Monday, April 27, 2009

Summer Cycling - Because It's Fun and Good For You

Exercise has very obvious and positive affects on physical and psychological health. With summer creeping up, and Bike to Work Week in May, hopefully more people will choose to ride their bikes more often. *Officially,* I encourage cyclists to abide by the city of Vancouver by-law which requires cyclists to wear a helmet on all roads. However, in the event you choose not to wear one, there are some things you can do to make your ride safer. (The same tips of course apply even if you are wearing a helmet).

• Stay off the main roads. Use the sidewalk if you need to or move up a block onto a less busy street. This might mean you have to double back a block, but if you are already on your bike, there’s no need to be lazy. Also, don’t forget about alleyways which are usually quiet and have interesting views of behind-the-scenes life. Many alleys are not maintained so use caution when manoeuvring around potholes and be conscious of the narrower road space.

• Be wary of bike roads. Bike roads are a wonderful concept, however they only provide an extra measure of safety if they are designated for bikes only, which they are not. In fact, bike roads are relatively busy with vehicle traffic compared to other side roads. This is probably because bike roads tend to be through roads, less busy than the main roads, and have those handy pedestrian controlled traffic lights which drivers can use to their advantage as well. You will also find more cyclists on these roads. Overall, there is more traffic on bike roads. Also, I find they tend to be unnecessarily hilly compared to a nearby parallel road. And, if there are police handing out tickets to people not wearing helmets, I assume a bike road is where they would be stationed.

• Know your bike. It would be great if we all lived in a world where both our front and back breaks worked reliably (if they don’t, get them fixed), but sometimes things wear out and it can be a couple of days before they’re fixed. Make sure you know your stopping distance, especially in rainy weather. Don’t take corners faster than your bike will allow. Don’t try to jump curbs if you are moving too slowly (or too quickly).

• Slow down at all intersections. Even if you have the right of way, a full stopped car might not see you. As well, sometimes drivers regard the stop signs on side streets as slow down signs, so they are even less likely to see you. Be even more careful where there are roundabouts; cars will take these as fast as they can.

• Make yourself visible at night with front and rear lights.

• Use hand signals. Drivers and other cyclists will appreciate this greatly and you will be less likely to get side swiped.

• If you are carrying anything on your bike, make sure the weight is balanced on either side.

• Parked cars, stationary though they may be, have doors that can open wide without any notice.

Google maps (in conjunction with UBC and Translink) has a handy bicycle route option. It doesn’t necessarily give the best route, but it can help in determining trip time and routes to avoid hills. It can also help you choose the greenest route.

All that said, let go of the handlebars and enjoy your summer!


  1. Actually, riding on the sidewalks is also illegal in Vancouver. People do it, but it shouldn't be advised...

  2. Riding on sidewalks is illegal (as is riding without a helmet). I certainly don’t advise it as a first option. If there are pedestrians on the sidewalk, a cyclist should dismount. But if a cyclist finds themselves in a situation where it is safer to be on the sidewalk, I think they should use it.

    The Collingwood Community Policing Centre has a list of the most important cycling by-laws, according to their opinion (my own opinions I shall withhold):

    • cyclists must not ride on a sidewalk unless directed to do so by a sign
    • cyclists must keep one hand on the handlebars at all times
    • cyclists are not permitted to ride their bikes through a crosswalk (walk your bike across the road)
    • cyclists must not use their bike to carry more than one person at a time, unless the bike is equipped with a separate seat
    • between 1/2 after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise a bike must have a lighted lamp mounted on the front of the bike with a white light visible at least 150m in the direction of the bike and a lighted lamp on the rear of the bike displaying a red light
    • no person shall ride a bicycle upon a street while wearing headphones, or any other manufactured device capable of transmitting sounds
    • no person shall ride a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a bell capable of being used as a warning
    • no person shall ride as a passenger on a bicycle unless the person is properly wearing an approved bicycle safety helmet