The Manitoba Cycling Association has produced a reasonable video* to offer some introductory pointers to develop your bike handling skills. As suggested, it’s a good idea to practice in an area with lots of space, away from traffic, and to take your time to practice doing it correctly.
Riding on sidewalks in Canada is, generally, illegal*. Sometimes what appears to be a sidewalk might actually be a pathway intended for multiple uses. Meaning, both pedestrian and cycling traffic are allowed. These kinds of pathways are usually wider and paved with asphalt. They might also be signed indicating acceptance of bicycle operation.
While it might feel safer to ride on the sidewalk, away from automobile traffic, it’s important to realize that operating a bicycle on the sidewalk or separated pathway comes with its own challenges to be aware of:
Just as with driving, operators of bicycles on roads are expected to follow all applicable laws. This is not just a matter of “because the law says so”. Road users using the same ruleset makes situations more predictable. As a result, riding is safer and more comfortable.
Give yourself space to move around potential road hazards. Leave about 1 metre from the curb, and at least 1 metre around parked cars. Debris tends to gather by the edge of roadways. And, it’s a good idea to anticipate someone opening a car door as you pass parked cars. Remember to shoulder-check and signal your intent to move left around a parked car.
Take The Lane
Some lanes are as narrow as 3 metres wide. Between the space you keep from the curb, and the minimum of 1 metre of space Ontario drivers are required to provide when overtaking, this doesn’t leave a lot of space leftover to share the lane width. In this case: Don’t. You may position yourself to “take the lane”. This affords you a buffer of space for maneuverability, and discourages drivers from overtaking too closely. This manuveur is also important for crossing railway tracks, which might require more space to cross at as close to a 90 degree angle to the rails as possible.
A bicycle light compliment is required by law. If you need some, check out the Bikeport Shop. In Ontario, a white light is required on the front, red on the read. Front fork and rear stay reflective strips are also required, and available in the Shop.
Bright or fluorescent clothing is not required by law.
Abide by the road traffic laws and right of ways. These laws establishing the expected patterns of behaviour for using the road allowances. Maintain a straight line when riding, and avoid weaving needlessly. When stopping on a roadway with automobile traffic, avoid resting your foot on the curb. It can encourage someone to stop their car right next to you, making you less visible to others. It also makes it more difficult to rejoin the traffic flow. Likewise, also avoid overtaking a stopped line of cars on the right along the curb. By law, vehicles, including bicycles are meant to overtake on the left.
When moving through an intersection, avoid doing so directly next to an automobile. Give yourself space to see their turn signals, and to stay out of a driver’s blind spot if they decide they’re turning. When manuvearing around large vehicles, like trucks or buses, give yourself plenty of space, and pay careful attention to their turn signals. Trucks especially, sometimes require making wide right turns.
Avoiding riding in right-turn slip lanes if you are not turning right. When making left turns, shoulder-check and signal your way into the appropriate turning lane.
Giving yourself space to manuveur, and bring predictable, are the first steps to communicating with other road users. Shoulder-checking and signaling are other ways to communicate to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, what it is you intend to do. Making eye-contact, if possible, is a good way for two people to indicate their intentions, and helps with visibility.
Remember: If at any point you do not feel comfortable, dismounting and walking your bike to a better spot is always an option. This is also an option to complete left turns. Remember to shoulder-check and signal before rejoining traffic.
While riding on the sidewalk in Canada is generally illegal. The exact rules regarding operating a bicycle on the sidewalk vary in different cities. Generally, children are allowed to operate their bicycles on sidewalks. Adults are not. Sometimes the stipulation is around limitations on wheel size, and sometimes an age restriction is specified. It’s a good idea to consult your local municipal by-laws.