Work Smart. Work Safe.
Keep your "Heads Up" and work safe!

Cycling: An exercise in observation

By Theresa Trant

I’ve been cycling to and from work since I was 16 years old—that’s 37 years of cycling. There is nothing like cycling amidst the busy morning traffic and hearing the airbrakes of a city bus right behind you. Throw in the bright sunshine, the potholes and the gravel piled up on the side of the road and that takes mental alertness to a new level. Seriously, though, I really do enjoy it and find it a great way to start my work day.

Photo: Chris Mikula, The Ottawa Citizen

I know that just as I need to take responsibility for my own safety at work, I also need to do that while on my bike. To me, safe cycling is an exercise in observation:

  • Will that pedestrian up ahead decide at the last minute to cross the street?
  • Will the driver in the parked car ahead of me decide to open his door just as I approach to pass it?
  • Am I giving enough room for the cars to pass me (I’ve been nicked by a few car mirrors in the past)?
  • Can I see enough of the road to avoid the potholes? For some reason my eyes tear up when I cycle in cooler weather with bright sunshine. Because of that I’ve had trouble seeing the road ahead of me lately.
  • Will the traffic light be changing? I look at the walk light. If the orange hand is flashing I know that the traffic light will be changing soon and I start to prepare. By prepare, I mean I slow down, not speed up!
  • Does the driver pulling out of a side street or alley see me? I’ve had many occasions where he/she hasn’t and I could have been struck had I not slowed down.

Bike couriers, can you relate to this? I’m sure you have many experiences of cycling in the city.

Taking safety seriously while cycling is the smart thing to do. You are vulnerable to weather conditions, other drivers’ habits and decisions, road conditions, etc. These are things you cannot control. What you do have control over is the protective gear you wear, the maintenance of your bike, your skills in observation and finally, your overall perspective of safety.

The City of Edmonton has valuable information about cycling safety, equipment and bylaws. Check it out here: You can find a cycling safety handbook here:


Heads up, cyclists. Cycle smart, cycle safe.



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