When you get on your bicycle and get on the road, you are then officially classified as driving a vehicle. As such, you need to know and obey the same rules as other vehicles. This is for your own safety, because if you behave like a car driver would behave, your actions are more predictable.
If you don’t drive, then the first thing you need to do is get a copy of the rules for drivers of vehicles. These can be found at your province’s Ministry of Transportation offices. As well, check your local and provincial rules on bicycles by contacting your local municipality, police department, or provincial website.
Drivers can’t avoid you if they can’t see you. Make yourself visible to everyone on the road: wear bright clothing, and if you’re biking during twilight hours or at night, put lights on your bicycle – both in front and in the back.
You also need to be aware of the traffic all around you – you have to avoid it as much as it has to avoid you. Make sure you’re aware of everything behind and to the sides as well as ahead. And don’t wear headphones, as you may not be able to hear a horn or oncoming car.
As a vehicle driver, you have a responsibility to stick to the rules of the road. You need to drive in the same direction as the traffic in that lane, so although you might think that it will make people see you better, never ride your bike into oncoming traffic. If you come to an intersection that has a left- or right-turn lane, don’t get into one of those lanes and then go straight through the intersection – you will disrupt traffic and are more likely to get injured, as drivers will assume that you are turning at the intersection.
So why not just ride on the sidewalk? Because it’s not safe – and may not even be legal. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, who often move in ways that can make it hard for a bicyclist to avoid a collision – for example, coming out of a doorway or around a corner, stopping suddenly, or moving in large, slow groups. Some cities limit riding on the sidewalk to children under a certain age or to bikes with tires under a certain size. And cycling on the sidewalk is not a good way of avoiding collisions with cars – in fact, it’s a factor in 30% of bike-car collisions: cars can cross the sidewalk unexpectedly when coming into or out of driveways or laneways, and cyclists are not always visible when they have to come onto a street from the sidewalk.
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