Riding in Traffic – Safely
Riding in traffic is not as hard as it looks if you follow the suggestions below. In Effective Cycling, John Forester writes, “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”
Ride so drivers can see you and predict your movements
Obey all regulatory signs and traffic lights – Bicyclist must follow the same rules ofthe road as drivers of other vehicles.
Never ride against traffic – Motorists aren’t looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalk. Ride with traffic.
Use hand signals – Hand signals tell motorists what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, courtesy and self protection.
Ride in a straight line – Whenever possible, ride in a straight line at least a car door width away from parked cars.
Don’t weave between parked cars – Don’t ride out to the curb between parked cars unless they are far apart. Motorists may not see you when you try to move back into traffic.
Take the lane in slow traffic – Ride in the middle of the lane whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.
Choose the best way to turn left – There are two ways to make a left turn: (1) Like an auto. Look behind, signal, move into the left lane and turn left. (2) Like a pedestrian. Ride straight to the farside crosswalk. Walk your bike across.
Avoid or go slow on sidewalks – Pedestrians have the right of way on walkways. Bicyclists should always give pedestrians audible warnings when passing. In some cases local ordinances do not permit bicyclists on sidewalks.
Bicycling with buses – Avoid blind spots and remain visible to the bus operator. Keep in mind hat buses operate in a unique manner compared to other vehicles. Buses make frequent stops and pull in and out of traffic from the right lane. Cyclists should not pass a bus on the right as passengers board and de-board from the curb.
Obey traffic laws whether in a car, on a bike, or on foot.
Ride defensively, watch the traffic, and be prepared to react.
Watch for cars pulling out – Make eye contact with drivers. Assume they don’t see you until you are sure they do.
Scan the road – behind you – Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving left. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
Avoid road hazards – Watch out for parallel-slatted sewer grates, slippery manhole covers, oily pavement, gravel, pot holes, and ice. Cross railroad tracks carefully at right angles. For better control as you move across bumps and other hazards, stand up on your pedals.
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 – Always wear a helmet whenever you ride a bicycle. Helmets dramatically reduce the risk of head injury in a bicycle accident.
Use lights at night – Always use a strong head light and tail light at night and when visibility is poor.
Bicycle Safety Video
“Competence and Confidence”, call Maryland DOT at (410) 865-1237.
- Stay to the right except when passing.
- Travel at a reasonable speed in a consistent and predictable manner.
- Always look ahead and behind before passing.
- Pass slower traffic on the left; yield to oncoming traffic when passing.
- Give a clear warning signal before passing (ring bell and say “passing on the left”).
- Move off the trail when stopped, to allow others room to pass.
- Yield to others when entering and crossing the trail.
- Using a light and reflectors after dusk and before dawn; most trails are not lit.
- Stop for traffic where the trail crosses a road.
One of the best ways to learn how to be safe and confident while cycling in traffic is to take a Bicyclist Education Course, administered by the League of American Bicyclists. They offer a three-hour class designed specifically for bicycling commuting. Call WABA, (202) 518-0524, or the League of American Bicyclists, (202) 822-1333, for more information on bicyclist education courses in the Washington area.