Staying Right

"Ride on the right" is one of the first things many cyclists learn, and for good reason, provided you only ride as far to the side as is safe. Read on for a detailed look at the concepts behind this cycling tenet.

Note that there is an important exception in New York City, where cyclists may ride on either side of one-way roadways that are at least 40 feet wide. If you are riding on the left of a one-way street, just substitute "left" for "right" in the descriptions below, and stay as far to the side as is safe.

  • Right is the law. In New York State, for example, cyclists must ride near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or shoulder to prevent undue (and hazardous) interference with the flow of faster traffic, except when:
    • making a left turn
    • avoiding unsafe conditions or obstacles, like glass or gravel, near the right edge or curb
    • taking an entire traffic lane that is too narrow to share with overtaking vehicles.
  • Right is predictable, and predictability is a cyclist’s first line of defense. Riding on the right side of a two-way road puts cyclists where other road users expect traffic, making cyclists very visible. Riding on the left or against traffic greatly increases a cyclist’s chances of crashing.
  • Right is considerate, and being considerate makes for a safer, smoother ride. Riding two abreast or riding in the middle of the lane makes it difficult and possibly dangerous for faster traffic (including faster cyclists) to pass safely.
  • Right isn’t perfect, though, so always use your best judgment.
    • Ride four feet from parked vehicles, and always pass parked vehicles and slower traffic on their left.
    • Ride more to the middle at blind intersections and driveways to be more visible.
    • Never make a left turn from the right side of the road; move to the left side of your lane or to a left turn lane first.
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