Bicycle Etiquette

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The most important factor in how you ride your bicycle is how you feel about it. If you find bicycling enjoyable and reasonably safe, then you will want to cover greater distances and go more places. But to do so, you usually have to ride in the company of cars – and sharing the road with cars calls for an attitude of security and confidence. Keep in mind that the rules of the road apply to drivers of all vehicles, regardless of vehicle type.

Hand Signals

It is very important that you signal your intentions to drivers and other bicyclists. Use these hand signals when you ride your bicycle.

  • For a left turn, extend your left arm straight out (photo one).
  • For a right turn, extend your left arm out and up, bent at the elbow (photo two).
  • To signal you are stopping, extend your left arm out and down, bent at the elbow (photo three).
 Left turn hand sign  Right turn hand sign  Stop hand sign

Riding in Groups

Riding or training with friends can add a lot of fun to your bicycling. With a local bicycle club or with a local group ride, you can meet people and share information on bicycle routes, events, and equipment. However, bike-and-bike crashes are common, so you need to know about safe group riding. Here are some bicycle etiquette tips that will make you a safer group rider. If you don't usually ride with groups, these will give you an understanding of the group-ride experience:

  • Be courteous to all road users – Share the Road!
    • Riding side-by-side (two abreast) can be a fun way to talk with your fellow cyclists, but it's only appropriate where space and traffic conditions permit.
    • Yield to overtaking vehicles – If the group is riding two abreast and a car comes up from behind, the riders in the rear should call out "car back." The group should then form a single-file line to allow the vehicle to pass safely. This is especially important on two-lane roads.
    • Ride single-file on curvy and hilly roads – Do not become a hazard for traffic coming around a curve or over a hill.
  • Riding in groupsBe predictable – Each cyclist should ride in a straight line and avoid weaving back and forth. This helps motorists and other cyclists determine when it is safe to pass you.
  • Communicate with others in your group and with other vehicles.
    • Make sure everyone understands the way the group will call out its intentions. Some groups' riding styles differ.
    • Call out your next move to others in your group – say “on your left” when passing on the left, “on your wheel” when you pull in behind another rider to draft, “slowing” when you slow down in a group, “stopping” when you have to stop.
    • Limit hand signals – It is preferable to call out your intentions when you ride in large groups or side by side. Sticking your hand in front of another rider to signal is very dangerous. Leave the hand signals to the front and rear riders in this case.
  • Look out for yourself, even when you are in a group. Do not follow other riders into an
    intersection without looking first – it may be safe for them, but not for you.
  • Give some space – Keep three feet of clearance when you pass another cyclist, and more at high downhill speeds. A bicycle can turn just as fast as a car, so leave some room for yourself and your riding buddy to maneuver.
  • Learn from experienced cyclists about pacelines and drafting. These techniques can make a group ride a wonderful experience, but should only be attempted when you are able to ride smoothly and feel comfortable with other cyclists riding close to you. Quick braking or swerving in a paceline will cause everyone to fall and get hurt.

Remember: Your bicycle is a vehicle – Ride it like one!