7 things you need to know when cycling on P.E.I.

When you're riding a bicycle in P.E.I., you're considered a vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act. That means you have to follow many of the same rules you do when driving a car — as well as some that are specific to cycling.

'If you're hurt badly it doesn't matter whose fault it is'

It's not just important to wear a helment, it's also the law, says Mike Connolly of Cycling P.E.I. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

When you're riding a bicycle in P.E.I., you're considered a vehicle under the Highway Traffic Act. That means you have to follow many of the same rules you do when driving a car — as well as some that are specific to cycling.

"If you're operating a bicycle you have to follow all of the rules of the road," said Graham Miner, the director of P.E.I.'s Highway Safety Division.

"As a bicyclist you should be signalling when you're turning, you should be looking over your shoulder when you switch lanes, you should not be going through red lights, you shouldn't be blowing through stop signs."

Cyclists have to follow all the rules of the road, says Graham Miner of P.E.I.'s Highway Safety Division. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

Mike Connolly, the executive director of Cycling P.E.I., added that one cyclist not following the rules of the road can give other cyclists a bad reputation.

"There's bad drivers, there's bad cyclists. They're not the majority, they are the minority, but it's the ones most people see," he said.

"There is kind of that friction between motorists and cyclists where a lot of motorists see cyclists as an annoyance on the highway a lot of times, and they can be aggressive and bad cyclists seem to inflame that."

Connolly and Miner both shared some of the rules of the road they feel cyclists need to be more aware of.

1. Ride with the flow of traffic

If you're running and walking on a stretch of road without sidewalk, it is recommended that you go against the flow of traffic so you can see what's coming at you — but cyclists have to ride with traffic.

"You're considered a vehicle on a bike," said Connolly. "I know some cyclists feel the same way, that they'd rather see the car coming than not knowing what's coming behind them, but what we do is we recommend that … they get a mirror."

Cyclists should ride on the right-hand side of the road with the flow of traffic. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Connolly said the highways are designed to exit and enter from the right, so it's important that vehicles, including bikes, drive on the right side of the road.

2. Dismount in crosswalks

Connolly said another common mistake he sees is cyclists riding in crosswalks — which can cause safety issue.

"You're travelling at a speed, and the cars are coming and you're not able to potentially see them and you're also interfering with pedestrians as well," he said.

Cyclists should dismount and walk through crosswalks, says Mike Connolly. (oneinchpunch/Shutterstock)

Instead, if cyclists want to use a crosswalk, they should dismount and walk across it.

3. Ride single file

While it might be nice to ride alongside a friend when going for a bike ride, that means you're not properly sharing the road with other vehicles, said Connolly.

The Highway Traffic Act states that cyclists have to ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb or side of the road, and that they have to ride single file.

"It just creates a problem for the motorist, and they have to go out around you, and now with the law they have to go out a metre, so if two people or three people are riding abreast, they have to go farther afield and that creates problems," Connolly said.

4. Let other vehicles know what you're doing

Both Connolly and Miner pointed to zig-zagging or weaving through traffic as one to avoid.

"You need to let the traffic know what you're doing. You don't want to be unpredictable. If you're going to make a left turn ahead, signal with your arm that you are making that left turn and give the courtesy to motorists. Let them know what you're doing, whether they're behind you or in front of you," said Miner.

The hand signals for stop (left), left turn (centre) and right turn (right). (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

5. Learn to navigate a roundabout

Many cyclists don't know what to do in a roundabout, said Connolly, which can cause confusion and potential dangers for both motorists and cyclists.

"They are staying to the right-hand side and then cars are trying to squeeze by them and there's not enough room, so it's making a situation very dangerous for the cyclist and then there's getting run off the road or brushed," he said.

This brochure from Transport Canada shows different options for cyclists to safely navigate a roundabout. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

Cyclists have two options for roundabouts: they can either ride through the roundabout as if they were any other vehicle, taking up a full lane of traffic, or they can dismount and cross at the crosswalk as a pedestrian.

"They need to take the full lane so that cars know they're there and there's no issue with getting squeezed out," he said.

6. Wear a helmet

It's mandatory to wear a helmet when riding a bike in P.E.I.

Miner has broken three helmets in recent years — after being hit by other vehicles.

"I have walked away, thankfully, because I was wearing a helmet, and there's certainly little doubt in my mind if I didn't have the helmet on it would have been a very serious injury or the possibility of fatality," he said.

It's required by law to wear a helmet when riding a bike on P.E.I. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

Connolly admitted he sees pushback from cyclists about why they should have to wear a helmet.

"[The brain] is the most important organ in your body, and I don't know why people would not want to protect it," he said.

7. See and be seen

The Highway Traffic Act requires bikes used at night be equipped with a white light in the front and a red light in the back. Miner also recommends wearing reflective clothing.

"The most important thing is see and be seen," he said, pointing out cyclists are more vulnerable than motorists. "They may be at blame, but if you're hurt badly it doesn't matter whose fault it is."

Cars have to follow the rules too

It's not just cyclists — motorists also have to be cautious around cyclists.

In October, a new law was introduced requiring motorists to give one metre of space when passing a cyclist, and to exercise caution when opening car doors.

Ellen Watters, widely hailed as a rising star in Canadian cycling, passed away after being involved in a collision with a vehicle on a Dec. 23 training run. She was 28. The one-metre law is also known as 'Ellen's Law.' (Submitted by Emily Flynn)

Connolly said it's also important for motorists to shoulder-check before turning in front of a cyclist — something he said he hears as a common complaint from cyclists.

"You have to be aware when you pass a cyclist that they are moving at a quick rate of speed and they seem to be far back but when you turn you need to look over your shoulder," he said.

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About the Author

Jesara Sinclair

Journalist

Jesara Sinclair is a journalist with CBC P.E.I. Prior to Charlottetown, she worked with CBC in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. E-mail: jesara.sinclair@cbc.ca.