I don’t know if any of you have been in a road cycling accident. I have. It was back in the days before bike helmets were even a thing. I was biking to St. Michael’s Hospital in downtown Toronto where I worked as a dietitian. Because of the traffic, I cycled very close to the curb, so close in fact that my front tire got caught in a sewer grate and threw me head first onto the sidewalk.
What stands out after 30 plus years is the feel of my head smashing into unforgiving pavement. A black eye (the only one I’ve had) was the least of my worries. What I did endure was several years of sudden blackouts that I can only attribute to the head injury.
It took me some time to get my mojo back but I never gave up my love of bike riding. And I never want to be in a bike accident again. These 20 road cycling safety tips, if you practice them, should prevent you from becoming an accident statistic.
Ride a bicycle that fits. It it’s too big you’re setting yourself up for a mishap.
Tune your bike regularly. Pay close attention to your brakes, chain and gears. Keep your tires correctly inflated.
One of the hugely important road cycling safety tips is to wear a proper fitting helmet. If it’s not sitting appropriately on your head (eg It’s too far back and I can see your entire forehead) it won’t do you much good.
Assume drivers don’t see you. In this age of texting that’s going to be far more common than ever before.
Wear bright coloured clothing. I find fluorescent green is the colour that stands out from a distance in natural light. Wear reflective clothing at night.
Beware of parked cars. They make me more nervous than a moving car. I always give them a wide berth as I can’t tell you how many times drivers and passengers have opened a car door without checking for bikes beforehand.
Forget the phone – another one of the crucial road cycling safety tips
Put down the phone when you’re biking. If you have to make a call or text, pull over and stop your bike to do so.
Ride single file. I am in awe at the chances so many cyclists take riding two abreast on busy roads. It’s just not worth the risk.
Use hand signals to indicate you are turning or stopping.
Don’t wear headphones.
Be alert to electric bikes, especially when you’re about to turn. I find they appear out of nowhere when you don’t expect them.
Ensure you have lights on your bike – in the front and the back.
Put a bell on your bike to prevent bike – pedestrian and bike – bike collisions.
Ride to the conditions. If it’s raining, braking takes longer. Pump your brakes for a smoother stop.
Don’t wear loosely worn scarves. If you have long shoe laces, double knot them so they don’t get caught in the chain.
Wear bike gloves for a better grip.
Watch for animals on the road. I for one have had to avoid snakes, birds, deer, squirrels and bighorn sheep.
Pay close attention to the condition and hazards of the road. Be particularly wary of sewer grates, train tracks, cracks in the pavement and glass.
Watch your speed. It should go without saying but obey traffic laws.
Don’t be that jerk on a bike that gives the rest of us a bad name. Be courteous to fellow cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.
I hope to be riding my bike into my 80’s – without any further accidents.
Should you ever be in an accident here’s what you need to know about bicycle accident claims.
Further reading on biking in Canada
- Biking the Kettle Valley Trail in the Okanagan
- 7 of the best bike rides in Ontario
- The Best Bike Rides in Canada You Can do in a Day
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