Bicycle safety involves a lot more than simply watching for motor vehicle traffic on major streets as you pedal along. It is something that you have to practise at home even before you ride, and something that you always have to think about while you are on your bike.
Being a safe cyclist starts at home. Ensure that your bicycle is the proper size, or you may have problems controlling it. With your feet flat on the ground, you should be able to straddle the bicycle’s frame with a bit of room to spare. For night riding, equip your bike with reflectors and buy reflective clothing so that you will be more easily visible to drivers.
A well-maintained bike is a safe bike, and so you should always be sure that your bicycle is in good working order. Have it professionally tuned up at a bike store at least once a year. And every time you are going to ride, check for loose nuts and bolts, particularly on the handlebar, pedal, brake, and wheel assemblies.
When you are on your bike, always wear a helmet — but not just any helmet! Make sure that it is either CSA, ASTM, CPSC, or Snell-approved, and never wear a helmet that was not intended for cycling. Adjust the straps and foam padding so that the helmet fits properly. It should be snug, and should not slide forward, backward, or from side to side. It should be level on your head; that is, it should not be tipped back to expose your forehead, nor should it be tipped forward so that it might block your vision.
When riding your bike, always keep certain basic traffic and safety principles in mind. Only small children who do not yet have the skills to ride on the street should ride on the sidewalk. Otherwise, a bicycle is a vehicle that should be ridden on the road, and you must follow the same “rules of the road” as drivers of automobiles do.
Obey all traffic signs and signals, and always ride on the right side of the street so that you go with traffic and not against it. Ride at least a metre from the right-hand curb, or from any cars that are parked alongside it. Turn left from near the street’s centreline, and turn right from near the right-hand curb. Always shoulder-check when changing lanes or turning, and be aware of what pedestrians, motorists, and other cyclists may do.
Ride predictably and use the proper hand signals so that drivers know what you are planning. Hold your left arm straight out to signal that you are turning left. Bend your left arm at the elbow and point your hand straight up for a right turn signal. Bend your left arm at the elbow and point your hand at the ground to signal that you are going to stop.