When you ride, you can wear the same clothing that you might put on to walk around the city. Bring layers that you can remove or add as you warm up or cool down during your trip. Some cyclists prefer to do their makeup at the office.
Need tips on getting your workplace to install showers, bike parking, or other amenities that would help you ride? See our Make Change section.
Feeling hesitant? The best way to get comfortable is to ride with a friend! Ask a fellow cyclist to guide you for a few days — they’ll probably be eager to help! If they can’t actually ride with you, they may be able to offer route suggestions.
For longer commutes, riding to a transit stop is a great way to incorporate cycling into your daily trip.
If you want to bring your bike with you on transit, all TTC and GO Transit buses have front bike racks that can be used anytime for free. You can also bring your bike inside trains and streetcars, as long as it isn’t rush hour (generally 6-10am and 3-7pm).
The City of Toronto offers secure bike parking at Union Station and Victoria Park Station, and bike lockers at a number of TTC and GO stations across the city. GO Transit also has bike shelters at most train stations.
“I never would have thought to ride a bike in Toronto...”
Some bikes have thin tires and “drop” handlebars; others have thicker tires and upright handlebars. Some bikes have many speeds, while others don’t. You may want a lighter bike that you can carry easily, or one that is rust-resistant. In truth, any style of bike will work in Toronto, as long as it fits and you feel comfortable riding it.
For the right fit, you should be able to stand easily over your bike’s “top-tube” (the tube that runs from the seat to the handlebars). Raise your seat high enough so that when you sit and pedal, your knees never have to bend very much (see image).
Add a basket, a rear rack, or a child seat to make it easier to go shopping and run errands with everything you need to bring along.
Helmets are legally required for children under 18. A properly fitted helmet should sit snug and straight on your head (see image). You should be able to fit 2 fingers between your eyebrows and the helmet, and 1 finger between the chin strap and your chin. Make sure that the “v” of the straps fit under your ears. Helmets should be replaced 5 years after the manufacture date, which is usually printed on a sticker on the inside.
Bells or horns are required for all bicycles, including children’s bicycles. They help you to alert others that you're approaching or passing.
Lights are required when it is dark out, to ensure that others can see you on the road. That means 30 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunrise, or in rainy or foggy conditions. You need a white front light, and a red rear light or red rear reflector, plus reflective tape on the forks of the bike. Many bike shops and sporting good stores sell inexpensive rechargable lights.
Pump your tires every week or two for a safer and more efficient ride. The recommended tire pressure is written as a range on the side of the tire, using units in kPa or psi. You can get a pump with a gauge from a bike shop or sporting goods store. Riding on underinflated tires can make your trip harder and slower, and increase the risk of getting a flat tire.
Lubricate your chain every few weeks, or when it looks dry. Drip bike oil (not bike grease) directly onto the centre of the chainlinks, and wipe off the excess with a rag. This helps prevent the chain from wearing down and causing damage to other parts of your bike. Wiping off the excess helps prevent dirt and debris from getting stuck to the chain, and also protects your clothing!
Go to a specialty bike shop or to one of Toronto’s do-it-yourself bike shops and get a tune-up once a year to make sure that your bike is in good condition, and that it is properly fitted for you. This will help you get to your destination more quickly, and it will also help you prevent injury or pain from riding.
Bikes are vehicles and belong on the road, according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. Cyclists must obey all regular traffic laws, including signalling turns (see image). Ride in the curb lane (the rightmost lane) like other slow-moving vehicles — except if the curb lane becomes a “right-turn only” lane and you are travelling straight.
Children aged 14 and under are allowed to ride on the sidewalk in Toronto, but all other cyclists should dismount and walk on the sidewalk or in pedestrian zones and crossings, including “scramble” intersections like at Yonge & Dundas.
All vehicles, including bikes, are required to stop at stop signs, red lights, open streetcar doors, and pedestrian crossings. All vehicles must also follow one-way road rules. In Toronto, a number of one-way roads now have “contraflow” bike lanes that allow bikes to travel both ways on one-way streets. Contraflow lanes are marked in yellow on the Toronto Cycling Map.
The City's website has the full list of fines that apply to cyclists.
It is a good idea to ride about 1 metre (3 feet) away from the curb, to give yourself room to manoeuvre around potholes or sewer grates. It also makes you more visible to other road users. Riding 1 metre away from parked cars can help you avoid getting hit by an open car door when someone exits a parked car without looking.
Stay out of vehicle blind spots by riding further back from large vehicles like trucks, buses, and streetcars. If you’re passing a right-turning vehicle, always pass on the left, never the right.
Bikes can legally turn left using the left turn lane. When changing lanes to get into the left turn lane, check over your shoulder and signal clearly for each lane change. Bike boxes in Toronto help cyclists get into position for left turns. You can also turn left in two stages, similar to a pedestrian crossing the street to get to the opposite corner.
Streetcar tracks in Toronto can be dangerous. The track groove can catch bike tires, and the tracks can become slippery when wet. When crossing streetcar tracks, turn your handlebars so that your tire doesn’t slip into the streetcar groove; try to cross at a 90° angle (see image).
Always lock your bike, and try to lock your wheel too, if you can (see image). The best way to prevent theft is to lock your bike in a secure space, or in a very public space. Use a U-lock rather than a cable, or combine a U-lock and a cable.
Register your bike with the Toronto police. If you are buying a used bike, you can check whether it was reported as stolen by looking up the bike’s serial number here. You can usually find your bike’s serial number on the underside of your bike.
Collisions are relatively rare, compared to the number of safe trips taken every day by people on bikes in Toronto. We can help reduce the chances of collision by advocating to improve the city’s bike infrastructure. Learn more in our Make Change section.
If you are hit by a motor vehicle, it is important not to get back on your bike and continue riding — sometimes people in shock don’t realize how injured they are or how damaged their bike is. Call 911, or 416-808-2222 for non-emergencies.
Accept an ambulance visit if you are in any way injured, especially so that they can check for signs of a concussion. You do not need to go with the paramedics to the hospital if you do not want to.
Whether or not you call for an ambulance, you will be required to stay on the scene to speak with the police, because that is protocol for collisions involving cyclists or pedestrians. In the meantime, get the driver’s name, license plate number, and insurance information. Call out for witnesses and take down their names and phone numbers, too.
For larger versions of these images, and more extensive rules, tips, and techniques, you can download the Toronto Cyclist Handbook in 17 different languages here. You can also pick up a hard copy of the handbook. Details at the link!
More workplaces are recognizing the benefits of promoting cycling for a healthier and happier workforce. They can show their support by installing better bike parking or shower facilities, organizing Bicycle User Groups and cycling-friendly events, hosting cycling safety or repair workshops like the one pictured above, and offering financial incentives for employees who don’t use car parking spaces.
To encourage your HR department or management to make bicycle-friendly improvements at your workplace, show them that active transportation promotes both physical and mental health. Being bike-friendly also helps organizations show their social conscience, and may help in the recruitment and retention of great employees and clients, as discussed in a recent Toronto Star article.
If your organization is hesitant, consider organizing a Bicycle User Group yourself, to encourage cycling amongst your coworkers. It may be easier to make requests as a group than on your own.
Ask your school to support students who cycle. At Central Toronto Academy (formerly Central Commerce Collegiate), pictured on the Toronto Cycling Map above, the administration listened to student requests and installed bike parking corrals, among other bike-friendly initiatives.
If you are in high school, you can organize a bike club and plan rides, workshops, and events to get support for yourself and encourage your peers to ride. The Bike to School Project has a terrific resources page to help, and the TDSB’s new Active Transportation Charter promises to invest resources to promote walking and cycling to school.
If you are in college or university, you can meet other cyclists at your school’s bike hub (e.g. Bike Chain at UofT, or York University’s Bicycle User Group) and look for opportunities to ask for more funding for bike parking, bike routes, and winter maintenance on the school’s property.
Get involved as a local advocate. Work with your neighbours to tell your municipal and provincial representatives what they can do to make Toronto’s streets safer and more comfortable for you to ride.
Cycle Toronto’s Ward Advocacy Groups work together to campaign for specific cycling needs within their municipal ward, organize fun community rides, develop relationships with their City Councillors and MPPs, and reach out to local groups and businesses for support.
Ward Advocacy Groups were instrumental in the creation of the Shaw Street contraflow bikeway, starting a dialogue about bike lanes on Yonge Street, showing the need to save Bike Share Toronto, and generating momentum for protected bike lanes on Eglinton Avenue.
Pictured here: Ward 13 advocates took Councillor Sarah Doucette and MPP Peggy Nash on a bike ride to discuss areas for improvement in the ward. Photo by Janet Joy Wilson.