Choosing a more environmentally friendly way to travel has its benefits and downfalls. Cycling through town using the road is a great way to keep in shape, but where should cyclists ride, the road or the sidewalk? It is more appropriate to ride on the road, but many cyclists take to the sidewalk for safety reasons. For courtesy’s sake, when approaching pedestrians on a sidewalk, dismount and walk the bike past the walkers. They might not hear a biker coming up behind them and could walk into the path of the bike, or get startled as a cyclist whizzes past.
Even if one is wearing a helmet for safety, it is difficult to attain respect and right of way from drivers on the roads. Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation has a site dedicated to teaching cyclists the rules of the road when cycling through town, and stresses for riders to stay aware of their surroundings.
Right of Way
Rules for approaching intersections on a bike are the same as for drivers. If there are no traffic controls or signs, the vehicle on the right has right of way, as well as if it is an all-way stop, whoever arrives first has right of way.
Pedestrians can be an obstacle when cycling, but it is important to remember that they have the right of way above cyclists.
Left Hand Turns
A difficult maneuver on a bike is the left-hand turn. Depending on the amount of traffic, left turns can be made on the road safely, but if one is nervous sharing the road with motorized vehicles, especially on a multi-lane road, a cyclist should use a pedestrian crosswalk. To yield right or way to the pedestrians, the cyclist should walk their bike across the street.
If a cyclist is confident in their skills, they need to move, lane by lane, to the dedicated left-turn lane. This is more difficult than it reads since they need to be able to shoulder-check frequently for traffic without swerving, determine gaps in traffic and communicate their intentions to other motorists with the cyclist’s hand signals.
Cyclists Hand Signals
Signals are made with the left arm. When coming to a stop, the left arm should be bent down at the elbow. If a cyclist is turning right, the left arm should be bent up at the elbow and when turning left, the left arm is pointed straight. It is important for both cyclists and drivers to know what these signals indicate.
If riding on the road is too hectic or nerve-racking, using a pedestrian/cyclist path can be a great way to alleviate that stress, at least for a while.
Kitchener-Waterloo, in Ontario, has a relatively young path called the Iron Horse Trail. Officially open in 1997, the trail follows an abandoned portion of the Grand River Railway, and has become a popular mode of transportation for those on foot, or on two wheels.
It runs between Waterloo and Kitchener, and there are many other trails to connect to, that aren’t part of the Iron Horse. These paths are lined with parks, green spaces and bridges to cross a waterway that runs through the city.
Other stops along the Iron Horse are Victoria Park, in the center of Kitchener’s downtown, and the historic Joseph Schneider Haus. Along the trail artifacts and a brief history from the original railroad are displayed, although most have been tagged with graffiti. Springtime is especially picturesque as trees and flowers bloom, and local wildlife guard their young.
Rules for the Iron Horse Trail
There are painted arrows along the trail indicating which side is for which direction. Much like a road, it is expected to travel on the right side of the trail. There are many pedestrians who use the trail, so ringing a bell when approaching from behind allows the walkers to move to the right side and allow room for cyclists to pass. This also allows for parents and pet owners to wrangle their brood out of the way of up-coming cyclists. It is not necessary to dismount and walk past pedestrians, as most cyclists would end up walking their bikes along the trail for extended periods of time.
As long as care is taken to practice courtesy and safety, riding a bike through Kitchener can be great exercise, a social and educational experience.