Cycling offers many opportunities for physical exercise and enjoyable outdoor recreation for the whole family. There is a growing recreational trail system in the province that enables cycling in a traffic-free environment and this option is especially appealing for families with small children. Cycling on streets and highways is readily accessible, necessary for active transportation, and can be an equally enjoyable experience for riders prepared to accept the responsibility.
Know your Bike and How to Handle It
All cyclists should be familiar with their bike, use a bike that is the correct size and generally exercise caution in whatever environment they choose to ride in. Excellent training is provided through CAN-BIKE (canbikecanada.ca). Two e-books that are available from the Province provide excellent advice on cycling safety.For younger riders, there is the Bicycle Book, and for riding in traffic, see Nova Scotia Bicycle Safety. Also of interest for cycling, as well as other forms of active transportation for children, is the Making Tracks program.
Always Wear an Approved Helmet
Regardless of where you are riding, ensure your bike is operating properly before going on your ride and correctly wear an approved cycling helmet that is fastened snugly. It will be of no help if it comes off just when you need the protection it will provide to your head. Helmets aren’t just for kids.
Safe Operation on a Trail
On shared use trails, cyclists are expected to ride on the right-hand side, yield to pedestrians (and horses) being passed in either direction and slow to a stop as conditions warrant (always stop for a horse). A cyclist should signal when passing from behind. Passing should be on the left. If you are traveling into a remote area or traveling alone, it is always advisable to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.
Cycling on Roadways
On streets and highways, the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act apply to cyclists as well as motor vehicle drivers. Your bicycle is a vehicle and all requirements of the Motor Vehicle Act that can reasonably apply to bicycle operation must be obeyed. Just like a motor vehicle, for example, you are required to yield to pedestrians in a marked crosswalk or stop when a school bus is displaying its flashing red lights.
Roadways are shared ways requiring common sense and respect for others among all road users., This includes cyclists setting a good example.
Use hand signals to indicate your intent to turn (left or right), change lanes (when preparing for a left turn where there is an additional lane for that purpose) and your intent to stop. Always do a shoulder check to see where other vehicles are and confirm they have seen your signal. For left turns or left lane changes, extend your left arm straight out from your side., Right turns do the same with the right arm (left arm out and angled straight up is also acceptable). For stops, the left arm is extended and angled downward with the palm opened and facing backward.
When traveling with other cyclists, properly used additional hand signals improve safety. Point out hazards such as potholes or material on the roadway by clearly pointing at it (voice warnings may be used in addition to hand signals. Point and say “glass” for example). When passing, a voice warning such as “passing on your left” or even just “left” will avoid surprises for the rider being overtaken. Remember when you wish to pass you will have to move left further into the roadway, so always check to ensure there are no approaching vehicles that might represent a hazard. If you wish to re-enter a line of cyclists, point to where you wish to enter and take a quick look at the other cyclist affected by your move to ensure space is being allowed for your manoeuvre.
Pace line riding is for experienced riders who accept the responsibility for contributing to the group’s safety at all times. Avoid following closely behind another cyclist who is not familiar with pace line riding or who is uncomfortable with another rider traveling closely behind them. Everyone in a pace line must know and use all of the hand signals, as following riders may not be able to see approaching hazards. Ride predictably and don’t make any sudden moves or changes in speed. Only practice pace line riding when roadway and traffic conditions make it safe to do.
Rules of the Road in Nova Scotia
The law in Nova Scotia provides for a sharing of the roadway by all vehicles – motorized or not. Please note if you are riding out of province the rules of the road may be different.
Here are the specifics of the law that all cyclists should know and obey:
(1) If a bike lane is provided in the direction of your travel you must use it. A BIKE LANE is a lane on a roadway marked by a traffic sign for use by cyclists, you must ride in that lane (provided the lane is for the direction you are travelling in and it is otherwise not impractical to use the bicycle lane). NOTE: Motorists may enter a bike lane to go around a vehicle/bicycle that is turning left immediately in front of them, to avoid a hazard on the roadway or to complete a lawful maneuver provided the motorist first yields the right of way to a cyclist in the bike lane. Vehicles are prohibited from parking in a bike lane.
(2) Do not ride through a safety zone (cross hatched yellow pavement markings) painted on the roadway or drive through a railway crossing when crossing warning signals have been activated.
(3) Observe all traffic signs and signals – stop, yield, keep right, etc. Upon entering a rotary or roundabout, yield to any vehicle already in the circle and ride in the direction of travel (counter clockwise).
(4) Do not carry a passenger or cling or attach yourself to a moving vehicle.
(5) Wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fastened by a chin strap.
(6) Ride with your feet on the pedals and at least one hand on the handlebars.
(7) Do not perform “tricks” or “fancy riding” while riding on a roadway.
(8) Only children may ride on a sidewalk. NOTE: a sidewalk may be designated as a trail that does permit cycling.
(9) If there is no bike lane, ride as far to the right side of the roadway as is practical or on the right hand shoulder,unless you are making a left turn, operating within a rotary/roundabout or passing to the left of another vehicle/bicycle.
(10) Ride in the same direction as the flow of traffic.
(11) Ride in single file unless passing another cyclist.
(12) Use front lights and rear red lights and/or reflectors in low light riding conditions (dusk until dawn).
(13) Every bicycle must have a working bell or horn (but not a siren or whistle).
(14) Finally, there is the recently enacted one-metre rule for motorists. Here is the law exactly as stated in the Motor Vehicle Act:
(1) A driver of a vehicle shall not pass a bicycle travelling in the same direction as the vehicle that is being ridden to the far right of the driver of the vehicle on the roadway, on the shoulder or in an adjacent bicycle lane unless
(a) there is sufficient space to do so safely; and
(b) the driver leaves at least one metre open space between the vehicle and the cyclist.
(2) Notwithstanding subsection 115(2), a driver of a motor vehicle may cross a line to pass a bicycle in accordance with subsection (1) if the driver can do so safely as required by Section 100. 2010, c. 59, s. 10.”
It means that the vehicle driver must complete the pass in safety and give the cyclist at least one metre of clear space between the vehicle and the cyclist. If, in giving the cyclist one metre of clearance, the driver of the motor vehicle has crossed the centre line in the face of on-coming traffic, the motorist may be guilty of an offence related to unsafe passing. To drive within the law, a motorist must stay behind the cyclist until traffic conditions enable a safe pass to be completed.
A cyclist is most likely to suffer the most severe consequences of any collision. With this in mind, cyclists need to be constantly vigilant of riding conditions on the roadway. Being in the right is not much consolation after you have had a crash caused by another road user.
The Heartland Tour strongly suggests:
(1) You set a good example by observing all the rules of the road and practicing safe cycling at all times.
(2) Acknowledge drivers that do the right thing. A little wave can go a long way in reinforcing good behavior.
(3) Wear bright clothing, ride in groups whenever possible and generally make every attempt to be seen. Be predictable, and don’t make sudden changes in direction or area of the roadway you are using.
(4) Be aware that vehicle drivers may not “see” you or they may misunderstand what you are doing. In particular, watch for cut-offs where a vehicle coming in the opposite direction turns to its left across your path of travel (the “left cross”) or a vehicle that has just overtaken you then turns right thereby cutting you off (the “right hook”). Vehicles entering the roadway may also not “see” you or misjudge your approach speed. When passing parked vehicles, give enough clearance to avoid roadside doors being opened into your path of travel. Cyclists should be always be aware of these common hazards and prepared for evasive action.