June at the University of Waterloo was Bike month and members of the Waterloo International team participated in Bike Month activities at home. Riding a bike is a great activity to improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce stress levels. Not only is riding a bike good for you, it also helps the planet!
By opting for a bicycle, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change and reduces air quality. Did you know that 28% of Canada’s emissions come from the transportation sector? Riding a bike instead of using a vehicle not only prevents air pollution it also reduces noise pollution which can hinder various species. Many animals use sound to survive and navigate their surroundings, external noises can prevent them from accomplishing this.
Using bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation also decreases the need to produce and dispose of more personal vehicles. With less congestion due to fewer vehicles on the road, the demand for more roadways will decline, protecting our natural spaces which are critical in supporting biodiversity and combatting climate change. Even alternating between a personal vehicle and a bicycle for your commute, running errands, or visiting friends and family will have a positive impact.
If you’re new to cycling or not sure where to start, our team, which includes a professional cyclist and several amateur cyclists, has researched a few pointers to get you started.
Rules of the Road
- Cyclists are technically vehicles and are expected to abide by all vehicle rules: https://www.ontario.ca/document/official-mto-drivers-handbook
- As a motorist, we also include the MTO rules for sharing the road with cyclists: https://www.ontario.ca/document/official-mto-drivers-handbook/sharing-road-other-road-users#section-1
- While not legally required for an adult, cycling can be dangerous, and a helmet should always be worn!
- Helmets with visors also conveniently block the sun and rain from impairing your vision.
- Bells are appreciated by everyone around you so that they do not move into your path, or to allow them to make way for your passage.
- If you don’t have a bell, a shout of “on your left/right!” is often sufficient – just be sure to say thank you if someone moves out of your way!
- Gloves improve grip (especially on hot days where sweaty hands may slip) and comfort (if padded).
- Wind, rain, and bugs are reason enough to consider wearing eye protection.
- Lights should be turned on, typically on the flashing setting, in low-light settings, not just at night.
- Common inexpensive lights are used to alert those around you of your presence, but typically lack sufficient illumination for lighting your way in the dark.
- High-quality lights, often with external battery packs, can provide enough light to rival a flashlight or even a car headlight and are excellent in dark conditions.
- A backlight is the most important light for general safety and is key for alerting vehicles to your presence. The flashing setting is critical for this purpose.
- Reflectors (many bikes have reflectors on the back and in the wheels)
- In addition to lights, most cycling wear includes reflective patterns or strips.
- Cycling shorts incorporate a padded chamois “shammy” that can make the difference between a sore behind and being ready for a much longer ride!
- Cycling shirts provide moisture-wicking, which pulls your sweat away from your skin (cooling you down) and pulling it to where the wind can help it evaporate quickly.
- Cycling jackets are often designed with a longer back panel to protect against mud and water flung up by the back tire. They are also often lightweight, waterproof, and have vent zips to allow temperature control.