Tips for Cycling in Traffic

Unless your cycling is limited to spin classes or the exercise bike in the corner of your basement, you will probably be sharing your riding space with vehicles that are much larger than you are. If you ride defensively, you’ll be prepared for any unpredictable situation that may arise. Keep in mind that laws pertaining to bikes and bicycle riding vary from state to state, so be sure to double check the laws wherever you ride.

Here are some quick and useful tips for cycling in traffic:

  • Be predictable! Ride in a straight line and avoid unexpected or sudden movements. Do not swerve in and out of traffic.
  • Be courteous.
  • Be prepared and alert to any changes in surroundings.
  • Ride on the right side of the road with the flow traffic. If there is a bike lane, use it. If there is not enough room, take the whole lane.
  • Watch the road ahead for debris or obstacles.
  • Be visible. Wear bright clothes and use lights at night.
  • Do not ride on the sidewalk.
  • Always yield to pedestrians.
  • To help be sure drivers understand your intentions, make eye contact with them if possible.
  • Be ready to brake at all times. Keep your hands on your handlebars!
  • Be careful at any curb cuts, driveways or alleys.
  • Use a mirror mounted on your helmet, handlebar, or glasses. But always look over your shoulder too.
  • Obey traffic signals. Is the light yellow? Stop. Lights are made for cars (not slower bikes) and you may not have enough time to get through an intersection before it turns red.
  • Signal your movements and intentions using correct hand signals.
  • Give trucks, buses and other larger vehicles a wide berth. Longer and bigger vehicles have a hard time seeing cyclists because of the blind spots. Be positive they can see you, or assume they can’t!
  • Keep a safe distance between you and other cyclists (enough that you’ll be able to react if an unforeseen situation arises).
  • Be cautious when passing parked cars. Stay far away from the possibility of a door opening into your path.
  • If you need to stop for any reason, pull entirely off the road so you do not become an obstacle to another cyclist or vehicle.

Check with your local bike shop for information on good biking routes, local laws and safety, and group rides in your area. Your LBS is sure to have many valuable resources they want to share with you, so go visit them!

These are basic guidelines for bike safety that can apply to any situation in any place while biking in traffic. While some of these tips may seem like common sense, it is a good rule to take nothing for granted when riding your bike on the road.

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