The recent death of a cyclist in Toronto has reignited the hotly debated issue of how cars and bikes can coexist on busy streets. Jenna Morrison, an expectant mother and yoga teacher, was killed last Monday while riding to her son’s school. When it comes to sharing the road, “we all have a role to play,” says Yvonne Bambrick, an urban cycling consultant. This round-up of simple tips can help make the roads safer for drivers and cyclists.
Sharing a lane
In most provinces a bicycle is considered a vehicle and has the right to use the whole lane.
Car: Only pass a cyclist if you are travelling at a greater speed. If there is another lane, switch to overtake the cyclist or straddle the lanes at a slow speed.
Bike: Only pass a car if you are travelling at a greater speed. Never pass on the right. Signal your intent. If you are being overtaken, move to the right.
Verbal and non-verbal communication is key to avoiding conflict and collisions.
Car: Always signal lane changes. If stopped at an intersection, establish eye contact with the cyclist. Roll down your window if necessary to speak with the cyclist.
Bike: Always use your hand signals. At an intersection, establish eye contact with the driver. If needed, ask the driver to roll down his or her window. Ensure you have a functioning bell or horn.
Busy intersections can be complicated for both cars and bikes.
Car: Check your side and rearview mirrors for cyclists moving into left turn lanes. Give cyclists the time and space to complete their turn.
Bike: Ride in the middle of the lane when moving over. Get to the centre of the rightmost left-turn lane. If you’re less experienced or less comfortable, dismount and walk your bike across.
Blind spots can be an issue.
Car: Use your rearview and side mirrors to check for cyclists. If a cyclist has already initiated their turn, allow them to complete it before starting yours.
Bike: Stay out of a car’s blind spot by remaining in the centre of the lane. Don’t ride up beside a car that is trying to turn. Never attempt to turn at the same time as a car.
Watch the door
A car door swinging open can easily hit a cyclist and cause major injuries.
Car: Always assume that someone will be in the path of your door. Look in your rearview and side mirrors. Open your door slowly while continuing to look behind and in front of you.
Bike: When approaching a line of parked cars, watch for lights or movement inside the car. If you have room, ride far enough to the left that a swinging door won’t hit you.
During late fall and winter, low light is a safety issue.
Car: Keep your lights in working order.
Bike: Use a front and back light if riding between a half hour before sunset and a half hour after sunrise. Cyclists should wear a reflective safety vest or apply reflective tape to their clothing.
Yvonne Bambrick, urban cycling consultant
Const. Hugh Smith, Toronto police traffic services
Alex deVries, vice-president of Citizens for Safe Cycling in Ottawa