News Toronto

CYCLING CHEAT SHEET: What you need to know

By Joanne Richard, Special to Postmedia Network

24 Hours' Joanne Richard offers up some helpful hints for cycling in the city this summer. POSTMEDIA

24 Hours' Joanne Richard offers up some helpful hints for cycling in the city this summer. POSTMEDIA

Get caught running a red on your bicycle and you risk demerit points on your driver's licence, Yup, you read that right - it's not supposed to happen but it does. Demerit points have been registered against law-breaking cyclists in Toronto, which can then affect driving status and insurance costs.

It appears there's a lot we don't know about the rules of the road for cyclists. Information is peddled everywhere when it comes to wearing a helmet, what to wear, where to shop, how to lock your bike, and where to ride, but few of us know that any ticket a driver can get under the Ontario's Highway Traffic Act, a cyclist can get too. Break the road rules and risk getting pulled over and fined, says Anne Marie Thomas, insurance expert with Kanetix.ca.

So think twice before barreling through a stop sign. And stay off the sidewalk. The Ministry of Transportation actually keeps track of cycling offences - even if you don't have a driver's licence.

Pulled over by the police - now what?

If you're pulled over, you are obliged by law to identify yourself and cooperate. "It's a common thought - if I'm on my bike, can't I just tell them I'm not carrying my license? Wrong. You need to be truthful, whether you have your licence on you or not," says Thomas. "If you don't give your real name and address, you risk escalating things - meaning you could face an arrest, a $110 fine or both."

Demerit point dilemma

There's a lot of conflicting information on whether a cycling infraction impacts your driving record. For the record, if you get a ticket while riding your bike, you're not supposed to get demerit points on your Ontario driver's licence. Make sure the ticket notes it as a cycling infraction at the time that it is written. Be sure you know what you are getting a ticket for and what is being included on that ticket, says Thomas. "Write down what happened as soon as possible after receiving your ticket - location, direction of travel, what happened, etc. Sign and date it. If there are any witnesses, get their contact information, ask them to make a signed and dated statement of what they saw."

Nothing fine about this

- Count on an $85 fine for disobeying a stop sign or failing to signal when turning.

- No proper lighting and riding without a bell can also get you an $85 ticket.

- Running a red light - a $260 ticket.

- Ride your bicycle on a sidewalk and that'll be $60 - that's if you live in Toronto, and you are age 14 and older.

- Carrying a passenger on a bike designed for one - $85 fine.

- Pass a stopped school bus with red lights flashing and that can cost you a whopping $400.

- Under 18 without a helmet - $60 ticket.

- Riding on the wrong side of the road - a $35 fine.

Ignore it and it won't go away

A cycling ticket may seem inconsequential but the amount due would increase the longer the ticket goes unpaid. Plus "if a cyclist hasn't made sure that the ticket they received states 'cycling'on it, then they risk having their drivers licence suspended if they don't pay the fine," says Thomas. Like any other outstanding payment, it's possible that it could end up in collections and may impact your credit rating.

Smooth ride on an e-bike

You don't need a driver's licence, vehicle permit or licence plate to ride an e-bike, but you do need to be 16 or older, wear an approved bicycle or motorcycle helmet, and keep your e-bike in good working order. Follow the same rules of the road as regular cyclists, and penalties are the same as a non-electric bike. 

 

CYCLE FOR SIGHT LED BY SIGHT-IMPAIRED BIKER

John Tomasino isn't just along for the ride - he's leading it. Although severely sight impaired, the 55-year-old teacher is Ambassador for the Cycle For Sight Creemore fundraising event and he'll be putting in 150 km on June 24 to fight blindness.

Tomasino is going the distance - his fading vision is no match for the larger vision of helping accelerate critical sight-saving research, and restoring sight and hope.

Not seeing is still believing in a cure. "I love the freedom of the ride and helping to raise money. It's near and dear to me - I hope in my lifetime there is some sort of remedy," says Tomasino, who rides tandem and especially loves the thrill of flying downhill at 80-90 km.

The avid cyclist has retinitis pigmentosis (RP), a debilitating disease that has slowly eroded his vision since childhood. It's gone from poor peripheral vision and night blindness, to basically a loss of central vision with little light perception. "It's like living in a fog. Every year, I see less and less. It's taking a turn for the worse ... it's horrible."

However, Tomasino remains undaunted - he's raised close to $20,000 participating for the past nine years for the national cycling fundraiser at cycleforsight.ca, which advances critical research at the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB). More than one million Canadians are living with retinal eye diseases right now.

Hundreds of participants - sighted, low-vision and non-sighted riders - are expected to show up at 139 Mill St. in Creemore, Ont., to help make the world a brighter place - the loop ride starts and finishes at the Creemore Springs Brewery with three distance options, 50 km, 100 km, and 140 km. Rides are also taking place in Ottawa, Alberta, Newfoundland and on the West Coast.

Tomasino got hooked on cycling nine years ago - he hadn't been on a bike since childhood. Poor peripheral vision as a child made it difficult to participate in any sports, "I always got picked last" so over the years he immersed himself in academics, theatre and cooking, and he eventually became a teacher 12 years ago.

Besides enjoying the freedom of the outdoors, Tomasino absolutely loves teaching and considers himself very lucky to be working - "80% of the visually impaired are unemployed. There are so many barriers to break."

Creating awareness is vital to acceptance and ending eye disease. Foresight is critical: "Our oneday event may be small but it does such big things for vision health and hope," says cycling optometrist Dr. Kevin Anderson, who leads the charge annually to cure blindness through the CFS event.

Check out cycleforsight.ca to sign up - registration fee is $25 and each rider must raise $600 to participate.

-- JOANNE RICHARD