Training Safety in the Muskoka Region

Training in Muskoka carries with it its own special nuances.  The rolling hills, majestic rock cuts, and forested back roads all present challenges for motorists to identify cyclists on the roads.

Similarly, the crystal clean and crisp lakes in the area are also motorways to boats during the summer.  These boats might be travelling somewhere but also might be pulling a person waterskiing or on a tube, so their full attention might not be on the look out for a person who is out for an open water practice swim.

Take a minute to read the content below to ensure that you are training in the safest manner that you can.

GENERAL ADVICE:

  • Be nice:  Your mother was right.  Being a little nice goes a long way.  Smile and wave at people who are courteous at giving you some extra room.
  • Avoid other gestures:Nothing gets one’s back up more than someone giving a rude gesture to a local or visiting motorist if they didn’t give you some extra room.  People in Muskoka have a long history of driving on roads with people who are running or cycling.  If they can, they will give you the room if there is room to be given.
  • Ride and run the way that you would expect to be courteous: One of the biggest complaints that we hear, as we are the people advocating for this sport in our community, is that cyclists ride in large packs that are several cyclists wide.  Use common sense.  Some of our roads don’t have the widest shoulders.  So, if you are riding two abreast and there isn’t a shoulder, where is the vehicle coming from behind you supposed to go?  Some of the large transport or logging trucks can’t stop on a dime, and that is often where the issues come into play.
  • Ride how you race: So, if you are in the sport of triathlon, there is often the no-draft zone of 2 meters, and you have 30 seconds to pass a cyclist.  You have made the effort to come here to train on our roads and our racecourses.  Treat your visit like a race experience so that when it comes to race day, you will be well prepared.
  • Don’t litter: We live in some of the most beautiful country in Canada.  We try hard to keep it clean.  Please take your gel and bar wrappers with you.  Don’t throw your bottles in the ditch.  We will greatly appreciate it if you took your garbage with you.  If you don’t clean up after yourself, someone has to.  Either that, or an animal will eat it and get very sick.

SWIMMING SAFETY:

  • Always be visible when swimming in the lake: Often boaters are focused on other things rather than the water in front of them.  People waterskiing or tubing, or just talking to someone else in the boat.  A little swim cap on a person in a black wetsuit, mixed in with the sun’s reflection on the water can make it hard to see you in the water.  We suggest that you pull a highly visible floatation device so that they are more likely to see you.  Many of our local swimmers use this device: ISHOF SafeSwimer
  • Consider bringing a person to spot you: Whether you are at a cottage or a large resort, there often is a canoe, stand up paddleboard or a kayak available to someone who you are up visiting the area with.  Ask them to come along to have a second set of eyes and ears out on the water.
  • Swim along with shoreline: Even boats won’t go fast when they get close to the shore, so try swimming along the shore line so that you are out of the main “highway” of boats as they are zooming from one place to another.  Stay a safe distance away from the shore as well, say 25m or so, so that you aren’t likely to encounter a submerged tree that has fallen into the water.  Be considerate also when swimming past people docks; give them a safe distance as well to respect their privacy.

CYCLING SAFETY:

  • Ride how you race: So this means that you ride in single file on two lane except when passing, and you keep at least one (1) meter apart from other cyclists when travelling in a group
  • Be courteous: it is amazing how giving someone who gave you some room a nice wave or thank you will make it easier for everyone as a whole.  Motorists will be more likely to give people the same amount of room or more the next time.
  • Break up the groups into smaller groups: with our roads twisting and turning, and going up and over hills, there are limited areas for sight lines for cars to give you the extra room.  So if you are in a large group, break the groups up into smaller groups so that cars can pass in these short sight line areas and be able to tuck back in between groups to allow on coming traffic to have their lane.
  • Be predictable: as best you can, ride in a straight line.  Stay about 1m from the roads edge
  • Be visible: try to wear brightly coloured clothing, and if possible have reflective markers on your clothing as well.  Stay out of motorists blind spots, and use lights when cycling in low light conditions.
  • Obey the laws of the road: stop at stop signs, yield when necessary, and just be smart.

RUNNING SAFETY:

  • Be visible: Often the nicest time of the day to head out for a run is when the sun is just coming up, people are still getting out of bed, the fog is just lifting off of the lake, and the dew is still on the grass.  However, people who live here are still trying to get to work, so make yourself visible with reflectors, bright clothing, and a personal favorite, a blinking bike light on your shirt
  • Consider running into traffic:Yes this might be counter-intuitive but you will see a car if it is coming, and if it isn’t giving you some extra room.  This way you can step a bit more off of the road or wave your arms.
  • When to run on the right: Two exceptions to the previous rule: 1. Go to the right side of the road if it has a significantly wider shoulder, in which case you won’t really be running on the road anyway. 2. Run with traffic if visibility for drivers in the other direction is severely impaired, e.g. from sunlight or a hail storm. (Why are you running in a hail storm?)
  • Use your ears: Ditch your headphones for runs when you’re sharing the road.
  • Do it during the day: If you have to run with vehicular traffic, try to avoid doing it at night. US statistics show that in recent years approximately 70 percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. If you absolutely must run in the dark, wear a bright headlamp.