Cycling 101

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Cycling is fun, good for the environment and great exercise. However, before you make cycling part of your daily commute to work, school or anywhere that involves traveling with traffic, you need to make sure you’re comfortable with your bike, you understand the rules of the road and you have the right gear.

Safety for kids

Before your children put their feet to the pedals, make sure they have the necessary skills to do so safely. In Manitoba, it’s the law that cyclists under 18 wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet. Parents or guardians are responsible for making sure children wear a bicycle helmet and can be ticketed under The Highway Traffic Act. Teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 can be fined directly or be required to complete a bike-helmet safety course.

Basic traffic skills

Before you take your bike on the road, it’s important that your comfortable riding it. Be confident in your ability to:

  1. Balance while signalling.
  2. Ride your bike in a straight line.
  3. Stop.
  4. Shift gears.

For more on hand signals and how bikes should navigate roads and traffic, see the Sharing the Road page.

Basic traffic laws

In Manitoba, the laws that regulate cyclists are contained in The Highway Traffic Act. In summary, those laws include:

  • Do not ride on the sidewalk.
  • Obey traffic control signals and signs.
  • Ride as closely to the right curb as possible.
  • Use hand signals and eye contact to communicate.
  • Do not weave between parked cars – ride in a straight line.
  • Ride single file when riding with other cyclists.
  • Don’t carry anything that is large enough to affect your ability to maintain safe control and balance of the bicycle.
  • Do not operate a bicycle when you have been drinking alcohol.

Riding bikes on sidewalks

It is against the law to ride on sidewalks unless the diameter of your rear wheel is 410 millimetres (16 inches) or less.

Several studies have proven that cyclists on sidewalks face a far greater collision risk than cyclists on the roadway, the main concern being at intersections.

Safety equipment

Under Manitoba law, it’s compulsory for anyone under 18 years old to wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet when cycling. However, we strongly encourage all cyclists wear helmets, especially if they will be sharing the road with vehicles. In nearly 90 per cent of cases where cyclists were killed in a collision with a vehicle, the cyclist was not wearing a helmet.

Other equipment to consider that will make your ride safer includes:

  • LED lights and reflectors
  • Reflective/bright clothing
  • Safety or sun glasses
  • Gloves
  • Bell
  • Side mirror

Road hazards

All road users need to keep an eye out for hazards. Use caution when riding on slippery or uneven surfaces and loose material, and keep an eye out for debris, potholes and cracks.

When you’re on the road, you should be constantly scanning ahead looking for potential dangers. If you spot a hazard, slow down. At night or in poor riding conditions, be extremely cautious – spotting a hazard early and reacting calmly can help you avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Slippery surfaces

Be careful of wet surfaces, oil slicks, snow and ice. If you cannot avoid riding on slippery surfaces:

  • Reduce your speed and avoid sudden moves.
  • Avoid puddles where possible, which can hide potholes or other hazards.
  • Keep in mind that bicycle brakes are less effective when wet – you can dry your brakes by feathering (applying them lightly) before you need to stop or slow down

Loose material

Loose material on road surfaces, such as sand, gravel, mud or leaves, may make paved roads slippery. When approaching loose material on a roadway:

  • Reduce your speed and grip your handlebars firmly.
  • Raise your body slightly off the seat for better balance and move slightly to the rear for better traction.
  • Keep your arms and wrists loose to permit the front wheel to move a little.

Rough or uneven surfaces

Try to avoid crossing rough surfaces such as bumps, broken pavement or potholes. If you cannot avoid them:

  • Keep as upright as possible and reduce speed.
  • Stand up slightly on the pedals with your knees flexed to absorb the impact. Keep your arms relaxed and your head up.
  • Avoid longitudinal cracks or joints that run parallel to the road, which can trap smaller tires.
  • When crossing railway tracks, adjust position and alignment to cross the tracks at a 90 degree right angle. Be sure to shoulder check.

Book a community presentation

To book a cycling safety presentation for your community group, school or business, please visit our Road Safety Community Presentations page for more information. (Currently, only virtual presentations are available due to COVID-19.)