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10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic: Part 10 of 10

10 Secrets to Cycling with TrafficToday we finish a series of 10 posts about cycling with car traffic. These are things we have learned from years of riding in downtown Toronto. Some of these tips you may have seen before in other places, and some will be new.

This is not meant to be a complete list… there are more secrets out there… but here are 10 that you’ll find very useful.

NOTE: These are geared towards downtown cycling, since that’s what I’m most familiar with. These all assume that you already know about proper lighting and safety (ie. helmets are useful, stopping at red lights is advised, etc.) precautions, and know that riding on sidewalks is one of the most unsafe things you can do, for both pedestrians and yourself.

Past tips are found at the bottom of this post.

10. Practice Your Route

Practice Your RouteThe most important thing you can do to make yourself comfortable on the roads is to bike a lot. You’ll become more and more comfortable the more experience you have out there.  The more you can get out and get experience on roads with cars, the better.  Not only will you become more comfortable out there, but you’ll get to know the areas where cars/drivers behave in certain ways.

For example, I have a 10 km route to work, and I know through lots of repetition of this route where cars tend to slow down and speed up… where I have to be extra-vigilant and careful due to drivers thinking they can pass me safely when they can’t.   I didn’t know all of this right away… it’s only because I take this route often that I’ve become familiar with it.

Thanks for reading our 10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic.  Feel free to comment on any of the posts (linked below) if you want to give feedback or have things to add to the tips (or even have entirely new tips that we should add to this series of posts).

Check out the full “10 Secrets to Cycling with Traffic” series:

  1. Drivers Don’t Want to Kill You
  2. Ride in a Straight Line
  3. Play by the Rules
  4. Avoid the “Stoplight Squeeze”
  5. Signal Sensibly
  6. Take That Lane
  7. Make Them THINK You’re Unpredictable
  8. Ride With Others
  9. Avoid the Right Hook
  10. Practice Your Route

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  • Good point. I notice the more I take the route, the fewer conflicts happen. To me this has lots to do with understanding the “culture of the intersection.” For example, 401 crossings are very often the most stressful part of any northbound journey. After a few times making the trip you’ll get a feel for what drivers are trying to do and how to best respond to it. At Avenue Road going north, for example, I find that it is pretty insane – one of my least favourite parts of the ride. Two things helped a lot. First off, learning that many folks are focused on getting to the eastbound onramp. I found that taking the lane meant that they would pass me with ample space. I also found that getting up a good head of steam, while not required, added to my overall comfort as there was less driver frustration with me moving at 30-35 km/hr than if I were at 15-20.

    As important as practicing the route, is *refining* the route. After a while of riding the same route you’ll learn which roads do and do not have a supportive “culture”. Maybe folks pass you too closely or tailgate or honk their horns in certain stretches. Take note of those areas and look at what you can do to change that. A simple move of even a block or two can change the whole feel of your commute. I moved my 401 crossing from Avenue Rd to Bathurst for that reason. Yes, it’s at an underpass but hat intersection has only one onramp. But the route adds one important design feature. I can approach the intersection from a cross-street with a light so that nearly all northbound traffic is stopped when I enter the intersection and I can cross with few to no cars overtaking me.

  • duncan

    Let’s not forget a few great resources for helping you plan out and prepare for a new route.

    To get a custom route I highly recommend Michael Holloway’s Bicycle Route Mapping Wiki: http://bikingtoronto.com/bicycleroutemappingwiki/ Simply request a route and you’ll get feedback from BikingToronto members who know the area and can help you navigate some of the more challenging streets in town.

    There’s also Ride the City Toronto: http://ridethecity.com/toronto While I find some of the routes ignore nearby multi-use paths, you can choose from several route options by choosing Safe, Safer or Direct.

  • Another good one along those lines is http://www.bikely.com. A lot of good training/touring rides there as well.

  • We have Ride The City embedded in our Maps pages too. :)

  • Great job, thanks for this list!