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May 6, 2019

8 min. read

Did you feel that? Warmer weather has arrived!

The first signs of the season offer a perfect opportunity to pull out our bikes from the garage. Before you take the first spin, however, make sure it’s ready to roll. Check your bell, ensure those lights and reflectors are working, pump some air into those tires, give your brakes a squeeze. And then have a good look at your helmet.

Keep in mind that Ontario law requires every cyclist under the age of 18 to wear an approved helmet when riding on a public road. And, while helmets are not compulsory for cyclists over 18 in Ontario, it’s still highly recommended. It’s not hard to see why.

Around 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured every year. According to the Ministry of Transportation, in Ontario – where helmet use is known – 63% of cyclists who died between 2010 and 2014 as the result of a cycling collision were not wearing a helmet. It’s an especially sobering reality considering our growing love for cycling in the province.

Safety first.

“It’s always been important to educate about helmet and bike safety as we’re a cycling-friendly city and there are more cyclists than ever out there,” says Police Constable Peter De Quintal, community school liaison officer with Toronto Police Service’s 12 Division. Unfortunately, not everyone knows the rules. “You need to be truly safe when out there and the helmet can do that.” In fact, the Ottawa safety council reports that wearing a helmet can prevent 70 to 90% of head injuries.

That’s why a parent or guardian is responsible for the helmet use of any child 16 and under – and face a penalty of $75 if they don’t comply. For those over 16 and under 18, the responsibility – and fee – lie in their hands.

Always make sure your child wears a helmet. Watch #WearYourHelmet video.

Helmet check!

To ensure your helmet fits properly, every cyclist should follow the 2V1 rules. Those rules stipulate that there should be two finger widths between your eyebrows and the helmet and that the side straps should meet right under the ear making a V-shape. Also, be sure that the chin strap sits tightly in place, with enough room to fit one finger between your chin and the strap.

Keep in mind these aren’t just suggestions; they’re guidelines based on years of study. So they should be followed strictly. “If you’re wearing a helmet wrong, it’s almost as bad as not wearing one at all,” explains Const. De Quintal, who adds that many people wear theirs unbuckled and that means they can pop off during an incident. “What’s the point?” he asks rhetorically.  Also, remember to replace your helmet if you’ve suffered a crash. Even one incident can reduce a helmet’s efficacy.

Girl adjusting the strap of her bicycle helmet.

Education is key.

Helmet rules are just one part of the equation, though. There are other rules for cyclists and De Quintal – who established a successful bike rodeo program that teaches kids about bike safety – advises parents to teach their kids all of them. Knowing how to signal and navigate traffic and designated right-lane turns, for example, and the importance of wearing reflective clothing and properly using one’s bell or horn. And don’t forget that your bike must be equipped with a white front light and a red rear light or reflector. Remember to turn on your bike lights in low visibility situations – half hour before sunset and a half hour after sunrise, when it’s dark, foggy or cloudy. For a complete list of cycling rules of the road, take a look at CAA’s digital cycling safety brochure.

At CAA South Central Ontario, we know there’s no better way to spend a beautiful day than on a bike. Just be sure to abide by the rules to ensure your ride is both fun and safe. And that begins with your head, says Const. De Quintal, of the simple message for parents and children alike: “Just like you should wear a seatbelt when in a car, you should be wearing a helmet on a bike.”

For more cycling safety tips, visit caasco.com/cyclingsafety.

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