Traffic Tips

With proper signaling and road positioning, these cyclists communicate their intentions and project confidence on the road.

One of the most common fears among new street cyclists is getting hit from behind by an overtaking motor vehicle. Students at Bike Commuting 101 seminars cite this as a major reason for not riding their bikes to work. For others, this fear leads to riding against traffic in order to see what’s coming. Bad idea! Not only is riding against traffic illegal, it’s much more dangerous than riding with the flow of traffic. So, what other steps can you take to reduce your fear of getting hit from behind?

Be predictable. Try to eliminate any guesswork for motorists driving near you. Instead of weaving around parked cars, ride in a steady, straight line. If you have to change lanes to avoid a double-parked car or road hazards, signal your movements by pointing down at the adjacent lane you intend to enter. (Always scan and yield to vehicles traveling in that lane since they have the right of way.) Position yourself on the roadway where it makes sense: on a one-way street, ride on the right side if you’re making a right turn, on the left side if you’re making a left. Also signal your turns.

Be visible. Drivers who can see you are much less likely to hit you. Ride your bike four feet away from parked cars. This will keep you from being “doored” (hit by a car door that’s opened into your path) and will make you more visible to drivers approaching from behind, as well as to drivers at intersections or in driveways, where collisions are more likely. If a traffic lane is too narrow to reasonably share with a car while maintaining the four-foot rule, ride in the center of the lane until the roadway widens and you can comfortably resume your position on the proper side. Use lights at night and wear bright, reflective clothing. A red rear light and reflector and white front light and reflector are required by law. [Riding After Dark >]

Be confident. Knowing is half the battle! Know that you belong on the road and are privilege to the same rights as motor vehicle drivers. (You’re subject to the same responsibilities too, of course.) Know that it’s not very likelythat you’ll be hit from behind by an overtaking motor vehicle. Know that the more you ride in street traffic, the more comfortable you will become. Practice street riding skills under the watchful eye of a certified cycling instructor at a Bike New York Savvy Cyclist: Traffic Skills 101 class soon!

Follow the advice above and we hope to hear from you what many of our class participants have said: “For the first time, I really felt like I belonged on the road.”

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