Bicycle riding is fun, healthy, and a great way to be independent but it is also considered a vehicle so rules apply and safety matters.
According to NHTSA, many bicycle-related crashes resulting in injury or death are associated with the bicyclist’s behavior, including such things as not wearing a bicycle helmet, riding into a street without stopping, turning left or swerving into traffic that is coming from behind, running a stop sign, and riding the wrong way in traffic. To maximize your safety, always wear a helmet AND follow the rules of the road.
Safe Riding Tips
Before using your bicycle, make sure it is ready to ride.
Inspect your bike to make sure all parts are secure and working properly.
- Air - Are your tires inflated properly?
- Brakes - Do your breaks work?
- Chain - Is your chain in good condition?
- Seat - Is your seat at the right level?
Make sure you have a properly fitting bicycle helmet.
- Straight - If you place two fingers on your eyebrow, you should be able to touch the rim of your helmet.
- Snapped - Be sure the helmet is snapped and the straps form a "V" under your ears.
- Snug - Make sure your helmet doesn’t move when you shake your head side to side.
When riding your bicycle, follow these simple rules:
Be Safe, Be Seen
- Whether daytime, dawn, dusk, foul weather, or at night, you need to be seen by others.
- Always wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors when riding day or night.
- Wear something that reflects light, such as reflective tape or markings, or flashing lights. Remember, just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you.
Control Your Bicycle
Always ride with at least one hand on the handlebars. Carry books and other items in a bicycle carrier or backpack.
Watch for and Avoid Road Hazards
Be on the lookout for hazards such as potholes, broken glass, gravel, puddles, leaves, and dogs. All these hazards can cause a crash. If you are riding with friends and you are in the lead, yell out and point to the hazard to alert the riders behind you.
Avoid Riding at Night
It is far more dangerous to ride at night than during the day because you are harder for others to see.
If you have to ride at night, wear something that makes you more easily seen by others. Make sure you have reflectors on the front and rear of your bicycle (white lights on the front and red rear reflectors are required by law in many States), in addition to reflectors on your tires, so others can see you.
Rules of the Road - Bicycling on the Road
Bicycles in many states are considered vehicles, and cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities to follow the rules of the road as motorists.
Go With the Traffic Flow
Ride on the right in the same direction as other vehicles. Go with the flow -- not against it.
Obey All Traffic Laws
A bicycle is a vehicle and you are a driver. When you ride in the street, obey all traffic signs, signals, and lane markings.
Yield to Traffic When Appropriate
Almost always, drivers on a smaller road must yield (wait) for traffic on a major or larger road. If there is no stop sign or traffic signal and you are coming from a smaller roadway (out of a driveway, from a sidewalk, a bike path, etc.), you must slow down and look to see if the way is clear before proceeding. This also means yielding to pedestrians who have already entered a crosswalk.
Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Signal your moves to others.
Stay Alert at All Times
Use your eyes AND ears. Watch out for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike. You need your ears to hear traffic and avoid dangerous situations; don’t wear a headset when you ride.
Look Before Turning
When turning left or right, always look behind you for a break in traffic, then signal before making the turn. Watch for left- or right-turning traffic.
Watch for Parked Cars
Ride far enough out from the curb to avoid the unexpected from parked cars (like doors opening, or cars pulling out).
Sidewalk versus Street Riding
The safest place for bicycle riding is on the street, where bicycles are expected to follow the same rules of the road as motorists and ride in the same direction.
Children less than 10 years old, however, are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street. Children less than 10 years old are better off riding on the sidewalk.
For anyone riding on a sidewalk:
- Check the law in your state or jurisdiction to make sure sidewalk riding is allowed.
- Watch for vehicles coming out of or turning into driveways.
- Stop at corners of sidewalks and streets to look for cars and to make sure the drivers see you before crossing.