Traffic skills – the fundamentals
The key to cycling safely in traffic is riding confidently and being aware of your surroundings.
- Think and plan your next 30 seconds.
- Observe the traffic ahead, behind and around you.
- Anticipate dangers and what other road users may do.
Watch this short video and learn more about cycling in traffic.
There are several key factors that you must remember at all times when cycling in traffic:
- Alertness – You must ride defensively and be alert at all times. You are vulnerable and any collision, no matter how small, is potentially serious.
- Manoeuvrability - You need room to manoeuvre while avoiding hazards that exist along the roadway.
- Predictability – Motorists cannot read your mind. Weaving in and out of parked cars or making sudden changes in direction without signalling confuses them. Choosing the right position on the road can also help keep you safe.
- Visibility – Being visible is about what you wear and how you ride. Whether you are riding at night or during the day, be sure to wear bright, reflective clothing. Always stay in the motorists' field of vision and avoid dodging in and out of traffic or parked vehicles.
- Communication - Appropriate signalling alerts other road users of your intentions. Plan your manoeuvres early and communicate all of them, including stopping.
Basic road positioning
- Ride as close as practicable to the right-hand side of the road but use your best judgment to determine how far away from the curb to ride and when it may be necessary to move closer to the middle of the lane. Experienced cyclists recommend riding approximately one metre (3 ft.) from the curb to maintain a straight line while avoiding hazards such as potholes, cracks, service covers, debris and puddles.
- If you ride too close to the curb, you run the risk of being forced to move to the left to avoid hazards. This can result in a sudden unpredictable swerve as you move over into the path of other traffic.
- Always keep your eyes focused on the road ahead of you, watching carefully for hazards. If you have to move over into traffic to avoid a hazard, always shoulder check first and use your hand signals to communicate your change of position. Avoid swerving abruptly into traffic – it can easily lead to a collision.
In some situations where road or traffic conditions dictate, experienced cyclists suggest you may be safest riding closer to the centre of the lane. There are several conditions under which this is advisable:
- Where the lane width is too narrow for a motorist to share the lane with the cyclist.
- Where there are poor road conditions along the right side, such as debris or puddles.
- In construction zones where lane widths are reduced or where only one lane remains.
- When you are traveling at the same speed as the rest of traffic.
- At intersections (further clarification under intersections).
Destination positioning is planning and getting to the appropriate location on the roadway in a manner that will clearly inform other road users where you are going. It makes you more visible and predictable, two of the most important elements of safe cycling.
- The right-most lane – You should always be in the right-most lane or position that takes you where you want to go.
- Right-turn-only lanes – There are some situations when your destination requires you to move from the right-most lane. One example is the right-turn-only lane. If you're travelling through an intersection, you shouldn't enter or remain in the right-turn-only lane. Motorists will assume that you're turning right and, by continuing through the intersection, you become unpredictable and must still re-enter the traffic flow on the other side of the intersection. Instead, position yourself in the appropriate lane to the left (using hand signals) and remain visible in the motorists' field of vision.
- Parked cars – Another example of destination positioning is when there are parked cars on either side of an intersection. If you're planning to continue straight, you should continue riding in a straight line and not weave to the right. Remember to stay in the motorists' field of vision, be predictable and stay out of the parked car door zone. Experienced cyclists recommend riding 1.5 metres (5 ft.) from parked cars.
- Multiple-turn lanes – When there is more than one turn lane, you should pick the lane best suited to your destination. Referring to the diagram below, if you're turning left at the intersection, choose the right-most turn lane in order to arrive in the right-most lane after the turn (path 2). However, if you're planning to turn left again at the intersection after your initial turn, you are better positioned in the inside or left-most turn lane (path 1). This will allow you to arrive on the left side after your first turn, already positioned to make your second turn at the next intersection.
- Merge and diverge – Unless you plan on turning, you shouldn't enter merge-and-diverge lanes. When in this situation (as per the diagram below), you should instead remain in the motorists' field of vision so there is no confusion about your destination. A brief shoulder check just before reaching the diverge lane will also alert the driver that you do not intend to turn right.
Parked cars – the “door zone”
Passing parked cars can represent a significant hazard for you as a cyclist. A car door can cause serious injury and result in your being thrown into the adjacent lane of traffic. You must be alert at all times to both opening doors and motor vehicles pulling into or out of parking spots.
Experienced cyclists recommend riding 1.5 metres (5 ft.) from parked cars.
Where cars are parked intermittently, ride in a straight line instead of swerving in and out between them. This increases your visibility and predictability for other motorists on the road.