Cross-Training: Cycling Road Rules

Guidelines for skinny tire travel and training before the lifts crank up.

Many skiers trade their boards for a pair of wheels during the long snowless months of summer.  One part transportation and one part sport, biking is a fun way to keep those legs in shape during the off-season. “The Skier’s Responsibility Code” is posted at the bottom of every chair and on the back of every lift ticket, but you won’t find a similar code on the trails and roads this summer, so we spoke to The League of American Bicyclists and Bicycling Magazine to come up with a few helpful guidelines to keep you and your riding partners safe this summer.

Pay attention to your surroundings.
It’s easy to throw on a pair of headphones and zone out during your morning bike commute. Be sure to keep the volume low enough to hear what’s around you, anticipate the actions of others and keep scanning the road for potential hazards, even the smallest pebble can cause a bloody end to your ride.

Know and follow local traffic laws.
Bikes are considered vehicles just like cars and are held to the same standards of safe operation. Follow the same traffic laws in your state as you would behind the wheel. Just like driving on the sidewalk, riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal in most states. Ride in the same direction as traffic in the farthest right lane while giving yourself enough space to avoid hitting an unexpected car door. That being said, Carolyn Szczepanski of The League of American Bicyclists states, “Cyclists have the right to occupy a safe space on the road.” Meaning that if you are travelling in a lane that is too narrow for cars to pass you, “you can and should control the lane.”

Ride under control.

Practice braking, and swerving techniques to avoid collisions. Ride in a straight line whenever possible, don’t swerve between parked cars. To avoid swerving when checking over your shoulder, place the hand opposite to the direction you are looking on the middle of your handlebars and let go with your other hand, keep your upper body relaxed and turn your head instead of your full body. (For example if you are looking right you will hold the center of the handlebar with your left hand and let go with your right.

Communicate your intentions.

Avoid making unexpected direction changes. Know hand signals and use them. Make eye contact with other riders and drivers to ensure they know that you’re there. This is especially important at intersections, know that the other person sees you before riding out. Warn other riders before passing them, and always pass on the left.

Keep your bike in working order.

Check brakes, tire pressure, chain, lights and reflectors before hitting the road to avoid making repairs during a ride. If you are riding at night, be sure to have appropriate lighting. Check your state laws.

Know who has the right of way.

As with skiing, the person in front has the right-of-way. When approaching an intersection, always yield to the person who arrives first whether they are in a car or on a bike.

Choose routes with less traffic.

A longer route with less traffic can be faster and will be more enjoyable.

Emily Furia, Senior Editor of Bicycling Magazine offers some important considerations for riding with a group:

Communicate with the group.

Warn riders behind you of upcoming hazards, cars and direction changes. If you are riding at the back, continuously check for cars behind you, and warn the group when one is about to pass by saying, “Car back” or “Car front” if it is coming toward the group from ahead. Some riders will tap their seat with the right butt cheek to signal a hazard such as a mailbox or garbage can ahead on the right. As with riding alone, make your intentions clear. What you do affects everyone around you.

Take turns riding out in front.

Groups often ride in one or two lines with riders in front breaking the wind for those behind. Share the work by switching out the front rider.  When you are ready to move to the back of the pack, warn the other riders. Look over your shoulder for traffic, pull out to the left and slow down enough to drift to the rear. Ride in front until you begin to feel tired. If you are new to “taking a pull,” remember that it is okay to pedal just 10 strokes before pulling off.

Avoid pack mentality

Just because you are in the middle of the group doesn’t mean it’s time to stop paying attention. Keep scanning the road in front of you for hazards. Never follow a group into an intersection without scanning for traffic yourself.