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Sun’s out, bikes out, right? It’s a joy to get on your bike and spin around the city – soaking up the rays and feeling the breeze in your face. But before you pedal your way around, it’s a good idea to brush up on your safety tips and know the rules of the road.
Summer brings a spike in bike related crashes and accidents. ICBC stats show that between June and September of every year, 740 people are hurt and seven die in collisions between cars and cyclists. That’s six injured people per day! We need to share the road but we also need to share the responsibility for putting safety first.
If you’re our there biking on one of the beautiful and scenic trails throughout British Columbia or in Vancouver’s network of protected bike lanes, there are a few basics you need to do to keep yourself out of harms way:
Always obey the rules. That means going with the right flow of traffic, sticking within speed limits, and following all signs as posted. Need to brush up on what the rules for cyclists are in BC? Check the government website for full details.
While it isn’t the law in BC, you should also follow the “One Meter Rule” when it comes to biking beside cars. You don’t want to slam into an opening car door or a pedestrian slipping through a few parked cars. Give yourself room to avoid the risk of a crash.
Biking and sunny days go together so well. Biking and cars, not so much. But as the days warm up and more people get out on their bikes, everyone needs to take safety to heart. Drivers don’t want to run into a cyclist and cyclists dread crashing into an opening car door. That’s why the “one meter rule” is making the rounds on streets and bike routes across our city.
A few provinces have actually legislated that cars are to give at least one meter (or roughly three feet) of space when passing a cyclist – Ontario and Nova Scotia, for example. More recently, New Brunswick has enacted what has become known as “Ellen’s Law”.
Ellen Watters was a 28 year-old cycling phenomenon from that Maritime province. Just days before Christmas of 2016, Ellen was out on a training ride in the small farming community of Sussex, NB when she was struck from behind by a vehicle. The impact killed her and sent a shockwave throughout the province and the cycling community in Canada.
While a one-meter law in NB had been debated earlier, Ellen’s tragic death brought the issue to the forefront. In February of 2017, it made its way through the legislature and is now law. No such law exists here in BC but just because it isn’t an official rule, it’s still a good rule of thumb.
For drivers, the one meter rule means that if you encounter a cyclist on the road you should:
For cyclists, it’s also important to do your part. Ride single file in both bike lanes and roadways. Only pass other cyclists when there is room to do so and it is safe. Ride on the right side of the road with vehicular traffic and follow directions and instructions on designated bike lanes.
Putting that space between moving cars and bikes can save lives. It can even prevent those dangerous dooring accidents when cyclists pass by a parked car. A little bit of space and a whole lot of respect for everyone else on the roads can go a long way to keeping us all safe.
Like cherry blossoms and daffodils, every spring in Vancouver sees the return of something truly spectacular – thousands of people out enjoying the Seawall. But 30 kms of seaside trails can result in conflicts between people wheeling it and people heeling it. Cyclists, rollerbladers, pedestrians, and joggers need to share the Seawall and follow the rules.
You’ve probably experienced it. Out for a sunny stroll near Granville Island when a speeding cyclist takes a turn too quickly and nearly crashes into you. Or you’re enjoying a leisurely bike ride around Stanley Park when a group of walkers and gawkers wanders off the pedestrian path and into the bike route to snap photos of the totem poles.
It can be frustrating and dangerous.
As the crown jewel of the city, the Seawall is meant to be enjoyed. Here are four easy things you can do to make it a safer, more delightful experience for everyone.
Stick to your lane
There’s a simple reason why most of the Seawall has two separate lanes: it’s safer that way. While there are spots where space is limited and the path has to be shared, it is mostly separated into two well-marked lanes. Generally, people on foot take the water side and their trail is often “bumpy” (made of paver bricks, cobblestones, or grooved concrete). The path for the faster moving wheeled set is on the inside and is smooth (except in shared areas where the “bumps” help slow those wheels down). If that isn’t apparent, there are signs to let you know which lane is yours. Stick to your side and stay safe.
Watch your speed
If you’re on fast-moving wheels – mostly bikes and inline skates – mind your speed and stick to your paths. You’re travelling at a faster pace than walkers or runners and need more space for sudden stops. And in case you didn’t know, the Seawall has a speed limit: 15 km/h. And yes, police will enforce it. For runners, be mindful of pedestrians ahead and navigate your way through them carefully when going by.
Beware of sticky points
While you should be careful and alert at all times, there are a few areas where things get quite congested and require much more caution and attention. These include areas:
If you decide to skip Vancouver’s Seawall for West Vancouver’s Seawalk, leave your wheeled equipment at home. Bikes and rollerblades are not permitted there. Check local rules for what’s allowed on other municipal trials and paths.
Share and share alike
There are some parts of the Seawall where there’s just not enough room for separate paths (like just west of the Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park or near Leg-in-Boot Square on False Creek). In these areas, you have to share the path and the responsibility for safety.
Another thing to share is this message: the Seawall is for everyone’s enjoyment but it also has rules, including rules of etiquette. Ring your bell when you’re biking by and politely point out to people if they’re not in the correct lane. Keep your dogs on a leash, a close eye on your kids, and don’t get your head stuck in your phone when you’re walking through busy parts of the Seawall. Just a few simple things can make for a great day on our magnificent crown jewel.
Vancouver is becoming as well-known for its cycling culture as it is for its rain. But what happens when the two intersect? Yes, slick roads and cold, wet commutes are part of it. But just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you have to lock up your bike for the season.
We have an extensive network of bike lanes and thousands are commuting by bike every day. Biking in the cold Vancouver rain does require some changes in the way you prepare and cycle. Here are five quick tips to keep you safe in the rain.
Dress for the rain
Being cold and damp is neither fun nor comfortable. Wear waterproof clothing and footwear to keep dry and wick any wet off you. Use a light backpack or a panier (or bike basket) to carry a change of clothing and keep something on hand in case the weather changes. While they can cover you in a pinch, do be cautious when using a rain poncho – keep them clear of your gears and chain so they don’t snag and suddenly seize up your bike.
Light up your way
Make sure you have a bright white light for your bike or helmet. In Vancouver, it’s the law. The light does two very important things. First, it helps with your visibility. Rain can reduce your ability to see and it gets worse if it is dark or foggy. Second, a light lets pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists see you.
Slippery when wet
You should always plan out your route but if you’re a daily bike commuter, you probably have the same route every day. On drier days, take note of the surfaces you’re biking on. Things like grates, manhole covers, and painted markings all become slick when wet. Know where they are on your route and adjust your speed when you approach them.
Cycling over the rainbows
You know those little rainbow-hued patches that pop up on pavement when the rain starts to fall. That’s oil and gas residue from the asphalt and passing cars. They can be very slippery so keep an eye out avoid hard braking when you’re cycling through them.
Maintain your bike
Keep your bike maintained and in good working order. That means checking brake pads and brake lines, making sure reflectors and lights are working and clear of dirt, and that the chain is well-oiled. Also, slightly deflate your tires. This will extend the width of the tire, giving it more surface contact and greater grip on the road.
Cities all over the world are making a switch from lines of paint to fully protected bike lanes. Whether separated by a concrete curb, a row of plants, special fencing, or even a row of parked cars, many cities are setting aside designated bike paths so cyclists don’t have to contend with dangerous drivers and pesky pedestrians.
While city cycling isn’t exactly new, it is becoming more popular. Unfortunately, that has resulted in more crashes, injuries, and fatalities. The old-fashioned painted lines intended to separate bikes and traffic haven’t been a guarantee of safety. That’s why cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Washington have scrapped the paint in favour of protected lanes.
Vancouver is part of that growing trend. Streets like Hornby and Dunsmuir feature a protected bike lane, with more being built and planned around the city. This has created some controversy, but reports show the number of cyclists is increasing – up by as many as 40% between 2008 and 2011.
In Europe, cities like Copenhagen and Amsterdam installed protected bike lanes decades ago. The protected lanes have encouraged biking in these cities. Vancouver wants to see the same thing happen here. Building the infrastructure will create an environment and a culture that allows cycling (and cyclists) to thrive and survive.
Research shows that perceived safety concerns are a major barrier for people wanting to bike in their city. They’d love to get out and cycle, but a fear of getting hit by a car is causing them to back pedal that idea. Protected bike lanes address and help ease those fears. And that’s why more cities like Vancouver are building and enhancing their network of protected bike lanes.
Biking is a great way to get around the city. Whether it’s your daily commute or an occasional outing, peddle power is good for your health and good for our planet. But there are dangers and risks, especially if you’re biking in a city.
From the seawall to the vast network of protected bike lanes criss-crossing the city, we live in a cyclist’s paradise. While Vancouver has made cycling in the city safer, there are still too many accidents and crashes. Here are a few simple tips to make for a safer and more enjoyable ride.
A journey of a thousand pedals begins with a plan. So before getting on your bike, plot your route and chose the safest way of getting there and back. Check out the map of Vancouver bike paths or search Google for trails in your community.
Follow the rules
Trails and paths across the city have posted rules, so make sure you follow them. Never bike on the sidewalk and always dismount when going through crosswalks. The same goes for crowded spaces. When on the street, bike in the same direction and on the same side as cars. And in case you didn’t know, bikes on our seawall have a speed limit: 15 km/h.
Put a lid on it
If you’re biking in BC, the law requires you wear a helmet. Aside from being the law, helmets can protect the head and reduce the dangers of an impact. Pick one that fits well and make sure the strap fastens securely under your chin.
See and be seen
Always make eye contact with others while you’re passing by. That way, you’ll know each other’s intentions. Too many accidents happen because someone claims they didn’t see the other party.
If you are biking after dark, you must have a white headlight and a rear red light, plus reflectors. Given our West Coast climate, you should also use your lights in foggy or rainy conditions when visibility is reduced. Bright coloured and reflective clothing also help. You definitely don’t want to get hit by a car, so make sure you can be seen.
Avoid the door prize
One of a city cyclist’s biggest dreads is a car door. To minimize the risk of getting ‘doored’, bike at least a meter (or three feet) away from parked cars. Also, avoid weaving in and out of traffic around cars. It makes you harder to see and harder for people in cars to predict where you might be going.
Need a bike? There’s probably one near you that’s ready to ride. Vancouver’s new bike sharing program, Mobi, took to the streets in July and so far it seems to be well received.
Stats for the first month are looking good – each bike is averaging three riders per day. That’s out pacing Seattle’s six-month-old program, where each bike only gets about one rider per day. The program launched with about 250 bikes, with more added throughout the summer. By the start of fall, organizers expect to have 1500 available at 150 stations throughout the city, and even more coming in 2017.
Bike sharing programs have been common in parts of Europe for decades. They are now spreading to Eastern Canada, the United States, and Asia. Vancouver is a little late to the party, but locals are readily accepting the invitation.
Nearly 4000 people signed up at the program’s launch, with more signing up each day. For $7.50, riders can purchase a day pass giving them access to 30 minutes of cycle time. Monthly passes are also available for $10 and $20.
The bikes do come with a free helmet for the ride. The helmets are cleaned every day but you can also bring along sanitary wipes, a hair net, or use your own helmet. Just remember though, wearing a helmet is the law and can reduce your risk of a serious head injury.
To learn more about the program, where to find a Mobi bike, and how it works, visit www.mobibikes.ca.
After a nice long bike ride, you pop into a café to grab a quick coffee. You lock your bike, order a latte, and head back outside. Your bike is gone! Someone has cut your lock and stolen your wheels.
Bike theft is a big problem in Vancouver. Police say on average nine bikes are stolen each day in the city. Most are stolen in the summer months. One of the worst areas in the city for bike theft is one of our most popular attractions: Granville Island. Shop owners have decided to fight back with Operation Rudy. The program includes offering free valet bike parking service with some shop owners loaning out high-end locks to bike visitors.
No matter where you bike, there are things you can do to secure your bike. The most critical thing is using a good lock. Thieves operate on speed and stealth. Locks slow them down. Make sure you have a strong lock and that you are using it the right way. Here are a few pointers:
But don’t put all of your faith in your lock. They can fail. So put your name on your bike to deter thieves as it will make it harder to quickly sell the bike and will also decrease its value. Take a picture of your bike and record the serial number. And register your bike with Project 529, as recommended by the Vancouver Police Department.
Last week was Bike to Work Week and a crew from Slater Vecchio took part. Led by Aimee, the team cycled a combined total of 440 kilometers in one week. So we asked them about the experience and any tips they could share to help make for a safer daily bike commute.
Ilona says: “Cycling to work really gives a great start to my day. I arrive in a positive mood and ready for the day ahead. I’d highly recommend it, especially to those who find it hard to incorporate exercises into their otherwise busy life.”
Of course, if you are going to bike to work, you should put safety as your top priority (see our post from May on biking to work safety tips). As for tips and advice from our team – and what to watch out for on your bike commute – they have their own interesting observations:
Experience truly is the best teacher.
The team also had some good advice on securing your bike and possessions. Ilona offered up a great tip to be street smart as well as bike smart. “I opt to use a backpack to carry my lunch, purse, change of clothing, and such,” she revealed. “Although I have a basket on the back, I’m cautious that it could be a quick snatch while I’m waiting at lights and someone could be off with my belongings!”
Niki suggests that cyclists in the Vancouver area register their bikes with the Vancouver Police Department’s Project 529. You can download the related app 529 Garage for keeping information on your bike, including pictures, just in case it gets stolen.
Of course, sometimes being safety-minded can lead to comical situations. As Nicole noted, “Signaling a right turn does not mean I am waving at strangers on the sidewalk, but sometimes they will wave back at you. It is awkward, but amusing.”
On the bright side, Nicole, at least the pedestrian saw you coming.
Kudos to the team on a great effort and thanks for sharing these great tips.
Next week kicks off Bike to Work Week across BC. Thousands of Vancouverites take to the city’s streets and bike lanes for their daily commute – here are a few safety tips to use on your daily cycle. Of course, these are things you should consider and utilize every time you pedal your way to work, not just during Bike to Work Week.
Plan your route
Planning is always a good idea. Find the safest and most convenient way to get to and from work. Nearly every corner of the Lower Mainland is accessible by bicycle. And TransLink offers a very helpful page to find maps to plot your route.
Let’s face it, cyclists are much more vulnerable than commuters in passenger cars or buses. So make sure you’re seen by wearing reflective clothing or sporting reflective decals on your bike. Also, a white headlight and a rear red light are required for after dark cycling. Lights and reflective gear are absolute lifesavers for being seen in foggy or rainy conditions.
Wear a helmet
It’s not just a good idea; it’s the law in BC! Make sure you pick a helmet that fits snug and securely on your head, and fastens comfortably under your chin.
Follow the rules
Always stop at stop signs, be mindful of your speed, and walk your bike through crosswalks and on sidewalks. And always make sure you follow the right direction of your bike path – that means following the same direction as motor vehicles or following specific instructions indicated on various lanes.
Pay particular attention at intersections and when you ride beside parked cars (an unexpected car door opening is not a pleasant surprise). Make eye contact with people driving to confirm you’ve seen each other and avoid riding in the blind spots of other drivers.
While Bike to Work week is a great way to encourage more people to cycle to work for a healthier commute, safety is always the top priority. Cycle safe and enjoy the ride!