Ministry of Transportation / Ministère des Transports
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Adobe Acrobat PDF version of the entire report is available (3.5 MB). To view PDF files, you will require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

ISBN 0-7778-3884-2 (Printed version)

ISSN 1913-7516
(Internet version)

Cycling Skills
Ontario's Guide to Safe Cycling

Handling Skills

Hand signals

hand signal: left
Left Turn: left arm out

hand signal: right
Right Turn: left arm out, up

alternative hand signal: right
Alternative Right Turn: Right arm out

hand signal: stop
Stop: Left arm out, down, palm back

Selecting the right gear

Handling skills are easier to learn in a low easy gear where the legs can rotate quickly. Fast leg rotation provides better balance, less fatigue and more speed. It also reduces knee strain.

Shifting gears

The basic rules for gear use are:

  • Shift into a low, easy gear before you stop.
  • Use low, easy gears when going up hills. Shift into lower gears before you begin to work too hard.
  • Use higher, harder gears when you begin to bounce on the seat from pedalling too fast.
  • On the level, use a gear that gives you fast, easy leg spin - about 70 to 100 rpm.
  • Avoid pedalling slowly and pushing hard in your highest gears.

Straight line riding

Riding in a straight line is the key to riding safely in traffic. Practise by following a painted line in a parking lot. Try not to move your upper body as you pedal - let your legs do the work.

Shoulder checking

Shoulder checking involves looking back over your shoulder to see what the traffic behind you is doing. This manoeuvre is vital for making safe turns in traffic. It is also difficult to do without wandering from a straight path. Practise riding in a straight line while checking behind you over both shoulders.


Making signals requires being able to ride with only one hand on the handlebars. Because it is very easy to go off course when riding one-handed, practise signalling while riding along a straight line. Keep both hands on the handlebars while actually turning. It's also important to practice shoulder checking before signalling to make turns.

Sequence practice

Practise shoulder checking before signalling to make turns. Practise shoulder checking, signalling and shoulder checking again before moving, when changing lanes or position within a lane.

Emergency handling skills

The first step in collision prevention is to scan the road ahead for potential hazards. Steer clear of debris and holes in the pavement, and learn to anticipate errors by motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists. Don't assume they see you. No matter how skilled or careful a rider you are, you will encounter hazards that leave you little time to react.


Quick stops can be crucial in an emergency. Caution is required when braking quickly to ensure you don't flip over your handlebars.

Keep a space cushion around your bike to ensure you have time to react and stop safely. In wet weather, it takes longer to stop, so be sure to leave more room.