Bicycle Safety

Cycling is a fun and an inexpensive way to get around. It’s a form of transportation that’s good for your health, and good for the environment. Cyclists have to share the road with cars, pedestrians and other cyclists.

The following summary and lesson plan has information on bicycle equipment, riding tips, and the rules of the road to stay safe while cycling.

Bike Fit and Road Ready

Ride a bike that fits. A bike that is too big or too small can’t be controlled properly and can be dangerous for the cyclist and those around them.

Ride a bike that is legal. There is equipment that needs to be on your bike to be legally ready to ride. Make sure you know what is needed and where it goes.

Equipment

Helmets

An approved bicycle helmet can greatly reduce the risk of permanent injury or death in the event of a fall or collision. A helmet works by absorbing the forces of a crash, so if the helmet has been in a collision, it should be replaced even if there is no visible damage.

The best helmet is one that fits properly, is worn correctly and has been manufactured to meet strict safety standards. Look for a safety standards sticker meeting the approval of safety organizations such as the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Snell, ANSI, ASTM, BSI, CPSC and SAA.

Helmets from other sports such as hockey, baseball, and football are not recommended for cycling. They are designed and tested for different types of impact.

In Ontario, it is the law that every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear an approved bicycle helmet.

To check a proper fit:

  • There should be two finger widths between your eyebrows and the helmet.
  • The straps should be flat against the face.
  • The side straps should meet just below the ear making a V-shape under your ear lobe.
  • The chin strap should be fastened snugly with enough room to fit one finger between your chin and the strap.

Lighting

By law your bicycle must have a white front light and a red rear light or reflector when you ride between one-half hour before sunset and one-half hour after sunrise. As well, the law requires white reflective strips on the front forks and red reflective strips on the rear stays.

Clothing

Clothing can improve or reduce visibility. Yellow and white stand out best at night; dark colours are difficult to see. Pedal reflectors and reflective material on wrists, ankles, heels, clothing and helmets help others see you.

Be Heard

Bicycles are very quiet vehicles, so it is important to warn other cyclists and pedestrians of your approach. By law, all bikes must have a working bell or horn to announce your approach. At times it is just as effective and more courteous to shout something like “passing on the left” when overtaking other cyclists and pedestrians.

Handling Skills

Learning how to safely ride a bicycle takes practice. After practicing safe cycling skills you can try a “road test” like one found here to review your skills.

Straight Line Riding

Riding in a straight line is the key to riding safely in traffic.

Practice by following a painted line in a parking lot. Try not to move your upper body as you pedal – let your legs do the work.

Shoulder Checking

Shoulder checking involves looking back over your shoulder to see what the traffic behind you is doing. This manoeuvre is vital for making safe turns in traffic. It is also difficult to do without wandering from a straight path. Practice riding in a straight line while checking behind you over both shoulders.

Hand Signals

It is important to signal all turns to let other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians know what you are going to do next. Always make certain it is safe to turn before moving by doing a shoulder check.

Shifting Gears

The basic rules for gear use are:

  • Shift into a low, easy gear before you stop.
  • Use low, easy gears when going up hills. Shift into lower gears before you begin to work too hard.
  • Use higher, harder gears when you begin to bounce on the seat from pedalling too fast.
  • Use a gear that gives you fast, easy leg spin – about 70 to 100 rpm.
  • Avoid pedalling slowly and pushing hard in your highest gears.

Bicycle Safety Rules

  • Wear a properly fitted, CSA approved bicycle helmet.
  • Make sure the bicycle is the correct size.
  • Always wear closed toe footwear.
  • Ride in single file on the road.
  • Ride on the right side of the road with traffic.
  • Do not ride on busy streets.
  • Ride on sidewalks or paths where permitted.
  • Cross the street with a grown up.
  • Stop for all stop signs.
  • Stop at all intersections (for example, driveways, paths, sidewalks).
  • Keep your bicycle in good repair.

For more cycling tips download a copy of the Ministry of Transportation’s Young Cyclist Guide here.

Related Lesson Plan

Kindergarten to 3: Safety on Two Wheels

Grade 4 to 6: Bike, Blade and Board Safety

Grade 9 to 12: Risky Behaviour and Prevention