Riding your bike

Don't get doored!

There is a danger zone for cyclists next to parked cars.

Cyclists: for your own safety, ride at least one metre away from motor vehicles. That is the only way to prevent getting doored – and it works. Don't let anyone push you any closer.

A car door springs open in only a few seconds. If a cyclist is passing by at that moment close to the car, the cyclist cannot avoid the door, and will be knocked off balance or onto the ground, leading to serious injuries and possibly death. This is a major cause of collisions. In Toronto, it is the most common cause of downtown cycling collisions.

Motorists: you (and your passengers) are responsible for checking for traffic – including cyclists – before opening a car door. And you will be charged under section 165 of the Highway Traffic Act if you cause a collision because you didn't check.

Cyclists: the only guaranteed solution is to stay out of the door zone (about one metre from the car). That way, even if a motorist opens a door without warning, you're far enough away to avoid it. That means:

  • avoiding passing on the right if there's not enough space to pass, and
  • taking extra space in the lane in order to stay away from the cars, even if it means that you hold up cars or force them to pass you outside of the lane. If you need to move left to do this, remember to signal and shoulder check first.

Unfortunately, it's impossible for cyclists to see in advance whether a vehicle door is about to open. Tinted windows and high headrests make it  impossible to see from behind if a car is occupied, and a door flies open in only a few seconds – not enough time to react.

Motorists: if you see cyclists riding one metre away from parked cars, please do not honk or yell at them for riding there, even if they slow you down for a brief time.. This is a safety issue and cyclists need to stay out of this danger zone.


Fixing your bike

It's important to keep your bike in good running order in order to be safe and comfortable on the road.

You need to do the following regularly (every week during the cycling season):

  • check your tire pressure and pump your tires to the recommended pressure (the number is embossed on the tire sidewall). Under-inflated tires make it more likely you'll get a flat, and slow down your ride.
  • oil/wax/grease your chain (and preferably clean it if it's dirty). A dry chain will squeak and wear out faster, and is more likely to snap.
  • check your front and rear brakes to ensure you can quickly and fully stop. This is essential to your safety. You should not be able to press your brakes right to the handlebars: if you can, that means the cable has stretched and needs to be tightened.
  • check you can shift properly
  • check that all your nuts and bolts are tight, and that your tires aren't worn or cut or have glass embedded in the tread

You can maintain your bike yourself, or you can take it to a local bicycle store. If you want a full tune-up before spring, it's best to take it in the winter (before March) when the shops aren't so busy.

If you want to do some of the maintenance yourself:


Watch out for Potholes and Cracks and Broken Grates -- and call them in!

An Ottawa cyclist was recently badly hurt after riding over an open grate opening which he didn't see in time. It was a very sad reminder that cyclists must be careful to avoid

  • potholes
  • cracks that can grab bicycle wheels
  • grates or other ironworks that are missing, or broken, or surrounded by missing asphalt

Your best defence is to look ahead, ride at least 1 metre away from the curb (avoiding many of the problems), and ride around, not over, potholes/cracks/ironworks. And don't ride through puddles either; they can conceal potholes. A cycling traffic skills course (offered by the City of Ottawa) will also teach you how to dodge potholes.

And any time you see one of these, please report it so it gets fixed. See our table of who to call .


Cycling Maps

The City of Ottawa released a new cycling map at the end of 2011. You can buy a copy for $2 at City Client Services Centres, from many bike stories, and from CfSC at our booths at cycling events.The list of map vendors is here.

You can also access the city's interactive Cycling eMap here.

The National Capital Commission's Capital Pathway maps (which cover the area's off-road, mixed-use pathways) can be accessed in PDF form here and here. You can also get printed versions at the the NCC's Capital Information Kiosk in the World Exchange Plaza, at 111 Albert Street in Ottawa. The NCC will be producing updated maps in Spring 2012.

The NCC maps cover both Ottawa and Gatineau; the City of Ottawa maps cover on-road as well as off-road routes and give all the street names. The City of Ottawa eMap also allows searching by address.


Protecting your bike from theft

There are only three ways to steal a bike

Stop Bike Thief! graphic

  1. Ride away with the unlocked bike
  2. Break the lock
  3. Break what the bike is locked to

Always lock up your bike!

No matter where it is — in your backyard, on your front porch, or outside a store – it's smart to spend the extra time to lock up your bike properly. It only takes a few seconds for someone to steal it.

Read more: Protecting your bike from theft


Copyright © 2013 Citizens for Safe Cycling. Contact info@SafeCycling.ca for use permission.
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