The best way to avoid collisions is to be prepared and be aware of other vehicles around you. Avoid common bicyclist errors and common motorist errors committed around bicyclists.
- Obey traffic signs and signals - Bicycles must follow the rules of the road like other vehicles.
- Never ride against traffic - Motorists aren't looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. State law and common sense require that bicyclists drive like other vehicles.
- Follow lane markings - Don't turn left from the right lane. Don't go straight in a lane marked “right-turn only.”
- Don’t pass on the right - Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.
- Scan the road behind you - Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
- Keep both hands ready to brake - You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Allow extra distance for stopping in the rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet.
- Wear a helmet and never ride with headphones - Always wear a helmet. Never wear a headphone while riding a bike.
- Dress for the weather - In rain, wear a poncho or waterproof suit. Dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes. Wear bright colored clothing.
- Use hand signals - Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.
- Ride in the middle of the lane in slower traffic - Get in the middle of the lane at busy intersections and whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.
- Choose the best way to turn left - There are two choices: (1) Like an automobile: signal to move into the left turn lane and then turn left. (2) Like a pedestrian: ride straight to the far side crosswalk. Walk your bike across.
- Make eye contact with drivers - Assume that other drivers don't see you until you are sure that they do. Eye contact is important with any driver which might pose a threat to your safety.
- Look out for road hazards - Watch out for parallel-slat sewer grates, gravel, sand or debris. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
- Use lights at night - The law requires a white headlight (visible from at least 500 feet ahead) and a rear reflector or taillight (visible up to 300 feet from behind).
- Keep your bike in good repair - Adjust your bike to fit you and keep it working properly. Check brakes and tires regularly. Routine maintenance is simple and you can learn to do it yourself.
Sharing the road with cars, SUVs and trucks is a fact of cycling life. Legally, bicycles have all of the same rights and responsibilities that automobiles do, yet too often cyclists are viewed as the second-class citizens of the road.
Cyclists are expected to follow all of the same traffic laws as motorists, yet must mingle with larger, faster vehicles (and sometimes impatient people who steer them). Here are our street-smart guidelines for becoming a wiser, safer cyclist.
BASIC RULES OF THE ROAD
Bike Safety Fundamentals
- Wear a helmet on every ride.
- Wear bright, highly visible clothing, preferably with reflective tape or patches.
- Obey the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs and lights.
- Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it.
- Ride in control at all times. Proceed at a safe speed that permits you to react quickly to unexpected circumstances.
- Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles.
- Never ride in low-light or dark conditions without front and rear bike lights and reflectors.
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and other riders or vehicles. What qualifies as safe? Enough space to allow you to react to something unexpected. In general, aim for 1 bike length (or more) per each 5 miles per hour you're traveling. Keep at least 4 feet between you and a vehicle.
- Don't hug the curb too closely. Maintain a comfortable distance from the pavement edge.
- Ride in single file. This is required by law in most states. (Note: Some states allow cyclists to travel 2 abreast. Do this only on less-traveled roads that are free of traffic. Riding 3 abreast is usually illegal.)
- Don't ride on sidewalks unless no other safe option exists. Motorists at intersections or when leaving or entering driveways often do not see swift-moving cyclists traveling on sidewalks.
- Likewise, watch for cars coming out of alleys. They may not see you.
- Don't pass other cyclists on the right.
- When needed, make noise—use a horn, a bell, whistle or just yell.
- In heavy, slow-moving traffic, it's often safer to ride in the middle of a traffic lane so that everyone can see you and cars won't try to squeeze around you.
- On busy streets, don't swerve back and forth around parked cars or other obstacles. Maintain a straight course and watch out for opening car doors.
- Be ready to brake. Keep your hands on or near the brake levers so you can stop quickly.
- Pedal strongly when going through intersections.
- If 5 or more cars are behind you, pull over and let them pass.
- Be predictable.
- Stay alert to changes in your surroundings at all times.
- Communicate your intentions to drivers and other cyclists as much as possible. Use hand signals whenever you turn or stop, but assume that those signals might not be understood by every driver.
- Make friendly eye contact with drivers. This helps to ensure your intentions are understood by motorists.
- Semi-trucks have a blind spot when they turn; avoid riding in the blind spot.
- Watch out for things that can add to (or cause) problems between cyclists and automobiles, like bright sunlight, fatigue, darkness and sharp bends in the road.
- Avoid actions that can cause accidents between bicycles, such as following too closely, poor communication or lapses in concentration.
- Be especially cautious at intersections. Many cycling accidents occur here.
- Ride with confidence when you're in traffic. Timid, wobbly riders make drivers nervous. Cyclists or groups of cyclists who ride in a respectful, self-assured manner are more likely to be granted extra room and respect in return.