A recent study done in New York City indicated that 97 per cent of cyclists who died from a collision were not wearing helmets. Research also shows that wearing a properly fitted helmet decreases the risk of serious head injury by over 85 per cent. So it seems safe to say that wearing a helmet every time you hop onto your bike is a key component in cycling safety. Look for a helmet that is certified by the CSA or CPSA.
Fitting a helmet securely to your head is just as important as selecting the right one. There should be a two-finger distance from the front of the helmet to your eyebrows, and you should be able to fit one finger between your chin and the chin strap. There should also be V-shaped straps around each ear, and the helmet should not move out of place when you tilt or shake your head. Keep in mind that most cycling helmets are "single-impact" helmets, which means they are designed to protect against one impact and then must be replaced.
Before you head out, inspect your bike. Double-check that the bell or horn is working, reflectors and/or lights are in place if travelling at night, tires have enough air and brakes are in good, working condition. You should do this each and every time you ride.
Because bicycles don't have signal lights, hand movements are used instead to alert drivers of what your next move will be. Make sure you have a full grasp of the appropriate hand signals and have practiced them before you head out on the road.
As a cyclist, you are the smallest and least visible vehicle on the road. So it is important that you are constantly vigilant. Drivers may not see you, or they may expect you to do something different than what you actually do. It is therefore in your best interest to give cars a wide berth wherever possible and to always check in all directions when manoeuvring your bicycle. Staying alert also means making cycling your priority: Avoid listening to music, and turn off any cellular devices so you aren't tempted to distract yourself from the road.
Always remember: It is better to get where you are going late than to not get there at all. So take your time. If the walking signal at a set of lights indicates traffic signals will be changing soon, it is better to slow down than to try to race through. If a car is turning right, stop and let it go rather than try to speed ahead of it. There is nothing separating you from an oncoming vehicle, and high speeds can lead to greater risk of injury and more serious injuries in some cases. So be patient, and get where you are going safely.
If you really want to make sure you know all the rules of the road and are fully equipped to handle any cycling dangers that may come your way, consider enrolling in the CAN-BIKE program. The course teaches you about everything from anticipating traffic dynamics to collision-avoidance techniques so you can feel totally confident in your biking knowledge.
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