Safe Biking in the City
July 09, 2018
We all have aspirations of biking to work, but for many Torontonians, big city biking is too daunting. Hundreds of pedestrians, aggressive drivers and of course, endless traffic and limited bike infrastructure keep many of us off the road. At Navigators, we’ve compiled some tips to help you feel more comfortable on the road. From hand signals to locks and even some safe routes, this guide will prep you for a safe commute or leisurely bike ride.
Before heading out on the road, be sure to brush up on the correct bicycle hand signals. To signal a left turn, cyclists raise their left hand with their palm facing behind them. A stop is indicated by lowering your left arm with your palm open. Although cyclists and drivers may not be on the same page, there are two acceptable ways to signal a right turn. The most common and intuitive way is to raise your right hand with your palm facing behind, like a left turn. However, the “correct” way to indicate a right turn is to signal with your left hand up, palm facing forward. Many vehicles on the road may not realize this signal indicates a right turn so whatever signal you choose to use, exercise extreme caution and always remember to shoulder check.
Something that beginner cyclists seem to forget is that when they are on the road, they are considered a vehicle and must obey all traffic laws. This means no zipping through stop signs if nobody is there! Cyclists must stop at red lights, stop signs and behind streetcars just as a car would.
Sometimes drivers can’t see you, bikes are a lot smaller and can easily end up in a driver’s blind spot.
While helmets are not required-by-law for people over 18, they are strongly encouraged and a life-saving feature that all smart cyclists don.
Helmets may be optional, but it is required by law for cyclists to have the appropriate reflective gear and lights on their bicycles to distinguish themselves in traffic. The fine for improper bicycle lighting is $110. Not only is it the law but it ensures your safety when cycling at night or during bad weather.
If you’re new to biking in the city, you’ll probably feel more comfortable riding on roads with bike lanes. Over the last few years, Toronto has added many bike lanes on major streets in the city to help you get around. There’s even an interactive map that shows suggested routes, bike lanes and trails in the city.
Toronto is notorious for bike theft, even the most beat-up bikes can be stolen if not locked up properly! When locking your bike in the street, always lock your frame and tires together to an object that cannot be moved. Try to lock your bike on a busy street because populated areas deter thieves. Thieves don’t like witnesses so try to lock your bike on busier streets. If you can, buy a U-lock and a cable lock. Double locking your bike allows you to chain up more parts of the bike and makes it more difficult to cut off. The more heavy duty -the better.
Sometimes even the best locks fail to stop those pesky thieves. If your bike is expensive, vintage or all the above, you should consult your broker and make sure it’s covered by your home or tenant insurance.
The bustling city streets will be a breeze when you know how to navigate safely and you know you’re protected! Have fun biking in the city!
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