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On The Road

Bike Share 101

Thinking about trying out the bike share program in your city? See our advice to have a refreshing (and safe) ride.

by Team Onlia

Cycling’s a great way to get around during the warmer months. It helps you stay active, avoids traffic jams, and it’s good for the environment! If you don’t have a bike of your own, many cities offer bike share programs, like Bike Share Toronto. Such initiatives are becoming more popular as Canadians search for alternatives to public transit. 

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the bike share program in your city, but not sure what the etiquette is, we’ve got you covered. Check out our tips on using bike-share programs, and learn how to get the most out of your two-wheel commute!

Before your ride

BYO helmet

Most bike share programs don’t include helmets, which means you’ll need to bring your own. In Ontario, helmets are not mandatory (except for those 18 and under) — but experts say this crucial gear can protect you from permanent injury, and even death. In fact, one international study found that bike helmets can reduce the risk of serious head injuries by nearly 70%.

A good helmet should fit snugly on your head, and not shift around while riding. Make sure chin straps allow no more than two fingers of space. The City of Toronto offers a good resource on helmet safety, including tips on how to purchase the right one.

Wear the proper clothing

Street clothes are generally fine, just make sure your pants aren’t loose at the ankles. Trousers can get caught while riding and become a falling hazard. Wearing closed-toed shoes always wear closed-toed shoes as pedalling in sandals can be dangerous.

Pack the essentials

If you’re planning to commute to work or an event, you’ll want to pack a few things for your ride. Whether you’re taking a ride around the corner or across town, commuting by bike is a workout. You’ll likely want to change your clothes (or at least freshen up) before mingling with others.

A few essentials will make the transition from bike to boardroom a lot easier. Fill a small backpack with:

  • Extra toiletries, such as facial wipes and deodorant
  • Soap, shampoo and a towel (if you plan to shower after your ride)
  • Change of clothes, including an extra shirt and pants

Understand how the system works

Bike-share programs may operate a bit differently from city to city, but the concept is generally the same. You can purchase a pass at a station kiosk, or navigate the program through a smartphone app. In Toronto, commuters can enjoy 30 minutes of unlimited riding. After that, overage fees apply.

Check your bike

Although program officials do regular checks to ensure safety, always give the bike a once-over before hopping on. Be sure to:

  • Check that each tire is fully inflated
  • Adjust the seat to make sure it’s straight
  • Ensure brake cables are working properly; check for resistance

If you find issues, alert customer service. In the meantime, select a different bike for your ride.

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During your ride

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Toronto is just one of the cities trying to accelerate its plan to add more bike lanes. City officials believe this will make it easier for people to practice physical distancing. This means now, more than ever, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians must learn to share the roads.

To be a safety-conscious cyclist, remember to: 

  • Use bike lanes wherever possible
  • Always signal your next move by pointing in that direction
  • Make eye contact with drivers and pedestrians before passing
  • Give parked cars enough room to avoid getting ‘doored’

Ultimately, road safety begins with you. We must think of bikes as vehicles, much like a sedan or SUV. Riding respectfully will not only make your commute safer, but also more enjoyable for everyone on the road. 

After your ride

When returning your bike to its designated station, make sure it’s securely locked. Then use your pass card or program app to confirm the trip has ended. Check the basket to make sure no valuables are left behind. And of course, if you had problems during your bike-share experience, let customer service know. 

Cycling is an excellent alternative to public transit, especially for those with concerns about COVID-19.  Although cleaning protocols on buses and subways have been ramped up, many commuters are understandably still anxious. The pandemic will reshape the role of active transportation; and as the country continues with its cautious economic reboot, bike-share programs are proving to be a safe and cost-effective way to get around.

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