TORONTO - As cyclists hop on their bikes this summer, safety concerns are likely top of mind with recent grim news of traffic-related deaths.
A woman faces several charges — including impaired driving — after a male cyclist was struck and killed in a hit-and-run early Thursday in northwest Toronto. The incident comes two weeks after Toronto architect and cyclist Roger du Toit died following a collision with a SUV.
Cyclists injured in motor vehicle traffic accidents resulted in 3,155 ER visits and 692 hospitalizations in 2012-13, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
In 2013, Toronto led Canadian cities with the highest number of fatalities caused by motor vehicle collisions. Among 63 road users killed, four were cyclists, according to reports obtained by the city from Toronto police.
But Jacquelyn Hayward Gulati, Toronto's manager of cycling infrastructure and programs, said the trend of traffic deaths over the past five years has stabilized while cycling has increased.
"That being said, our first message is that the city is concerned about the safety of all road users, especially cyclists as vulnerable road users."
She joins other experts in sharing safety tips for riders.
GEAR UP FOR SAFETY
"Go through the ABCs: air, brakes, chain and cables to make sure everything is up to par," said Scott Watson, manager of government relations for Parachute Canada, a charitable organization dedicated to injury prevention. Watson said use of a bell is also important.
Wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of severe brain injury by up to 83 per cent, said Caroline Grech, government relations specialist for the Canadian Automobile Association.
She also recommended cyclists do anything to increase their visibility, including use of reflectors, lights and brightly coloured clothing.
"Even during the day. When it's inclement and it's raining, the brighter you are, the better it is for people to see you."
Gulati said she makes a point of signalling her intentions and making eye contact with drivers and pedestrians as she cycles.
Grech and Watson also pointed to the importance of obeying traffic signals, including not rolling through stop signs.
"The more predictable you are, the better it is for drivers in that they know what you're about to do and they can anticipate what you're about to do," said Grech.
PAY ATTENTION — AND BE PATIENT
Grech said cyclists should ensure they aren't distracted by headphones or mobile devices.
She said it's also better for cyclists to err on the side of caution to ensure an intersection is clear before proceeding.
"It's better to be safe than to guess and it not be a good decision," she said.
"Cyclists are vulnerable road users. You don't have the same framework that a car has to protect you, so you really do have to be your own advocate in a lot of ways."
GO WITH THE FLOW
"Riding against traffic is very dangerous — and it's also illegal," said Grech.
She said riders should also get into the habit of knowing what they'll encounter on each route.
"The more you do it, the more you'll know where some tricky situations could arise, or you know the traffic flows or the times that are a little bit better for you to travel."
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Watson said if cyclists aren't quite sure they're up for a longer ride, they can take steps towards boosting their confidence.
"Get out on ... some quieter streets and get used to interacting with other vehicles on the road, and then work your way up to your fuller commute."