5 Toronto Biking Tips

5 Toronto Biking TipsWhen I was a kid, I'd watch Benny Hill on WUTV. I think it aired weeknights at 6pm and it was just crude and rude enough to make this ten year old laugh out loud.

I remember one skit where Benny Hill played a German professor who taught us never to "assume" because it makes an "ass" out of "u" and "me". It's on Youtube if you want to see it for yourself. I took this particular lesson to heart, but when I bike, I flip it 180°. I assume everything will happen, always.

1. Don't Get Doored

Assume every driver's side door of every car parked on the right side of a street will fly open at any time. If you don't see anyone in the driver's seat, assume they're really short. Every door you bike by is waiting for the perfect moment to door you so give yourself adequate space, always.

2. Cars Turning Right

This one is the most dangerous threat when biking Toronto's streets. Assume every driver turning right is going to start turning before looking to see if you're biking on their right side. Lately I've been using the Eglinton bike path between West Deane and Royal York and if I'm biking West drivers turning right on Eglinton almost never look to see me approaching. I have to assume they're going to run me down which forces me to lose all of my 30km/h momentum. Note to drivers: look out for bicyclists, even when you're as far away from downtown as Islington and Eglinton.

3. Avoid Streets

The absolute safest way to bike Toronto is to avoid biking on Toronto's busy streets. Often this is impossible, particularly when biking downtown, but mapping your route with Google Maps does have an awesome bike path option. There are more bike paths off streets than you'd guess.

4. Hybrid Paths

Often, getting off the streets means biking on hybrid paths. These paths are shared by both bicyclists and walking pedestrians. On weekends during the summer, they can be overwhelmed with walkers, so just assume they're all going to be walking side-by-side in the middle of the path. And if they're lined up nicely on the right side, assume that's a very temporary arrangement. Hammer your bell, let them know you're coming, and then be prepared to jump off the path to save a child's life.

5. The Lane is Yours

This might be the best tip of all, and one I've made ultra clear to my kids. As a bicyclist in this city, you're entitled to take the whole lane as if you're an automobile. If you feel that's safest, don't hesitate to do so. You don't have to stick to a 10 inch sliver of shitty road on the right side of a busy street just so you're not slowing down traffic. If you need the whole lane, take it. It's your right.

There's five quick tips from someone who has biked Toronto since the 80s. If I was your dad I'd add that you should always wear a helmet, follow the rules of the road and never bike drunk or stoned.

Biking saves money, is great for Mother Earth, keeps you fit and is a lot of fun. Those are four amazing reasons to get out there. See you on the road!


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Comments (48 - click here to join in!)

Sarah

I love this list.

The only thing I'd add is to simply get out there and try. Biking in Toronto intimidated me for a long, long time. I finally bit the bullet and bought a bike this April. I began on bike lane routes only, but within a month was riding along Dupont with the best of them. I've never looked back!

August 19, 2013 @ 8:38 AM

Derrick

I don't believe cyclists should (or are allowed to) pass a right turning car on the right if it is already in the intersection.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:03 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Derrick

Then Toronto needs to implement a sensible solution like what they have in the Netherlands: http://www.torontomike.com/2012/08/dutch_intersection_design_has.html

Because most drivers turning right don't even signal and often the biker arrives at the red light before the car turning right.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:15 AM

Derrick

Then the driver is in the wrong, but cyclists shouldn't be passing vehicles (including other cyclists) in intersections.

Until Toronto implements a sensible solution, then cyclists should follow your recommendation and follow the rules of the road.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:21 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

But yes, I agree with @Derrick.

If a car is signalling they're turning right, you should pass the car on the left, not the right.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:25 AM

Banger

Great list.

Good job, Mike.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:26 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Here's the scenario I find most dangerous when biking West on Eglinton's bike-only lane:

Drivers need a sign or something to remind them that the bike lane exists and they need to look right before advancing past the line.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:28 AM

Bo

The problem is bikers who don't follow any rules and create chaos.

Drivers paint all bikers with the same brush which is totally unfair and it creates a car vs. bike battle that's completely unnecessary.

Biking is great for the reasons you mentioned but on busy downtown streets you need to keep your head up and be ready for anything.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:35 AM

Speysidephil

I don't remember roads being built for bikes.
Roads are built for Cars. And if you are going to take up a whole lane and block traffic from moving at the speed limit then you are asking for trouble.
On weekends bikers are out in full force up here in the Hills, for the most part they are courteous and move to the right, but then there is always the group that takes over the whole road making it impossible to pass. Drives me nuts.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:35 AM

Derrick

Mike, in the picture it looks like the cyclist is on the sidewalk, going the wrong way.

Am I missing something?

August 19, 2013 @ 9:36 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Derrick

The picture is of a sidewalk, just pretend that's the Eglinton bike lane, which runs parallel to the sidewalk on the South side of Eglinton.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:37 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Speysidephil

The law is clear, we can take an entire lane if we wish. I only do so when it's unsafe not to... and I usually map out my routes so I'm taking streets with designated bike lanes.

Roads are for both cars and bikes to share.

p.s. E-bikes need to get off the bike trail / lane!
http://www.torontomike.com/2013/06/electric_bikes_dont_belong_in.html

August 19, 2013 @ 9:39 AM

Derrick

Speysidephil,

Roads are built for transportation of people and goods. The opinion that roads are only used for motor vehicles is outdated and needs to change, particularly in urban areas.

And really, how much of a delay do cyclists cause you when you're driving - 1 minute, 2 minutes? There are 480 minutes in an 8 hour day. I'm certain you can spare 1 or 2 for your fellow man.

August 19, 2013 @ 9:41 AM

Ottawa Mike

Loved your list Mike.

A lot of the tips are common knowledge in Ottawa. The shared bike path is one in Ottawa they actually have signs for saying walk right. Cyclists here don't necessarily hammer on the bell but do give a little ding to say, "hey I'm coming up behind you...stay right and I will gladly pass....have a nice day..."

The only thing I would add if this were Ottawa, is bike racks on the front of buses. Many people use OC Transpo's "rack and roll" program to commute into work or check out other parts of the city on their bike. The bike rides free (on the front of the bus) and off you go. It is similar to York Region Transit's bike racks (where do you think they got the idea from?).

August 19, 2013 @ 9:54 AM

markosaar

Fair list Mike. One point:

This should go without saying, but for the love of everything DON'T BIKE THE WRONG WAY DOWN A ONE-WAY ROAD. I see on average three people going the wrong way down Adelaide every single day on my commute home. I ride it from Bathurst to Spadina. It's so unfathomably stupid. Seen stupid people almost creamed by cars pulling out of driveways not expecting a fast-moving vehicle from the wrong direction. I almost collided with one on Friday around a blind corner. So so so stupid.

I've personally biked downtown since 1995, to get to my first summer job.

Speysidephil,

You're hilarious. Next you're going to tell us cyclists don't pay road tax.

August 19, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Derrick

markosaar

Amen brother. And can I add, please don't ride on the sidewalk?

August 19, 2013 @ 10:20 AM

Speysidephil

@markosaar

I pay road taxes through drivers license, plates etc.
What do bicyclists pay. Do you need a license to bike?

August 19, 2013 @ 10:23 AM

markosaar

@Speysidephil,

You pay a car tax. Roads are paid for through general taxation. What do cyclists pay? Income tax, property tax by way of rent, HST, etc.

The irony is that cars put a larger burden on the system than their additional taxes cover. Meanwhile cyclists are relatively overpaying.

August 19, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

Craig

@speysidephil: Toronto's done a number of studies on bike licensing and why it's not as feasible. Some of the key issues are here: http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/licensing/issues.htm

@Toronto Mike: Careful advising on when you take over a lane, as there's no clear laws around it, and Toronto advises that you can only do so when a car can safely pass (e.g., there's two lanes): http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/laws/single-file-vs-two-abreat-cycling.htm

August 19, 2013 @ 10:46 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Craig

On the City of Toronto's "Car-bike collisions and tips to avoid them" page they explicitly say "do not pass right-turning drivers on the right".

http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/car-bike.htm

August 19, 2013 @ 10:54 AM

Cheryl

The only bike I ride is an exercise bike. I wouldn't want to ride any other bike except I did have a tricycle when I was little.

August 19, 2013 @ 11:24 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Cheryl

Fun Fact: You can legally ride your tricycle on the sidewalk.

August 19, 2013 @ 11:26 AM

Cambo

For those interested

http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling-guide/section5.0.shtml

HTA laws pertaining to bicycles.

August 19, 2013 @ 11:30 AM

Mississauga Phil

@ Mike - I have to call Shenanigan's on #5. If I'm driving on a road that is posted at 70km/h and I'm driving 40, I'm going to piss off a lot of people, and probably gt pulled over by our friendly police to find out why I'm holding up traffic so.

Just because you're legally "allowed to" doesn't mean you should. Like it or not, there are more of us (drivers) than there are of you (cyclists) the needs of the many my friend.

I'd happily help with the shit kicking of the assholes who intentionally open their doors when cyclists are coming by, but if "we" don't own the road, neither do "you"

August 19, 2013 @ 12:14 PM

Speysidephil

@Cambo

So if you are riding your bike slower than normal traffic speed get over on the right as close to the curb as practical.
If it is a 4 lane road get in the right lane so cars can pass.
Ok bikers don't block my lane.
You have been warned.

August 19, 2013 @ 12:16 PM

Corey

This list is a ripoff. The headline promised 10 tips, but we only got 5. I want 5 more tips dammit!

August 19, 2013 @ 12:22 PM

elvis

I hate you. Your blog really does suck.

August 19, 2013 @ 12:34 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@elvis

Save it for episode 7.

August 19, 2013 @ 12:40 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Speysidephil

We're entitled to the entire lane, but the right lane... just like a car driving slower than the flow of traffic.

August 19, 2013 @ 12:42 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Sorry @Mississauga Phil, I just read your comment.

No shenanigans.

I clearly said if you feel unsafe taking the side of the road, feel free to take the entire lane. It depends on the situation, but sometimes you need to take the lane to avoid being run over.

August 19, 2013 @ 12:44 PM

Matt

Ahh cyclists. One of the reasons I have invested in a dashboard camera.

If I am turning right (my signal is always on) I make sure there isn't room for a bike to get by. I don't trust most cyclists I see. Pass on the left like a normal vehicle. A motorcycle isn't going to cut in front of me as I'm turning right, neither should you.

Here's a tip for cyclists: STOP signs y'know those big red octagons apply to YOU as well! If you run a stop sign I WILL NOT stop. That onus is on you.

Another favourite is cyclists riding against the flow in the wrong lane. I've almost hit a few turning a corner because of this.

Maybe I'm jaded but Brampton drivers suck in general.

August 19, 2013 @ 1:11 PM

markosaar

Matt: right back at you. Caught a car on my GoPro today blasting through a stale red at Richmond & Spadina, and then honking at a bike crossing on the green.

August 19, 2013 @ 1:37 PM

Corey

@Toronto Mike-

Well now my 12:22 comment looks stupid. Change it back!

August 19, 2013 @ 2:27 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@ Corey

The URL (permalink) still has 10 in it, so nobody will think you're stupid. :P

August 19, 2013 @ 2:31 PM

CQ

re: point #3.
Avoiding busy downtown is very easy to do with the old-time grid framework of streets. It is the limited later 20th century suburban arterial roads(with zero road level shoulder runoffs), enclosing those massive dead-end curving housing clusters, that are an unofficial high speed nightmare.
In Mississauga, Burnathorpe Road is getting a new parallel paved path along its north side, from Square One Mall all the way to the Etobicoke Creek border with Toronto. It is partially built already. Ditto for other roads in that city. These will need a special map coding for cyclists or joggers.

Extra point: Pick on someone your own size.
Cyclist at fault or Driver at fault? One is in (at least) a 1,500 lb. steel enclosure; one is wearing a t-shirt in the breeze. Who do you think gets hurt in a typically avoidable crash?

Extra point: Industrial areas operate 24/7.
I suspect a lot of cycling accidents are those night-time riders believing the industrial areas are free and clear.

re: point #5. First, stay sober. Then ride a quality manufactured and assembled bicycle. Then consider a stylofoam helmet (too itchy to me), if wished.
Toronto Mike will know. Were there a bunch of tipsy if helmeted riders on flimsy machines in Amsterdam? A drunk can lower the car window and get some refreshing air. A cyclist will sweat out his or her 'Sunday wine tour' partaking right through.
P.S. I miss the old aluminum pant-leg clip I used as a child. I can't find them anywhere for sale. These saved me from numerous chain catchings (even with a chain guard installed).

August 19, 2013 @ 3:42 PM

Icarus

There are a lot of dangerous comments on this board which illustrate too well the dangers cyclists face in Toronto

(I'm looking at you Speyside Phil - 'I don't remember roads being built for bikes' and Bo - 'The problem is bikers who don't follow any rules and create chaos')

The rules of the road state that cyclists belong on it and not the sidewalk. Fact. End of discussion, or so it should be. Also, the paving and maintenance of roads is paid for by tax paying residents of the city regardless of whether they drive on them or not. This is even more so since Ford decided to slash the road tax, making cyclists, TTC users and pedestrians pay increasingly bigger share.

When it comes to issues on the road, the problem isn't 'drivers' 'cyclists' or 'pedestrians'. In any week I might be all three, the problem is people and a sense of entitlement.

Cyclists, like any slower road vehicle should keep as far to the side as is safe but should be allowed to use the lanes for left/right turns as per any other road vehicle.

August 19, 2013 @ 3:46 PM

markosaar

@CQ: people wear things like this nowadays:

http://www.mec.ca/product/4001-405/cactus-creek-scotchlite-ankle-strap/

I just stuff my pant leg into my sock.

August 19, 2013 @ 3:46 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@CQ

I'm about to visit Amsterdam for the third time.

It's bikes... bikes everywhere... http://www.torontomike.com/2012/08/amsterdam_bikes_everywhere.html

It's also extremely bike friendly. The bike lanes are everywhere.

August 19, 2013 @ 3:58 PM

Speysidephil

@Icarus

Look at me all you want, but all I ask is for cyclists not to block a driving lane unless they are turning left or right. So on that we are in complete agreement.

August 19, 2013 @ 7:18 PM

Rob

I'm a cyclist and I hate the vast majority cyclist when I drive.

Every weekend I see one of the following:

1) Casual cyclist who block the whole road going slow to talk.
2) The bad form cyclist who you can't pass because they don't ride straight, they ride in the s formation.
3) The cyclist who just ignore four way stops and just fly on through.
4) The night time cyclist with no lights or that reflective clothing. On more than once occasion I didn't see them until they are within 10 feet of my car.
5) The cyclist just swings across the road not indicating their intentions of a left turn.

As a cyclist it annoys the heck out of me. The large portion of cyclists ride ignoring road rules and if any car hits them, even if its the cyclist ignorance, that drivers life is likely ruined.

I just assume when driving that every cyclist dumb. I don't pass them unless I can put my car fully in another lane and every four way stop or intersection I just assume the cyclists going right on through (haven't seen one person stop at a four way yet this summer, its always one quick glance).

August 20, 2013 @ 9:25 AM

Icarus


@SpeysidePhil

' but all I ask is for cyclists not to block a driving lane unless they are turning left or right'

Thats a complete reversal of your earlier statement, where you implied that bikes had no business being on the road.

I'm sure cyclists have similar requests from drivers as regards their left and right turns.

August 20, 2013 @ 9:41 AM

Speysidephil

@Icarus
Read my posts again.
I never said that cyclists have no business on the roads. What I did imply was that if you are using the road, stay to the right to allow the free flow of vehicular traffic.
I was challenging Mikes statement that cyclists have every right (by law ) that they can use the whole lane and impede the flow of traffic, which a number of posters here have encountered that problem.

August 20, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

markosaar

Rob:

Love your list.

For point 4, one of the most harrowing rides I ever had home was on the Martin Goodman Trail after dark. _I_ had lots of lights (front, rear, and wheels), but the entire trip these invisible shitheads were coming at me, often with far too little clearance. I haven't dared bike there after dark since.

I now have a much brighter headlight this year, so I may give it another go. Maybe I'll make a point of pointing it at eye level until I see an upcoming cyclist's light.

This morning I saw something new to me which was a couple of cyclists going the wrong way on fast sections of Richmond, not even off to the side. So stupid. Yeah there's no car there AT THIS MOMENT, but what if one were to make a fast turn onto the street, with no reason to expect a cyclist coming at them?

August 20, 2013 @ 11:21 AM

Pete

@speysidephil and the other anti-bikeites

I think you missed the crux of the point. Cyclists are required by Ontario Highway Traffic Act law as well as City of Toronto bylaw to ride as close to the curb as is safe. If it is not safe to ride close to the curb such as to allow the free and safe flow of other traffic, cars AND other cyclists, then it is allowed to take more of the lane to be safe, up to and including the entire lane for the duration of the unsafe portion of the road.

Take that "they didn't pay for it... blah, blah blah" crap and shove it up your tail pipe, you're probably the nut bar that almost ran my wife off the road yesterday morning with your holier than thou attitude.

To all of the moron bike riders, learn the rules of the road, obey them and see another day to ride. This includes not riding on the sidewalk, it is against City Bylaw, including adults riding tricycles. It's a 13-13 rule if I recall, under 13 years old and smaller than 13" wheels are OK, everyone else, on the road.

With regard to the multiuse lanes:
Please for the love of all things good, use them as identified.

Bikers, UNDER 20km/h, pass on the left, even if you have to ride on the grass to go around a rude and/or unknowing pedestrian, presume every kid or dog will suddenly change direction as you pass, ring your bell well in advance of people blocking the path and don't engage the idiots that challenge you, just go around them.

Pedestrians, please walk on the right hand side, if you hear a bell, don't turn into the path to see what's going on, keep your line if you are to the right and move over further *if* you can (I'm not suggesting you have to move to the grass). Keep your child and pets under care and control, its not a question of your parenting skills but rather a child of 5 will lose in a collision with a bike going 20km/h (or more) no one wants that. Dogs must be on a 2 meter leash, not a 20 meter leash where you are on the right of the path and fido is 20 m away to your left completely blocking the path for *everyone*. And for crying out loud if there is a pedestrian path AND a multiuse path, use the pedestrian path and give the cyclists a little more room. There is not one spot in T.O. where there are parallel paths that the pedestrian path has a worse view than the multiuse path. Look both ways before crossing the path.

Why do I think I have the right to say these things. Experience. 30+ years cycling in Toronto, recreationally, semi-pro competitive and commuting. I also own 2 cars and take the TTC. I pay taxes on 2 houses and a business. I served on the Toronto City Cycling Committee and I have seen cyclists hit cars, I have seen cars hit cyclists and I have seen cyclist hit pedestrians.

Oh, and Mike, it is NEVER ok to pass on the right. Cyclists at intersections are supposed to stop behind the last vehicle, just as if you were in a car. And NEVER pass a streetcar on the right when they have the doors open. Don't try to speed past before they open the doors either, I've seen a cyclist hit by the doors and I know a driver that says he knows some of his peers that look for cyclists to open the doors in to. If you work for the TTC and do that, please stop doing that.

All we need is love, let's try to get along people.


--Pete

August 20, 2013 @ 12:54 PM

Cheryl

I didn't know there were tricycles for adults. Well, I said I had one many many years ago. I can't remember if I rode it on the sidewalk or not. Now it's just the exercise bike for me. That's good enough.

August 20, 2013 @ 5:56 PM

markosaar

"Adult tricycles" are generally recumbent-style bikes. Often used for people that have problems that prevent them from using a normal bike.

I saw someone riding one of these weird things on the trail a couple weeks ago:

http://www.elliptigo.ca/

August 20, 2013 @ 11:23 PM

Teena in Toronto

It's the bad cyclists that give the rest a bad name ... going through stop signs, cycling while talking on the phone, taking up a whole lane and slowing down traffic for no reason, etc. Grrrr!

August 21, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

Cheryl

So there aren't many adults riding tricycles then. Oh well, as I said, the exercise bike is good enough for me. It doesn't take me anywhere, but it's still pedaling and exercise. As for talking on your phone while biking, what call can't wait until you finish biking. I mean what is so important you have to do it while biking or driving.

August 21, 2013 @ 6:15 PM

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