Warm weather is on the horizon so the roads will soon be busier with two-wheeled commuters. At the beginning of the week, we posted a list of safety tips for cyclists who are planning on biking around the city throughout spring. One of the tips was that cars are not the enemy. Motorists should feel the same way about cyclists.
In Toronto, especially downtown, there seems to be a cars vs. bikes mentality, and it needs to change if everyone is going to safely commute, not just in the spring and summer but all year. Once we finished and posted the safety tips for cyclists, we realized that the drivers in the city could use a few pointers to help them keep an eye out for cyclists.
1) Check blind spots more frequently
Whether there are bike lanes or not, cyclists will be riding up next to your car, or they can be right behind you. Cyclists should make their presence known with bells, lights, and reflective clothing, but not all cyclists are as diligent or safe as they should be. Whenever you’re making a right turn, double check to make sure you’re safe to do so.
2) Be conscious of bike lanes
A dangerous thing that happens frequently downtown Toronto is cars will pull over and park or stop in the bike lane. This forces cyclists to swerve around you. This slows down other cars, puts the cyclist in unnecessary danger, and just causes more traffic in a downtown where congestion is already an issue.
3) Don’t rush or swerve
There will be times when a cyclist is in front of you and they don’t have the space to move over far enough to the right for you to pass. You need to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to safely pass without swerving into an oncoming lane. This puts you in danger because you’re going the wrong way in a lane and it can also startle the cyclist because they may recognize the tight position and not be expecting you to swerve around them.
4) Learn the bike signals
This was also a tip for the cyclists. Even if a cyclist is conscious enough to signal, it doesn’t really help you if you don’t know what that signal means. The meanings of the signals are illustrated in the image above.
5) Don’t let the weather speed you up
When the sun starts shining, the sky is blue, and the windows are down, people tend to drive a bit faster. Try not to fall into the trap of feeling too good on the open road. Cyclists will be feeling the effects of the nicer weather too, so they also need to make sure they’re not being reckless.
6) Control your road rage
When a cyclist swerves in front of your car or you change lanes and realize you cut one off, most people get instantly mad at the cyclist, even if it wasn’t their fault. This road rage can lead to more danger and risky situations. Likely, the reason you’re mad is because you were afraid of something bad happening and that you would be the cause of it. Try to remember that everyone makes mistakes on the road, and the only way to ensure the majority of people have a safe journey is to stay calm and follow the rules.
7) Always check twice before opening your door on the street
Getting “doored” falls pretty high on most cyclists’ list of fears. This is what it’s called when you park your car on the side of the road and swing open your door to get out, not realizing that a cyclist is cycling by you. The door opens, the cyclist hits it, things get broken. It’s all around awful for everyone. With more cyclists hitting the streets throughout the spring and summer, remember to double (or even triple) check before opening your door on the street side.
Downtown Toronto is leaning more and more towards being a pedestrian and transit-oriented core where many people are choosing to get around on bike even in the winter, especially because of the growing amount of condo dwellers choosing to not own a car. Of course, auto infrastructure is still in place, but with more people choosing alternative modes of transportation, there’s a larger need for everyone on the roads to be aware of their surroundings, follow the rules, and be courteous to one another. Drive safe out there!