How do I stay safe as a cyclist?

The best way to be safe while cycling is to follow the rules of the road, be predictable and stay visible.

Wear the Right Gear

In Ontario, every cyclist under 18 must wear an approved bicycle helmet; it's the law. Wearing a properly fitting helmet is one of the most important things you can wear to keep yourself safe while cycling. Make sure you buy a helmet that was made for cycling, there are different types of helmets for different sports.

Wear light coloured clothing or put on a vest with reflective material when you cycle. You can also wear reflective bands on your wrists and ankles, and put reflective stickers on your helmet.

It is important to stay visible to other road users when cycling on the road. By law you must have a bell or horn, a white front light and a red rear light or reflector when you are riding in the dark. You must also have white reflective tape on the front and red reflective tape on the back of your bicycle frame.

See a picture of how you can stay visible.

Stay in a Safe Space

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act says that you must ride your bicycle on the road. Since bicycles usually go slower than cars, stay on the right side of the road so that faster-moving vehicles can pass on your left.

If a lane is too narrow to share or if the road condition is poor, you can legally take up the full lane and ride in the centre.

Where possible, stay at least one metre from the curb or from parked cars. Watch out for vehicles moving out of their parking spaces and for people who open their vehicle door in your path.

Stay out of drivers' blind spots by keeping a good distance between you and other vehicles. A blind spot is the area which a driver cannot view through their vehicle's mirrors. Larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, have large blind spots. Keep a greater distance from large vehicles and never share the lane with them. Stay far in front or far behind a large vehicle.

Cross railway and streetcar tracks carefully and at a 90- degree angle. This way you can avoid falling or damaging your bicycle wheels. Go slowly when it is wet because the tracks will be very slippery.

Be Predictable

Let other road users know where you are going. Avoid changing direction quickly or deviating in and out a straight path. Ride in a straight line as much as possible.

When turning or changing lanes, look over your shoulder to make sure the way is clear. Then use the hand signals for turning and stopping to let other road users know what you plan to do. Be extra careful when riding through intersections because many collisions happen here.

Take a Cycling Course

Many communities have courses to help cyclists learn and follow the rules of the road. CAN-BIKE is an example of a program where you can learn about your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. Find out about existing programs in your community from your local cycling organization or police service.

For More Information

  • Cycling Skills - Ontario's Guide to Safe Cycling [PDF] - This safety guide includes a list of safety equipment and tips on how to ride safely in traffic and how to  overcome surface obstacles. It also explains what cyclists need to know about traffic laws. From the Ministry of Transportation.
  • Toronto Cyclists Handbook - This guide explains how to properly wear a helmet, the names of different bicycle parts and how to prevent your bicycle from getting stolen. Although it focuses on Toronto, much of the information applies to all of Ontario. Available in more than 10 languages. From Cycle Toronto and CultureLink Settlement Services
  • Children and Cycling - This webpage is for parents. It gives tips for riding with a child and tips to help you know when your child is ready to cycle without an adult. From the City of Ottawa.
  • Cycling Safety Tips - It is important for cyclists to be visible, ride predictably, understand how traffic works and to communicate with other road users. From the City of Toronto.
Last updated: October 15, 2018 4001571