Cycling Etiquette and Road Rules: Be Prepared!

May is National Bike Month! So go outside and ride your bike!

If you live anywhere in the Northeast region of the country then bike season is finally here (well, it was here a while ago thanks to a mild winter)! As the weather warms and the race season begins more and more people are starting to put the trainers away and hitting the roads and thus I think it’s a good time to remind both cyclists and motorists of proper cycling etiquette and the rules of the road!

Proper Cycling Etiquette

1. Safety is your number one priority!

2. Behave predictably. If your riding in a group this is very important. Members of your group need o “know” your next move so don’t verge off to the side, speed up or down dramatically, or slam on your brakes. Motorists also need to “predict” your moves too so this also applies riding solo.

3. Stay in control! When riding with a group, never ride in “aero” position. This is why most group rides do not allow tri bikes. Some groups do, so it is best to ask before just showing up, but stay out of aero unless you have the space and permission to do so.

4. Communication is key, especially when riding with a group! If you see a large pothole or something potentially dangerous in the road, let your fellow cyclists know by pointing it out and/or saying something.

5. When riding in a paceline or a peleton avoid overlapping the front wheel of your bike with the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. Try riding behind that person’s wheel at a distance your comfortable with.

Rules of the Road

The average cyclist weighs usually between 150-250 pounds. The average vehicle on the road weighs 2,500+ pounds. Cyclist vs. car? You do the math! It is very important to follow the rules of the road. A cyclist on the road has the same rules as a vehicle on the road. Know the driving laws of your state.

1. Red means stop! Don’t ride your bike through a stop sign or light. Obey the laws.

2. Ride with traffic! I’ve seen so many people ride against traffic, but that is wrong! (When running or walking on the road you go against traffic)

3. Cyclists may use full lanes (in most states)! However, it is best not to use the full lane unless you really have to. It is best to ride close to the shoulder of the road to allow vehicles to pass you. For drivers, please be aware that cyclists can use the full lane! Do not get mad at us and try to pass us while honking and giving us the finger! It makes you look like an idiot! That cyclist that you almost hit might mean nothing to you, but to someone that person is everything!

4. Be visible! Don’t ride in a driver’s blind spot, which is just to the left of the rear wheel. Wear lights and bright clothing if you ride in the dark.

5. Use hand signals! Let vehicles know if you are taking a left or a right turn. Unfortunately, some drivers don’t understand this even though it’s commonsense. Two weeks ago I was riding on the yellow line with my left arm out just about to make a left hand turn when a jeep decided to pass me on the left!

6. For drivers, put down your cell phones and pay attention to what your doing — DRIVING! Unfortunately too many drivers are distracted and that can cause accidents. Be smart!

7. For drivers, please down yell, honk, or throw things at cyclists as you drive by them! It can distract us and scare us since we’re not expecting it. I’ve had my fair share of drivers honk or make cat calls at me. It’s not cool and again it makes you look dumb.

7. There are bad drivers out there on the road. It’s just a fact of life. When someone cuts you off or almost hits you on your bike, it’s really not a great idea to egg them on by giving them the finger, chasing them down, or throwing water bottles at them. I know it’s super hard not too. I’m guilty of all of the above. Sometimes it’s just best to let it go and not try to anger the driver even more.

Other very important things!

1. WEAR A HELMET! This one always gets me going. I’ve seen so many people without helmets, especially people who ride their bikes around the city of Portland. Helmets can save lives! When I was 12 years old I had a really bad horseback riding accident. I honestly don’t remember what exactly happened, but I fell off my friend’s horse while mounting her. I woke up to being backboarded by paramedics. I had absolutely no idea what just happened and I was very combative to the paramedics. I can only imagine what it must have looked like to see an 80 pound 12 year old girl take swings at the town’s paramedics! It turned out that I had fallen, hit my head, knocked myself unconscious, had a major seizure, and in turn a ride in the ambulance to the ER. I had a contusion to my brain, which luckily stopped bleeding relatively quickly. The Pediatric ER doctor told me point blank that if I had not been wearing my helmet I would have been dead at 12 years old! The moral of my story… wear your damn helmet! Sure, it might not be “cool,” but I’m pretty sure that your body in a coffin isn’t cool either! (Side note: Make sure the helmet fits properly and that you can only fit about two fingers between your chin and strap)

2. Wear ID! If you’ve been a cyclist for awhile now, you at least know someone or perhaps even yourself have been involved in a cycling accident. It is important to carry ID with you at all times because if you can’t talk for yourself then your ID can. ID’s serve a multitude of purposes. The first is to let people know who you are and who your emergency contact(s) is! It can also let the EMTs and other medical professionals know if you have any medical conditions (i.e. diabetes, Heart Disease, etc.) or if you have any drug allergies that they need to be aware of to successfully treat you. On most IDs you can also indicate if your an organ donor or your blood type too! I’ve been wearing a RoadID for the pass two years when ever I’m outside doing any of my workouts. I HIGHLY SUGGEST that you purchase one, not only for your piece of mine but for your loved ones too! I recently just purchased a new wrist ID slim for $15.99. I have provided a link below to purchase one. Also, spread the word about road IDs, especially to EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, etc. so they know what they are and to look for them on people!

3. Always pump your tires before riding! I hang out at the bike shop a lot. So many people come in with flat tires. We always ask them if they pump their tires up before every ride. The answer is almost always no. That is your problem. If your tires do not have enough air in them then you can pinch the tube and get a flat. Buy a tire pump and pump your tires before every ride. I suggest buying the most expensive (but within reason) tire pump because it will be the best quality and last longer. When I first purchased my pump I bought the $35 pump because I thought paying for a $70 pump was ridiculous! Instant regret! The $35 pump was inefficient and broke within a year. My more expensive pump has worked flawlessly for the past two years. That’s just my advice and opinion.

4. Carry a flat kit and know how to change a flat! Most local bike shops offer flat repair and tire changing clinics. Go to one and learn how to change a flat! It’s never fun being stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, not knowing how to change a flat or not having the tools, and having no cell phone reception!

5. Have your bike tuned by a professional mechanic at least once a year (or more if put a lot of miles on in a year).

6. Bring your cell phone! You never know if you might need it. You can program your “in case of emergency” (ICE) numbers into your phone also, but be aware, if you ever get hit by a car, your phone could be smashed and thus it’s best to have another form of ID attached to your body! Also, if you think it might rain during your ride, put it in a plastic sandwich bag.

7. Bring plenty of water, sports drinks and/or nutrition! Riding your bike is exercise and for most of us a hard workout! Be prepared with plenty of substance to get you through your ride without bonking.

Happy Training! 
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