Between 2016 and 2020, 1,272 collisions involving cyclists occurred, and out of these, eleven were unfortunately fatal.
Practicing road safety should always be a concern for road users, but it’s important to keep in mind that cyclists are vulnerable road users, so we should be extra cautious when sharing the road with them.
It only takes seconds for an collision to occur, so keep an eye out for cyclists and remember to give them as much space as you would a car – vehicles are required to give at least a 1 meter minimum when passing.
Remember to also keep a safe distance between your car and their bicycle when passing as well, and don’t forget to check your blind spots for cyclists when turning or changing lanes.
“As a cyclist you have the right to use the full lane if you deem it necessary to keep yourself safe,” emphasized Jeff Tindall, founder and organizer of Let’s Bike Stittsville and an avid cyclist. “Don’t be afraid to take it. Road conditions can vary wildly for cyclists, everything from shoulder debris (glass, nails), potholes, parked vehicles (potential dooring) and even narrow roads where close passes can be expected. If you feel unsafe, do a quick shoulder check and if safe take the lane until the hazard(s) pass. It may be a temporary inconvenience for any vehicles behind you, but your safety is more important.”
It’s important for cyclists to take their own safety precautions to ensure that their trips are collision-free, and this includes wearing protective gear when cycling.
Equipping yourself and your bike with the proper protective equipment is one of the most important steps towards keeping safe on the road.
Cyclists should always wear their helmets when riding, dress in reflective gear when out after sunset, and keep a working bell or horn to ensure drivers are aware of them on the road. Drivers also need to be fully aware of their surroundings. A working bell alerts pedestrians and other cyclists of your presence and that a cyclist is approaching.
On top of reflective gear, reflectors should also be installed on the bikes themselves. A white light at the front of the bike, a red light at the back, and two strips of reflective white tape on the front forks of the bike can make all of the difference when it comes to road safety.
It’s also important that cyclists remember to signal before turning and make eye contact with other drivers when moving into an intersection to be sure that the drivers have seen and acknowledged them.
The City of Ottawa is still working to make roads a safer place for everyone by expanding their cycling infrastructure network throughout Ottawa and by installing amber-lock technology and speed cameras around the city, but that doesn’t mean we can stop being so vigilant when it comes to safety.
Construction sites can also be a big hazard for cyclists, warns Jeff Tindall. “There is a lot of development that means a lot of illegally parked vehicles, workers not fully paying attention to their surroundings and debris and dirt on the roads and bike lanes. This can make for tricky situations and road conditions for cyclists. My suggestion is to take caution and assume they don’t see you,” says Jeff Tindall. “If you see a situation or have a dangerous encounter please report it to have it fixed.”
Jeff emphasizes, “While everyone has a role to play in safety, the consequences of between cyclists and motorists are dramatically different. As the operator of a 3000lb or more moving vehicle there is an enhanced responsibility to be aware of their surroundings, given the power and potential impacts they can inflict if they aren’t paying attention”. But this doesn’t mean we should shy away from going out and enjoying the beautiful weather.
“I would encourage all residents of Stittsville to try and get out more on a bicycle.” Jeff Tindall urges. “The overwhelming amount of trips taken by car are short (less than 10km – about a 30 minute easy paced ride) and can be accomplished via bicycle. Enjoy the fresh air, exercise and interacting with your community, instead of sitting in traffic and idling.”
For more tips on cycling safety for cyclists and motorists, visit the City of Ottawa website here.
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