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The Rules of the Road

Bicycles are considered vehicles, so you must know traffic laws and signals. Most laws and regulations that govern auto traffic also applies to bicyclists. Make sure all riders are very familiar with traffic patterns, signals and hazards. These include all traffic signs, signals, and road markings.

Traffic signals let you know what to do:

  • Steady green: go
  • Steady yellow: warning (you should stop)
  • Steady red: stop
  • Flashing yellow: slow down, drive ahead carefully
  • Flashing red: stop and check for traffic, then drive ahead carefully
  • Green arrow: turn in the direction indicated only

Know street signs and what they mean, street signs for important information.

  • Stop Sign: a red sign with eight sides
  • Yield: a red and white triangle
  • Warning: yellow, diamond shaped signs
  • Information and regulations: square or rectangular signs
  • Railroad crossing: a yellow circle with an X through it

Use hand signals, hand signals tell motorists what you intend to do. Always signal with your left hand and signal at least 100 feet before you turn. As you make the turn, keep both hands on the handlebars.

Signalling is a matter of law, courtesy, and self-protection.

  • Left turn: left hand and arm extended horizontally beyond the side of the bicycle.
  • Right turn: left hand and arm extended upward beyond the left side of the bicycle or the right hand.
  • Stop or sudden decrease of speed: left hand and arm extended downward beyond the left side of the bicycle.

Choosing the best way to turn left

There are two ways to make a left turn:

  • Like an automobile: look over your left shoulder for traffic behind you, signal, move into the left lane when safe, yield to oncoming traffic, and turn left. Complete the turn near the right curb.
  • Like a pedestrian: stay to the right, ride straight across the intersection to the far side. Obey all signs and signals in the new direction before continuing.

Competing with high speed, heavy traffic is dangerous. Look for safer, less travelled routes. Follow designated bike routes if available. Bicycles routes are marked by special signs or lines. Bike paths are special areas reserved for bikes. Become familiar with such accommodations for cyclists in your area. When you are sharing the road with other traffic, always look for the best road position to travel in.

Ride on the right side of the street in a straight line. Drive near the curb in the same direction as traffic, but about a car door’s width away from parked cars. Watch for cars pulling away from the curb and car doors opening. Keep your bike steady and ride in a straight predictable line. Never weave from lane to lane or tailgate to hitch rides on moving cars or trucks. Riding against traffic puts you where motorists don’t expect you. They may not see you, and may pull across your path, or turn into you. Do not ride in the wrong direction on one way streets. Follow lane markings, do not turn left from the right lane. Do not go straight in a line marked “right turn only”. Ride in middle of lane in slow traffic – get in the middle of the lane at busy intersections and whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.

Follow a safe distance behind another vehicle. Use the 2 second rule. When the vehicle in front of you passes a fixed object (tree, sign, house), begin counting, “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand”. If you pass that object before you finish counting, then you are following too closely.

Young children, typically under the age of nine, are not able to identify and adjust to many dangerous traffic situations, and therefore, should not be allowed to ride in the street unsupervised. Children who are permitted to ride in the street without supervision should have the necessary skills to safely follow the “rules of the road.”

Pedestrians get to go first. Yield the right of way, and keep a sharp lookout for danger in every direction if you have to adjust your path. Be courteous to pedestrians and other vehicle operators. Sidewalks are designed for pedestrian use and are often congested with pedestrian traffic. Pedestrians often move from one side to the other. Bicycles travel faster and cannot always avoid hitting moving pedestrians. The mix of bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk always poses conflicts.

Use caution at intersections – go slowly and yield to pedestrians. Look for turning cars and trucks. In heavy traffic, walk your bike across.