Bicycle Etiquette: Staying Safe on Your Commute
Believe it or not, practicing good bicycle etiquette is not only polite, but it can keep you safe as well. Road rules provide important standards that, when practiced by everyone, offer a default expectation for how other vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles will respond in specific situations. If everyone follows these common guidelines, all commuters have a higher chance of safety.
Predictable behavior prioritizes safety, decreasing surprises and quick reactions that often result in accidents. Basic bicycle etiquette is often learned through on-the-road experience, but the below tips can help expedite biking safety.
Learn Bicycle Hand Signals
Hand signals warn others on the road where you are headed, and this is especially helpful since bikes are not outfitted with brake lights or turn signals. Other vehicles are not always able to tell when you may be slowing down, stopping, or turning. Hand signals inform other road users to allow you enough space to make a right turn, left turn, or a stop. Be sure to make big arm movements and signal early.
Act Like a Car
In most cases, bicycles are supposed to act like cars. Ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic. While some people believe that it’s safer for bicycles to ride against traffic, studies have revealed that more collisions occur when riding against traffic. Therefore, it’s important to ride with the flow of traffic. This decreases the likelihood of surprising car drivers or pedestrians.
Stick to the Bike Lane
Many more cities are including bike lanes in their city infrastructure, and if there’s not a bike lane, cyclists have a right to the road. If a bike lane is available, bikers are encouraged to ride in that space. However, if a bike lane is mixed-use for pedestrians and rollerbladers, bikers may opt for the road.
Walk Your Bike on the Sidewalk
While it can be tempting to bike on the sidewalk, it actually is more dangerous for bikers and pedestrians. The average speed of a bike is much faster than a walker, and pedestrians are not always looking for bikers on sidewalks, which can increase collisions. Sidewalks can be dangerous for bikers due to curbs, driveways, and slow walkers. Therefore, if you need to use a sidewalk, walk your bike rather than ride it.
Obey Traffic Signs
Traffic signs apply to every biker. While you may be on a bike, you still must follow the road rules expected of any other driver. You are required to stop at stop signs and to make turns from appropriate lanes. Though you are able to switch to crossing at a crosswalk rather than waiting for a green light with the cars, this behavior can cause accidents since it’s unpredictable.
Alert Others About Passing
When you plan to pass other pedestrians or bikers, make noise to signal your presence. Passing should be done to the left of slower traffic. Whether you choose to shout “on your left” or signal with a bell, you should make your presence known. Always make sure there is plenty of room between yourself and the other individual that you are passing.
Take the Lane
If you are riding with a group of bikers, it can be appropriate to take over the entire lane. While this will slow vehicular traffic, it will increase the safety of you and the other bikers. This can be good to do on a 4-lane road, where cars can move into the left lane to pass, or on a very narrow road, where passing could potentially run the biker off the road.
Be Aware of Parked Car Doors
Parked cars can be dangerous to bikers. Car occupants are not always thinking to check for bikers before swinging open their car door. When biking by a parked car, check for occupants and give the car a larger buffer.
Always Stay Alert
While you may want to jam out to your favorite tunes while commuting or leisurely biking, you need to exercise extra alertness to increase your safety. Every one of your senses should be employed in your safety from eyesight to hearing. If you can, make eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians to ensure that they are also seeing you.
You are in charge of your safety. While bike etiquette offers a level of politeness to the equation, it also helps to ensure that you remain safe.
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