’t trust that motorists are checking their mirrors consistently. And remember that large vehicles have huge blind spots. Slow down or stop, if necessary, to stay well behind a large vehicle — especially when it’s crossing your path to turn right.
Tips for Drivers
- Give cyclists space. Don’t follow too closely: cyclists stop more quickly and unexpectedly than motor vehicles. A three to four-second following distance is ideal. When passing a cyclist, leave at least one metre of clearance and change lanes to pass.
- Check, then check again. Scan your mirrors every five to eight seconds, and ahead from left to right, keeping in mind that cyclists are harder to see than other vehicles. Do a strong shoulder check prior to turns and lane changes, being extra-vigilant in areas with bike lanes and cycle traffic. Signal your intentions well in advance.
- Watch for bike lanes. Bike lanes are still relatively new to Alberta’s traffic landscape. Drivers need to pay attention and apply the same principles to these as they do to regular lanes — shoulder-check when crossing one and don’t cross where the lines are solid.
- Lay off the horn. Avoid using your horn when cyclists are about — it’s a lot louder outside, and you might startle them into swerving or crashing.
Tips for Both
- Know your hand signals. One of the primary ways cyclists communicate with drivers is hand signals, so both parties need to know the proper signifiers for left, right and stop.
- Respect one another. You both have a right to space on the road. Though there’s some confusion on that front, says Rick Lang of AMA Advocacy and Community Services. “Cyclists aren’t sure of their place in traffic and motorists can feel entitled to their lane. It takes conscious cooperation to share the road.” Remember: next time, it could just as easily be you on that bicycle, or behind that wheel. So give each other a break.