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.

Safely cross streetcar tracks

graphic of a cyclist crossing a streetcar track at a ninety degree angleUse 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:

  • When approaching streetcar tracks, slow down.
  • Stop pedaling, and position your feet so that your cranks are in a position horizontal to the ground, and lift out of your seat so that you are using your arms and legs to balance.
  • You will be able to absorb the bump by using your arms and legs instead of bouncing on your seat.

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.

Passing or stopping behind streetcars

graphic of a cyclist stopping two meters from a streetcar while passengers are entering and exitingBy 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.

 

 

Sidewalks

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.

Appropriate cycling attire

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.

Night riding

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.

Summer riding

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.

Riding in the rain

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.

Security

  • You can reduce the chance of theft by using a secure lock and good locking techniques.
  • Lock your bicycle frame (both wheels if possible) to an immovable object with two points of contact, which cannot be easily cut or broken.
  • Use a quality lock (a hardened steel U-lock or steel chain and padlock).
    • Consider using two different types of locks; thieves are less likely to carry two kinds of tools to break both locks.
  • For long-term parking, consider using a secure indoor facility. The City runs a Bicycle Station and Bicycle Locker Program, while other buildings may provide their own facilities.
  • Padlocks should not hang low enough to be smashed against the ground with a hammer.
  • Never leave accessories, like lights and bags, unattended with your bicycle.

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.

General guidelines

  • Teach children to obey the rules and always wear a helmet.
  • Practice riding in a safe, controlled environment.
  • Children learn to balance and handle a bike many years before they are able to develop a sound judgment about traffic and a realistic appreciation of risk. Children aged nine years old and under should be supervised by an adult when they cycle.

Infants

  • Never carry a baby in a front chest carrier or in a backpack. If you want to cycle with your infant, the only safe option is in a child carrier or bicycle trailer, but it is best to wait until your child is able to sit up alone.
  • An infant must always wear a helmet when cycling with an adult. If the child is uncomfortable or in distress, it may be preferable to try again when the child is older.

Toddlers

  • Children should be at least 12-16 months old before accompanying an adult on their bicycle, and should support the weight of their head while wearing a helmet.
  • Using a trailer or a rear bike seat depends on your riding circumstances, ability and personal preference. A trailer tends to be more stable, and allows more room for toys and snacks, but the child is further away from you and low to the ground.
  • Trailers are not suitable in high auto traffic situations, as children are not highly visible and may be bothered by high noise and vehicular pollution. If using a trailer in high auto traffic is necessary, it is best if another adult can ride behind the trailer.
  • Bike seats mean your child is close to you, but the centre of gravity shifts higher and further back, making your bike unstable. Practice with a twenty-five pound bag of potatoes before you strap your child into the seat. A novice or inexperienced adult cyclist should avoid adding a bike seat.
  • Remember to always strap in your child and ensure both of you are wearing a helmet.

Young children

  • Teach your child to learn how to ride a bike in a park or on a quiet, residential street. For travelling further distances, use a trailer bike, which attaches to your seat post and allows a child to sit on the seat post while holding the handlebars and pedaling.
  • Ensure that children are aware of hazards when cycling on sidewalks, such as cars backing out of or pulling into driveways, obstacles, uneven pavement and pedestrians.
  • Teach children the rules of the road, even when cycling on a trail: people should cycle on the right, ride in a straight line, be courteous with other users and communicate.

Cycling Equipment

The following equipment and accessories are recommended for those new to cycling:

  • White front light and red rear light or reflector* (must be in use half an hour before sunset, or half an hour after sunrise)
  • Bell or horn*
  • White reflective tape on front forks and red reflective tape on rear forks*
  • Approved cycling helmet
  • High quality cycle lock
  • Front and rear brakes in working order
  • A bottle cage and water bottle. Drink before getting thirsty to prevent dehydration (important for hot days or long commutes)

*Required by law from the Ministry of Transportation.

Personal Safety

Be Vigilant

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.

Be Visible

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.

Be Predictable

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.

Shoulder Check

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.

Use the Correct Signals

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.

Positioning at Intersections

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.

Be Aware of Large Vehicles

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.

Be on the Safe Side

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.

Bike Maintenance & Adjustments

  • Carry either a lighter, WD40, or light machine oil, in case your lock freezes. Try adding a drop of oil or graphite lock lubricant in the locking mechanism to prevent freezing.
  • Adjust your fenders, if necessary, so that there is lots of room between the fender and tire to avoid snow build up.
  • Clips are not recommended in snowy or icy conditions, as you may have to put your feet down in a hurry.

Tire Maintenance

  • Lessen tire pressure to the low end of recommended range (written on tire sidewall) to increase traction.
  • Cyclists are divided in their opinions about what tires work best. Thick-tread mountain bike tires will increase traction/grip on snow (particularly good for hard packed), whereas thin tires will cut through the snow (particularly good for loose snow) to the pavement. Some people use studded tires; these are noisy on dry pavement but particularly good for ice.

Prepare for Weather Conditions

  • Snow banks may cause you to ride further out in a lane. If you need to move out from the curb be sure to communicate your intentions with other traffic. Shoulder check to make sure it’s safe to move out, signal, do a second shoulder check to make sure it’s still clear and then move out.
  • Place your bicycle outside before riding – less snow will stick to it if it’s already cold.
  • If you encounter black ice, steer straight, don’t pedal, and try not to brake as this could cause you to skid and fall.
  • Avoid riding over snow – it may hide ice. Avoid riding over snow banks; stay on wet pavement.
  • Leave extra room for braking and shift often to prevent snow from jamming up the chain.
  • Streetcar tracks will be icy when other road surfaces are not. Always cross at a right angle, stop pedaling, keep your pedals horizontal, flex your arms and legs to absorb the shock and lift off your feet.
  • Plan your route in advance and have an alternative in mind in case of snow or ice.