Staying visible should be a top priority for night cyclists: director

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Locked bikes on Ryerson’s campus. (Brittany Ferreira/Ryersonian Staff)

As the nights grow longer, biking around the city without taking the proper safety precautions can be dangerous.

According to Toronto Public Health, there were over 5,000 cyclist collisions between 2009 and 2013. Limited lighting and dark clothing don’t help. These factors camouflage cyclists making it difficult for motorists to see them.

“Assume that drivers just don’t see you,” said Katherine McIlveen-Brown, director of Charlie’s FreeWheels, a non-profit organization. “Something as simple as wearing a white jacket or scarf can help visibility.”

Charlie’s FreeWheels was established in honour of Charles Prinsep, a 23-year-old cyclist who was struck and killed by a car on a cross-continental cycling journey. The organization provides youth with donated bikes and teaches bike safety, on road and in class. Participating youth are also equipped with safety gear including lights, reflective tape and helmets.

Daniel Bocknek, third-year geographic analysis student, is one cyclist who admits he can take better precautions when biking at night.

“I don’t do much when it comes to safety,” said Bocknek. “I don’t have lights and I don’t wear a helmet.”

McIlveen-Brown stresses that cyclists should equip their bikes with directional LED lights that are properly installed to get motorists’ attention. The law says reflective strips are also required.

“By law, your bicycle must have a white front light and a red rear light or reflector when you ride between one-half hour before sunset and one-half hour after sunrise. As well, the law requires white reflective strips on the front forks and red reflective strips on the rear stays,” states the Ministry of Transportation Ontario’s “Ontario’s Guide to Safe Cycling.”

Layah Glassman, fourth-year photography student, also doesn’t take many precautions. She has lights fastened to her bike, which are now burnt out. However, Glassman does make sure that she sticks to routes that are most comfortable to her.

“I avoid Queen Street like the plague because the bike lanes are just terrible,” said Glassman. “I’ve had a lot of cabs almost run into me and have to abruptly stop even though I am obeying the traffic laws.”

Even when following traffic laws, if drivers can’t see you on the road there is always the possibility of getting hurt. Next time you get on your bike, think from a motorist’s perspective and make sure you can be seen.

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