4 key cycling rules to remember as more bikes hit the streets

With soaring bike sales and the summer approaching, there are more cyclists of all abilities on Vancouver streets. 

That's all the more reason to focus on etiquette and safety, says Jeff Leigh, chair of the Vancouver committee of HUB Cycling, a non-profit organization.

"We're seeing a great increase in the numbers of people cycling, but we're also seeing a shift in the type of people cycling," Leigh told host Gloria Macarenko on CBC's On The Coast. 

Leigh says commuter cycling traffic on the city's downtown routes has dropped by half since the beginning of the pandemic. Conversely, he says, traffic on the city's scenic arteries — like Stanley Park, for example — has doubled.

Multiple bike shops around the city have reported brisk sales recently, especially entry-level cycles. 

"We have that range of abilities. We have faster, commuter cyclists or sports cyclists. We have people meandering along for the view and we have families with kids," said Leigh. "There may be people who haven't ridden as much recently."

Maggie MacPherson/CBC

However, because of that spectrum of experience on the road, Leigh says it's a good time to remind everyone about some basic cycling rules.

1. Keep to the right 

If you need to overtake the person in front of you, always pass on the left. 

2. Let people know when you're passing, turning or stopping

"The rule in the City of Vancouver is every bike is required to have a bell. If you don't have a bell, call out saying 'I'm your left!' You can do it [in a] friendly [manner], it doesn't have to be a command," said Leigh.

3. Pay attention to what's happening on the road 

"You see people riding along and perhaps they have earbuds in and perhaps they're on a cellphone or they're maybe taking a picture, hopefully not texting," Leigh said. "But there are other riders out there. You're still on a road."

4. Leave some space. Don't crowd

This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"[Although] passing by somebody isn't considered a high risk, we shouldn't be crowding together," Leigh said. "Even if you think you'd be comfortable, that person you're next to may not be."

Ultimately, Leigh says, it's about keeping Dr. Bonnie Henry's "be kind" maxim to heart.

"The big thing is to think about the other people on the road," he said. "Being aware of them will keep everybody safer."