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Ten Tips for Successful Cycling

Bicycling in traffic is safe and easy. It does not require athleticism, speed or bravery. Successful bicycling does require a basic understanding of traffic dynamics and a belief in one’s equal right to use travel lanes.

1) Ride on the road.

Think about where each of these motorists is looking before crossing the sidewalk.

Adult bicyclists do not belong on the sidewalk.  Sidewalk cycling increases conflict for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. Sidewalk cycling is not only inconvenient and slow, it actually increases your risk of being hit by a car because it aggravates turning and crossing conflicts. The sidewalk also presents many more hazards such as poles, posts and branches.

2) Know and follow the rules.

The rules of the road are for everyone. They exist to make us all predictable to one another. Bicyclists who violate the rules are not only far more likely to be hit by a car, they are disruptive and breed animosity among fellow road users. The basic rules:

  • First come, first served.
  • Always ride the same direction as traffic.
  • Yield to traffic before entering a road.
  • Yield to overtaking traffic when changing lanes.
  • Obey all traffic control devices.

3) Integrate in the intersections.

  • Always use the lane that serves your destination.
  • Turn left from left turn lanes.
  • Never ride straight in a right-turn-only lane.
  • When approaching an intersection in a wide lane or a bike lane, merge left into the main traffic flow or lane.
  • The crosswalk is the WORST place to cross a busy intersection.

4) Ride Big.

Most close passing is a result of the motorist thinking he can squeeze past without changing lanes. Make sure a driver can clearly see that his car won’t fit within the same lane.

Most roads have lanes that are not wide enough to be safely shared by cars and bikes operated side-by-side. You are allowed the full use of a lane that is not wide enough to share. Ride far enough to the left in the lane to communicate to motorists that the lane is not wide enough to share. Motorists may squeeze past you within the lane if you don’t.

Riding big makes you visible and encourages motorists to give generous passing clearance. It also gives you someplace to go if a motorist does come too close.

5) Communicate.

You are part of the system, you need to be predictable to others. Communication makes you predictable. Signal turns and lane changes.  When motorists know what you want to do, most of them will try to help you out!

6) Be mindful of your surroundings.

The most common reasons to leave a bike lane.

Markings on the roadway are static. Traffic is dynamic. As a result, bike-specific markings sometimes put you in the wrong place. You MUST take your cues from the whole environment. Never let paint think for you.

  • Make sure you are visible to crossing and turning traffic. This often means leaving a bike lane and moving to the left side of the general use lane.
  • Never ride within 5ft of a parked car.  This area is called the “door zone.” A suddenly-opened car door can be deadly. Some bike lanes are striped entirely within the door zone.
  • Passing a queue of stopped traffic on the right can expose you to many crash hazards. Sometimes it’s better just to wait in the queue.
  • Never, ever pass a large truck on the right!

7) Understand how traffic flows.

If you understand traffic flow, you can anticipate and place yourself in a position which makes things easier for yourself and your fellow road users. In the CyclingSavvy course, we teach you in detail about how traffic controls and road features influence traffic flow, and how you can take advantage of this.

8) Want respect? Act respectably.

One road. Many Users. All of us are traffic.

Be considerate of your fellow road users. But also demonstrate respect for yourself. Control your space by default and help motorists pass you when appropriate. Offer a friendly wave when others are respectful of you. When motorists arrive before you at a red light, stop behind them. Don’t pull to the front of the queue and make them have to get around you after the intersection.

9) Let it go: don’t escalate harassment.

You will be passed uneventfully by thousands of considerate citizens for every one jerk who yells or honks. So, when someone does honk or yell at you, let it go. Smile and wave (with all five fingers), or pretend you heard nothing. They will simply move on with their negative self and you can remember the nice person who smiled and waved you through a lane change a few minutes before.

10) Keep it fun!

Bicycling offers a higher trip quality than most other forms of transportation. This is true whether you ride on quiet streets or share the road with motor traffic. Interacting with other road users is a dance you lead. The better you are at communicating and operating predictably, the better your dance partners will be. Those of us who ride mindfully, with a friendly attitude toward our fellow road users, seldom experience close calls or hostility.