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Recreational bicycling safety tips

With spring weather here, many of us are either dusting off our bicycles that we had put away over the winter or are buying our very first bikes. Make sure you stay safe on your bike by following these tips.

Woman biking

In cities across Canada, more and more people are hopping onto bikes both as a means of transportation and for sport. Not only is it great for the environment, but it’s a fantastic form of exercise. That said, it’s important to practice safety when bicycling recreationally. Here are some safety tips for those of you new to biking.

Always wear a helmet

You’ve heard it before: Wearing a bike helmet can save your life. So there are no acceptable excuses for not sporting one. Yes, it’ll ruin your hairstyle, and it can get hot wearing one on warm days, but weigh that against your head impacting the street. Besides, it’s the law in many cities (don’t wear one, and the cops may pull you over). On the plus side, style-wise, helmets have come a long way, and you can find ones that don’t look as dorky as they once did. When trying one on in the store, make sure it fits well. It should not shift around on your head (make sure the straps are adjusted so that the helmut sits comfortably snug).

Wear form-fitting clothing

Pants with wide legs or flouncy skirts can all be hazards while riding a bike, as they can get caught in the spokes. Aim to wear snug clothes when you bike. Invest in pants clips if you tend to wear pants that are anything other than skinny fit. Also, if you plan to cycle after dark, light or brightly coloured clothing will help ensure you are seen by vehicles.

Learn your hand signals

It’s important that vehicles and pedestrians know what you plan to do on your bike. For a left turn, extend your left arm to the left; for a right turn, hold your left arm up in an L-shape (or extend your right arm out to the right side). For stopping, hold your left arm down with the palm facing behind you. Make everyone aware of where you plan to go by signalling in advance.

Ride on the street

If you’re not confident enough to ride on the street, that’s a sign you should take a cycling safety course until you develop confidence and know-how. Sidewalks are for pedestrians, after all. On the street, you should ride one metre away from the sidewalk and always be aware of cars that are turning and of car doors opening.

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