Bike safety critically important for all cyclists and motorists


By Miranda Leybourne
The Neepawa Banner

With winter a fading memory and the sun getting stronger each week, many children and families are enjoying taking to their bicycles to exercise, have fun and get from place to place within town in an enjoyable, active way. 

The Government of Manitoba says that every year, around 158 cyclists are hospitalized for cycling related injuries, which, in some cases, result in serious injury or death. Around 34 per cent of these incidents occur to children under the age of 18 years, with head injuries being the biggest cause of cycling-related death. Wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle is proven to reduce the risk of serious brain injury and death by more than 85 per cent.

Required by law
Since 2013, it has been mandated by Manitoba law that all cyclists and their passengers (children in bike seats or in bike trailers, etc.) under 18 years of age wear a helmet. Parents are also strongly encouraged to do so to provide a good example for their children and to protect themselves. Parents with children who are caught cycling without a helmet can be issued tickets under The Highway Traffic Act. 
The Government of Manitoba also encourages people to ensure the helmets that they or their children are wearing are appropriate. The helmets should not be too loose and should not be worn too far back on the head. Certified helmets last three to five years, depending on use, but after being involved in a crash or accident, helmets must be replaced.
Another tip the Manitoba Government has for cyclists is for parents and guardians to ride alongside cyclists that are under the age of 10. All cyclists must familiarize themselves with and obey road signs and traffic rules, use proper hand signals, refrain from cycling on sidewalks and always cycle on the right side of the road. In addition, wearing brightly coloured clothing is strongly suggested, as is using a white light on the front of the bike and a red or amber light reflector on the back of the bike, as well as a reflective strip around the cyclist’s ankle.

Check your ABCs
Before cyclists take to the streets, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) suggests they do an “ABC Quick Check” of their bicycles to ensure they are safe to ride. This includes checking A for air: that both tires are fully inflated; B for brake: that both brake levers don’t pull all the way back to the handlebars, enabling riders to slide their hands between the lever and hand grip, and to make sure that with both brakes engaged riders rock back and forth on their bikes to check for loose steering components, and that steering is tight and handlebars are aligned properly with the front wheel; C for chain: that the chain is well lubricated, clean and running smoothly, Quick: that a bike has quick releases on their wheels and seats don’t have the releases too tight or easy to open; and Check: that the bike, when picked up 10 cm off the ground and dropped, experiences no rattling or pieces falling off. If any problems are discovered while doing the “ABC Quick Check”, cyclists should take their bicycles to a bicycle mechanic or complete the repairs as soon as possible. 
Children who are riding bicycle should be able, according to MPI, to cycle in a straight line, balance while signalling, shoulder check and stop properly. 

Drivers have a responsibility
It’s not just bicyclists that need to be safety-minded so that they can ride in peace -- motorists have a large responsibility to keep cyclists safe as well. MPI says drivers should reduce their speed when encountering cyclists and leave a safe following distance should the cyclist need to suddenly stop. Motorists should be cognisant of the hazards that cyclists could face and allow them plenty of space, including during times when the cyclist may need to ride closer to the middle of the lane. MPI says drivers must be aware of where cyclists are, anticipate their actions and refrain from using their horn, which can startle cyclists. When turning left, drivers should watch for and yield to oncoming cyclists just as they would to oncoming motorists and when turning right, yield to any cyclist travelling on the right. The organization stresses that motorists be aware, especially, of child cyclists, who can be unpredictable. 
When passing cyclists, drivers should do so only when it is safe, with at least one metre of clearance. Extra caution and additional space is required when encountering cyclists on the highway. During some situations, passing a cyclist is not allowed, including in construction zones, in lanes with narrow widths and in a yield lane. 
The Hazel M. Kellington Elementary School (HMK)’s June school newsletter also reminded children and parents about some important bike safety points.
“Parental judgement is always the key in determining which streets kids are allowed to ride their bike on,” principals Allen Hanke and Scott Freeman articulate in the newsletter. “Please go over this with your children and explain to them how important it is that we all ride our bikes safely.”
Hanke and Freeman also pointed out that students are not allowed to ride their bikes to school until they are in Grade 2, unless they are being accompanied by a parent both on the way to and home from school.