Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bicycle Basics

By PC Hugh Smith

Good weather in Toronto means more bicycles are on the road, and everyone needs to be aware of these smaller vehicles.

Studies indicate most motorist subconsciously don't see vehicles that are any smaller than a car. People driving automobiles need to be cognizant of their surroundings and bicycles in their area.

Things that a rider should be cognizant of is, number one be smooth. You need to know your limits, your personal limits and your bicycles limits.

Know your surroundings, who you are driving with, who is on the roadway, and never take your scenario for granted. Always be on alert for something to happen."

Wearing a helmet is always a must, wearing bright neon colors that are not found in nature. Most cycling accidents are the result of falls. Avoid loose clothing and wear appropriate footwear. Use pant leg clips to keep clothing grease free and out of the bicycle chain.

Bicyclist need to use their skills to keep them proficient. If the bike has been sitting in storage all winter, make sure the tire pressure is correct and the bike is tuned before taking it on the road. Even experienced, riders should brush up on their skills and address some of the bad habits they may have developed.

Safety however, is not just the responsibility of the cyclist, cars and trucks need to be share the road with these smaller vehicles and be aware that they are there.

"All drivers have a responsibility of being proficient behind the wheel”. They need to know how to operate their vehicle properly. They need to know their space, how much room they are taking up, and if they can actually manoeuver their vehicle in an emergency situation."

Lane position on any urban street

Highway Traffic Acts across Canada tell cyclists to ride as far to the right as is practical. Those words are hard to interpret by the road using public.

Some motorists feel cyclists should not be in the line of traffic and some cyclists interpret the law as meaning to ride on the sidewalk – but sidewalk cycling is illegal in most parts of Canada.

What it should mean is to ride far enough out from the curb that you can maintain a straight line and avoid debris, potholes and service covers.

Drivers must leave a safety cushion space between their car and the cyclist so there is no chance of collision. This safety cushion is for the cyclist to manoeuvre in while cycling through traffic.

Sidewalks are dangerous places to ride.

Recent stats show that many car-bike collisions involve a cyclist riding off sidewalks and into roadways.

Although some Canadian communities allow children’s bikes (24 inch wheels or smaller) on the sidewalk, the intention was to allow only small children to ride on the sidewalk.

Sidewalks are for pedestrians.

They are not safe havens for cyclists. Sidewalks are congested with pedestrians, strollers, wheel chairs, pets, senior citizens, doorways, planters, and entire families of unpredictable window shoppers.

Road traffic is more predictable.

Educated and seasoned cyclists have the knowledge and skills required to ride on the road. Rules of the road, risk management, handling skills, decision making are all part of their experience. Choose to improve your skills.

Cyclists are part of traffic and have all the rights and responsibilities that motorists have. Cyclists need room to manoeuvre in traffic and motorists need to provide that room by not crowding cyclists and compromising their safety.

When motorists and cyclists are considerate of the space each type of user requires on the roadway, conflict is reduced and everyone is much safer.

Warm up the bike before every ride

When the weather warms up and the ice, snow, and salt are gone from the roads and trails, it's time to get back on your bikes. If your family's bicycles have been in storage all winter, you should tune up each bike for spring. Your local bike shop will do this for you for $35 to $60, or you can do it yourself.

Bikes are fairly easy to maintain but still require your attention to ensure a safe journey. Pay special attention to the following four areas: chain, derailleur components, brakes, and wheels.

Tires release air, chains need oil, bells and brakes need to work, and handlebars need tightening. The basics!

The ABC Quick Check is an easy way to remember what parts of the bike need your TLC before every ride. It takes less than a minute.

A – is for air. Check everything to do with your tires and wheels and air pressure. The valve must be straight out of the rim, not at an angle.

B – is for brakes, bars and bell. The brake pads must be straight and grip the rim effectively. The handle bars must be straight and tight. The bell must work.

C – is for chain & crank. Chains need to be lubricated & the pedals (cranks) need to spin freely.

Quick – is for quick release. Levers must be installed correctly and tight.

Throw in a ‘D’ for Drop: lift the bike a few inches from the ground and drop it. If something falls off…you might need more than a minute. Try your breaks as you ride off.

If your bike passes the ABC Quick Check, get riding. If something doesn’t seem right or you suspect something is losing its grip, visit your neighbourhood bike service centre. ABC Quick Check is a smart way to keep your bike in good shape and you safe. Get into the habit.

Lock it or Lose It

Four methods thieves use to steal a bike

  • Steal an unlocked bike.
  • Break the lock.
  • Break what the bike is locked to.
  • Steal parts of the bike that are unlocked.

Losing a bike through theft can be a painful and expensive experience. There are no full-proof methods to secure bikes but here are some bike lock basics.

Four of the most effective ways to keep your bike from being stolen

  • Always lock your bike. Half of all bikes stolen are stolen from home.
  • Use a good lock. Buy two of the best locks you can afford. Having two different kinds of locks increases safety.
  • Secure your bike frame and your back wheel. (Two locks!)
  • Do not lock your bike to a chain link fence or a wooden porch.

Register your bike. When the police hear about numerous bike thefts in a neighbourhood they know that there is an organized bike thief in the area and can help stop the operation.


The CAN-BIKE safe cycling skills program is the standard for bicycle education across Canada. CAN-BIKE Courses teach riding skills, traffic analysis skills, and collision avoidance techniques. They also provide the basics on safe equipment, and a basic bike inspection. Regardless of your experience, CAN-BIKE will make your cycling more effective, and give you a greater sense of confidence and control in traffic.

CAN-BIKE is the only accredited course of its kind. Courses are taught exclusively by instructors certified by the CAN-BIKE program. Instructors are knowledgeable about the Highway Traffic Act and teach cycling skills such as anticipating traffic dynamics, recognizing road hazards, and collision-avoidance techniques.

Our most advanced course, CAN-BIKE 2, is required training for many people who cycle on the job. In fact, all Toronto Police bicycle patrol officers are required to take CAN-BIKE 2.

Cycling is a popular means of active transportation; it can be done outdoors where you can appreciate the scenery alone or with friends. Cycling give one an opportunity to enjoy nature in the outskirts as well as within the city area. It is also a great form of exercise, involving all your muscles, especially the legs and heart.

  • Start slowly so that your body, and especially your joints and muscles can warm up. Your body works better when it is warm.
  • Remember to replace lost fluids-you will get thirsty in hot weather as well as cold. If it's cold enough for a water bottle to freeze try a water bag between layers on your back.

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