bike lane at dusk

Bicycle Safety & Driver Etiquette Tips

Even the occasional cyclist knows the obvious safety tips: Wear a helmet and Don’t get hit by a car. While that’s a great start, we’re here to take you deeper into the two-wheeled-world of safety. Whether you bike for physical fitness, to save money and the environment, or to avoid the traffic headache by commuting, bicycles are more popular than ever. Read on for tips that every rider and driver need to know.

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Tips For Cyclists

bicycle with helmet hanging from handlebarsEven before hitting the road, make sure your bike and body are well prepared.

  • Just like a car, your bike needs routine maintenance. Check your brakes regularly and keep your tires inflated. An expert at a local bike shop can even do a complete tune-up.
  • Make sure your bike is adjusted to fit you. Again, your local bike shop can make adjustments to optimize the bike for you.
  • Get the right accessories. A bell to alert pedestrians, mirrors, reflectors and, of course, a helmet. A headlight and taillight are often required by law when riding at night.
  • Your bike is in shape, but are you? Before taking a long trip, start with shorter trips and stretch beforehand.
  • Dress for the part. Wear light, reflective clothing at night. For longer trips, dress in layers.

A helmet is great, but preventing a collision in the first place is even better. Follow these tips to do your part.

  • Be predictable. Always ride in a straight line, as far to the right as safely possible, but remaining visible to drivers. Don’t swerve, and use hand signals if you’re slowing down or turning.
  • Get personal. Make eye contact with other drivers (in a non-creepy way) to ensure that they see you, and they’ll give you more respect on the road.
  • Watch for hazards. Piles of leaves, puddles, gravel and other dangers could make you lose control of your bike. In the city, watch for manhole covers, sewer grates and other surfaces that can become slick.
  • Obey the law. Since laws vary by state, make sure you know the rules beforehand.  Red lights and stop signs apply to you, too.

Tips For Motorists

Bicycles share the road signBicycles on the road are, by law, vehicles with the same rights as motor vehicles. It’s the responsibility of both the rider and driver to share the road. Here’s a few ways to protect those using pedal power.

  • Be patient. If the lane is too narrow, if there’s oncoming traffic, or if you don’t have enough visibility to pass…don’t.
  • Reduce your speed when approaching a bicycle. Even if there’s a bike lane, an opening car door, for example, may cause the rider to swerve into traffic.
  • Don’t honk. You could startle the rider. Make eye contact and, if you make a mistake, everyone loves a courtesy wave.
  • Be extra cautious of children. They can be even more unpredictable and less aware of the dangers around them.

By Nathan Erb

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    Leave a comment

  1. Lee says,

    I commute by bicycle to work and also cycle for pleasure over 6000 miles per year.
    A motorist who is aggressive, impatient, impaired, distracted, careless, or not paying attention to where they are directing their 3000+ pound vehicle is the worst kind of danger to cyclists and their own livelihood.
    The most common violation by motorists is not allowing enough clearance between their vehicle and a bike. Do you know the clearance law for your state… is it 1.5 meters? 5 feet? 4 feet? This is measured from the closest part of your vehicle to the closest part of the bike/cyclist (usually the outer edge of your passenger mirror to the shoulders or handlebars of the bicycle.)
    The most serious danger to cyclists is being T-boned in a roundabout or on an arterial road by vehicles entering or crossing while the cyclist is obeying traffic laws and travelling on or parallel to that roadway.

    Bicycles are allowed on sidewalks, crosswalks, roads, and highways – unless specifically banned by signage or local ordinance. Watch for bikes!

    Cyclists are forced to swerve for potholes, large cracks, roadkill and other debris or else risk an accident right in front of your motor vehicle. Are you allowing enough room for the cyclist to swerve without you hitting them? If not, you are violating the laws of most states.

    Motorists who don’t ride bikes are clueless to situations encountered by cyclists, and the danger a car or truck poses to bikes. In a car/bike collision, the motorist is usually unhurt and the cyclist seriously injured or killed. Locally we lost another fellow cyclist in the past month.

  2. Nicole Swenson says,

    Reminder to cyclists…. the CROSS WALK is for Pedestrians, not cyclists! you ahve to follow the rules of the road….. frankly there should be a bicycle licence and the fees should be the same for not obeying traffic laws and the POLICE should be tagging and bagging the cyclists who are ruining it for EVERYONE. Also DO NOT ride bicycles side by side, DO NOT ride in the center of the “driving lane.” If you are stacking up traffic due to poor ability to pass CYCLISTS should pull over. Frankly they should follow “slow moving vehicle laws” as well as motorist laws, which would make it safer to cycle and safer to drive! (note I am in Maine where cyclists seem to think the yellow line is the bike lane, rarely wear helmets, and swerve all over the road just to cause motorists issues. Also they ride these incredibly thin tires for “road” when our roads definitely REQUIRE the use of at minimum mountain bike tires unless strictly downtown only.)

    • Nick says,

      Bud, in many states, cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast. It reduces the distance you have to travel to pass them both and is safer. They also ride near the center to prevent drivers squeezing by them or to avoid hazardous terrain on the side. Stop being selfish.

      • Danika says,

        I just learned that cyclists are supposed to ride where the “arrow and bike” signs are located in the road. It makes them more visible to cars. I took a free class offered by Smart Trips.

  3. S.R.T. says,

    When passing a bicycle always make sure you clear the bicycle handle bars by 3 feet “36” “inches”. Im a mororist and a cyclist ,most cars drivers seem like they see how close they can get to you by a couple of inches , no respect and courtesy, at all.

  4. Moniqa says,

    Instead of reinforcing drivers’ all-too-common negative attitudes about cyclists who roll through stop signs and lights, you might mention that many cities’ legislation instructs cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs because it’s safer for cyclists AND drivers, and encourage readers to look up their local laws.

  5. Norman says,

    Bicycling and motor biking two things have great danger within. If anyone rides these things without proper safety kits wearing, in case of an unexpected accident, they can experience a huge blow. So it’s crucial to maintain and follow these bicycle safety etiquette tips! I really enjoyed reading this blog post. Thanks.

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