A bicycle is the smallest vehicle on the road. It is important for people cycling to be visible, ride predictably, understand how traffic works and to communicate with other road users. People cycling can also learn how best to protect against theft and the process involved in recovering a stolen bicycle.
Use extra caution when crossing streetcar and railway tracks to avoid falls due to trapped wheels in the tracks. Always cross tracks at right angles, even when cycling over slots, cracks in the pavement or sewer grates.
Your lane position to cross streetcar tracks at a right angle will depend on the angle of the tracks and the grade of the road. Shoulder check and signal your intentions to road users behind you. Use the following technique to safely cross the tracks:
If you are not comfortable riding over the tracks, whether it is due to multiple tracks at an intersection, difficult track angles, or heavy traffic, pull over to the curb, dismount and cross the intersection as a pedestrian.
Streetcar tracks become more slippery when wet. Use caution when riding in the rain or in winter weather.
By law, you must pass streetcars on the right. When a streetcar stops to allow passengers to enter or exit, you must stop two metres behind the rear door until all passengers have boarded and disembarked on the sidewalk.
When TTC passengers are exiting the streetcar, wait for them to cross to the sidewalk before passing.
People aged 14 years and older may not lawfully cycle on Toronto’s sidewalks. You may be fined $60 for cycling on a sidewalk. If you are cycling recklessly or negligently, the fine may be increased to $90.
People cycling should wear clothing that will not catch in the wheels, chain or other moving parts of the bicycle. Wear comfortable, layered clothing that breathes, yet is wind resistant.
Wear an approved helmet for safety. Choose a helmet that fits correctly and look for a CSA, Snell, ANSI, ASTM British Standard or Australian Standard sticker that shows that the helmet meets legislated standards.
According to the Highway Traffic Act 104, people 17 years of age and younger must wear an approved helmet while cycling or risk a $75 fine.
To ensure people cycling are visible to motorists at night, wear light-coloured clothing or reflective fabric that glows in the dark. Use bicycle lights from a half-hour before sunset to a half-hour after sunrise. Use a white front light and a rear red light or reflector. Under the Highway Traffic Act 62, there is a $30 fine for improper bicycle lighting.
To protect against sun burn and melanoma, remember to wear sunscreen when riding in the summer months, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen should have a SPF of 15 or higher and be waterproof.
Ride with a water bottle at all times to avoid dehydration, especially during hot and humid weather. Plastic water bottles easily clip onto the frame of the bicycle. It is recommended that you drink one bottle of water every 20 minutes. To maintain good balance, carry objects in a backpack or pannier instead of on your handlebars. Wear riding gloves made of leather or fabric to protect your hands and to provide a good grip for brakes.
When cycling in the rain, increase stopping distance and wear fluorescent clothing to make up for the decreased visibility. Do not ride through puddles, which may hide pot holes, glass or other road hazards. It is also recommended to stay away from the centre of the road where oil slicks form.
Ontario’s mandatory bike helmet law requires all children under 18 who are riding or operating a bicycle to wear an approved bike helmet. Parents are liable to be fined $75 for not ensuring their children under 16 are wearing a helmet, while children aged 16 and 17 years old can be fined directly.
The following equipment and accessories are recommended for those new to cycling:
*Required by law from the Ministry of Transportation.
People cycling should be aware of their surroundings and anticipate obstacles, other road users and changes in infrastructure. Avoid wearing earphones or using your phone for calls or texting while cycling.
People cycling are safest when they are visible to other road users. Use reflectors and front and rear lights, wear bright and reflective clothing and position yourself correctly on the road to be part of the flow of traffic, which increases visibility.
People cycling are predictable when they ride in a straight line and communicate (signal) their intentions about changing position or direction. By riding in a straight line, it is easier for surrounding traffic to predict your actions.
Ride one metre away from the curb, avoid the gutter, and stay away from opening doors along parked cars. When cycling through an intersection, avoid moving into the right-turn lane, as this indicates to drivers that you intend to turn right. Instead, travel in the right-hand through lane.
You must check behind your shoulder to see traffic behind you before and after you signal your intentions to change lanes, or turn left or right. To perform a shoulder check, turn your head 90 degrees in the direction you are turning while cycling in a straight line.
Communicate your intentions to other road users with hand signals, making eye contact and using your bell or voice. To change lanes or make a turn, shoulder check in the direction that you are moving, hand signal your intention, and shoulder check again before completing your turn.
At traffic lights, it is not safe to overtake (on the right), so either wait your turn or consider overtaking (on the left) to advance before pulling in to the flow of traffic.
Never cycle in a driver’s “blind spot,” as they are unable to see you if they turn. Always maintain enough distance behind or in front of any large vehicle so the driver can see you. If you are unable to see the driver’s eyes, they are unlikely to see you.
Cycling on the sidewalk is against the law for adults. If you are nervous about cycling on the road, consider CAN-BIKE training, and speak to a more experienced individual about cycling safety and route planning. Practice riding with a more experienced cyclist until you are comfortable cycling by yourself.