Tips to stay safe on your cycling commute

As warm weather quickly approaches, Ottawa cyclists are beginning to dust off their bike chains.

Bike shops like Bushtukah in Kanata have already put away their skis for the year, and are offering tune-ups to cyclists eager to hit the streets.

Although many Ottawans are keen to get back on the roads, Akil Spooner, a senior sales representative at Bushtukah, said riders should remember the importance of safety while cycling.

1. Wear a helmet

Spooner said the main precautions that cyclists should be taking on the roads is wearing a helmet.

“You’ve got to have a good lid, and what a lot of people don’t know is that helmets expire,” he said.

The material in helmets becomes brittle with time, and loses integrity when left in dry spaces for too long, he said.

Spooner recommends retiring your helmet if you’ve been in a cycling accident, or if you’ve been using your helmet for over five years.

2. Reflective gear and lights

Especially when cycling at night, Spooner said reflective gear and blinking lights ensure cyclists are visible to drivers.

“There’s two categories of lights—lights that are for cyclists to see in the dark, and lights that are to be seen,” Spooner said. “You want front and rear lights that blink, so that any motorist that sees you from the back, sees that regular blinking pattern, and they know there’s someone on the road.”

“There’s been so many cycling-related deaths in Ottawa over the last few years,” Spooner said. “I can’t stress the importance enough about being seen, and being visible.”

3. Check for cars when merging and changing lanes

Spooner said cyclists must be aware they are sharing the road with cars, and vice versa.

He recommended doing multiple shoulder checks before changing lanes, and merging slowly.

“According to the Highway Traffic and Safety Act, a bike is considered a vehicle,” Spooner said. “[Drivers should] give cyclists the space that they need, don’t cut them off, and don’t follow them too close.”

He added being properly equipped for your level of cycling and taking the right precautions to ensure the safety of yourself and others can save a life.

Spooner emphasized that being seen by drivers is the best way to protect yourself on the roads.

“Concentrate on being seen,” Spooner said. “Definitely wearing your helmet can save your life, but being seen in the first place, particularly when you’re on the road, is going to be your biggest defense.”

– Graphic by Christophe Young