Cyclist’s Survival Guide to Cycling in Toronto
Most of us in Toronto look forward to cycling in the city, for many different reasons and goals. Some of us want a way to get around quickly and cheaply, maybe cycle to work or just be a more active and healthy person.
There is a lot of useful information and practices that most people may ignore when they start cycling, some mistakes can be made and while some of them are harmless others can impact your experience. .
With that in mind, here’s an essential guide for anyone wanting to cycle in Toronto, whether they’re newbies or returning cyclists.
Major No: don’t ride on the sidewalks!
Toronto City Council has adopted a staff report recommending that the Toronto sidewalk cycling regulations must stipulate “that no one aged 14 or over may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk”.
The fine for an adult riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is $60. Many other countries have no regulations regarding sidewalk cycling, so especially for international students, being fined for it can be a nasty surprise.
Never ride your bike without proper safety gear
Always wear a helmet, a reliable bike lock, a bell or horn for use in traffic, a white front light and a red rear light or reflector, and these should be used half an hour before sunset or half an hour after sunrise, white reflective tape on the front forks and red reflective tape on the rear forks.
Finally, never forget to check if your brakes are working properly and if your tires are inflated before leaving.
Watch out for cars (and their doors) on the bike path
Navigating alongside buses, cars and motorbikes will always have its problems and perils. You can never be careful and aware enough, especially these days with more and more people distracted on the streets checking their smartphones.
It’s a particularly dangerous new variable that can cause drivers to ignore the cycle lane and passengers already deep in their phones to open doors and jump out of cars at the top of the lane.
As a cyclist, noticing and responding quickly to these issues will keep you and others safe.
Get to know your local bike retailers and repair shops
Toronto is full of great stores to buy your first bike, repair a damaged bike, and get supplies and equipment, so there will always be a store nearby for any need.
If a problem like a flat tire or any other maintenance-related issue arises while cycling, get off your bike and use the TTC bus bike rack to take you and your ride to the store or the nearest house in case you have the knowledge and skills to make repairs.
Use maps, summer bike days and off-road biking to your advantage
Over the summer we will see some major roads closed at weekends for pedestrians and cyclists. This will be a good time to start riding a bike if you’re still not confident enough to do it in real traffic.
If you don’t feel like buying a bike, consider renting or Bike Share Toronto
Maybe you don’t have the physical space to store a bike right now or you just don’t want to make room for a bike. If this is your case, services like Toronto Bike Tours bicycle rental or Toronto Bike Share can give you access to quality bikes for a limited time.
Bike rentals operate on a price per rental day, while Bike Share can offer membership terms with good prices, but with a caveat: you can only use the bike for sessions of 30 to 45 minutes before returning to any of Toronto’s 625 stations or stopping in either direction to extend your session.
Watch out for trams! When they stop, pedestrians will jump in the middle of the street
Cyclists should always stop behind a tram when it opens for passengers to board and alight. A distracted cyclist could have an unwanted accident with a pedestrian exiting the tram.
Watch out for trucks on street corners!
Driving alongside large vehicles in the city has always had its dangers. As one of the most vulnerable parts of the traffic flow, you need to take good care of yourself, especially around street corners.
Trucks and buses may not see you during maneuvers, so keeping a safe distance from the corner should save you from injury.
Also, remember to get off your bike and enter the curb if a truck or other large vehicle comes too close, and try not to hang onto your bike in these situations.
If you dropped your bike to avoid injury, do so. Bike repairs or a new bike will always be cheaper and less stressful than hospital time and costs.
Watch out for underpasses! Inexperienced cyclists might be afraid to navigate these places
Underpasses can be an intimidating place for novice cyclists, due to the limited space to maneuver and the proximity of vehicles moving much faster than you. If the idea scares you, try to avoid it until you feel more confident.
All in all, don’t be afraid to try cycling in Toronto. It is a fun, healthy and rewarding experience. If you’re new to the city, this is a great way to explore it!