Riding Tips and Learning to Ride in Traffic

Learning to ride efficiently and safely in traffic is a vital skill to use your bicycle for everyday use and transportation. Assuming you have good bike handling skills and know how to control your bicycle, learning how to ride in traffic is not difficult. Below is some information to get you started. These are some general suggestions with references to additional and more complete information.

1. Ride in the direction of traffic. Do not ride against traffic. Riding against traffic is very dangerous, as motorists will not be looking for traffic coming from the wrong direction.

2. Obey traffic laws, including traffic signals and stop signs. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. This means you have a right to be on the road, but you also have the responsibility to follow the traffic laws.

3. Ride where you will be seen and ride in a predictable manner. You will be much safer if motorists see you and understand your intentions. California law requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right as practical. However this does not require you to ride in the door zone, on unsafe or damaged road surfaces or dart in and out from parked cars. Take the space in the road necessary to ride safely and be seen. Be considerate, but your safety comes first.

4. Be aware and understand the common hazards for bicyclists (See below for links to additional details on these hazards)
     Door Zone: Doors opening in front of bicyclists
     Right Hook: Motorists overtaking a bicyclist and making a right turn in front of the bicyclist.
     Left Turning Motorists: Commonly do not see bicyclists riding in a bike lane or far to the right side of the road.

5. Do not assume motorists will see you. At intersections especially, make eye contact with motorists and signal or communicate to let them know your intentions.  Use extra care at intersections to make sure you know what motorists are doing and that they see you. If unsure watch carefully and be prepared take evasive action.

6. When riding in the rain or on wet streets, your bike will take longer to stop. The brakes will be less effective and the streets are slippery. Allow enough distance to stop and reduce your speed when turning. Painted street surfaces and metal plates become very slippery when wet.

7. When riding at night you must have front headlight to be visible. You must be seen by motorists, pedestrians and other bicyclists. A front reflector is not good enough. Left and right turning motorists can not always see a front reflector. Pedestrians with out a source of light can not see a front reflector. A headlight is vital to be seen.  A good rear reflector and rear light is also required.

8. Make sure your bike is in good mechanical condition. Brakes working properly, tires inflated, and the wheel quick releases are installed properly.

Local Resource: The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance http://www.commute.org/
In San Mateo County The Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance provides safe cycling handbooks and can put on 1 hour bicycle and pedestrian workshops. At their website a very good bicycle safety  brochure " Safe Bicycling in San Mateo County" is available for downloading. Hard copies of this can also be provided by the Alliance. For downloading and information on their workshops:http://www.commute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=4&phpMyAdmin=Xm6T3gSq,nrbiIJYDP3Ej-qc7a9#bikeSafety

Taking the Lane and Lane Positioning

Learn to take the lane when required. For an excellent explanation with clear pictures of why lane positioning is so important: http://garyridesbikes.blogspot.com/2008/08/coexistence-2-bicycles-taking-lane.html

Common Hazards and how to avoid them:

For an excellent and detailed discussion on some of these go to: http://bicyclesafe.com/
The League of American Bicyclists has put together extensive information on safe and effective cycling.

Rules of the Road: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/roadrules.php
Commuter Tips: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/commuters.php
Beginning Cycling: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/beginningcycling.php
Advanced Cycling: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/advancedcycling.php
Bicycle Maintenance: http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/maintenance.php

The League of American Bicyclists website is: www.bikeleague.org

In addition the League of American Bicyclists has a Bike Ed program where local instructors put on courses on how to ride safely and effectively in traffic. For additional information go to: http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) has some good general information on how to ride in traffic

 Seven Smart Routes to Bicycle Safety   Download this short useful brochure at


Watch a 7 minute bicycle safety video from NHSTA and the LAB at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdrrxIpQpt4
Or download at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/DOT/NHTSA/Traffic%20Injury%20Control/Multimedia/Associated%20Files/MyStream_01.wmv

Fitting a bicycle helmet: To work properly your helmet must fit properly

Learn how to fit a bicycle helmet at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/EasyStepsWeb/index.htm

Locking up your bike

Here are some sources of information on how to effectively lock up your bicycle


Bicycle Repair

Learn how to use the wheel quick release. These are very effective and reliable, but must be used properly. For how to use:


For additional repair information


Suggested Reading

Urban Bikers Tricks & Tips by Dave Glowacz  Published by Wordspace Press  ISBN 0-9561728-0-5   An excellent book on how to ride in traffic, how to lock up your bike and many other tips for how to find, ride and keep your bicycle.

Effective Cycling by John Forester Published by MIT Press ISBN 0-262-06159-7. Detailed advice on riding, repair, bicycle facilities, lighting and more. Highly recommended reading.

Web Links

http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm Online version of Bicycle Street Smarts By John Allen. An excellent resource for riding confidently, legally and safely.

http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/ Website by Ken Kifer, filled with excellent information on all aspects of bicycling including safe cycling information.

http://www.bicyclinglife.com/  Per their website “ A website for everyday bicyclists”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU&feature=channel_page A short video defining road positioning, lane change techniques, right and left turns, handling right turn only lanes, freeway on ramps.

http://cyclistview.com/ Very useful and informative power point presentations and videos of riding techniques, cyclist behavior, traffic signal detection, passing distances.

Taking the lane, an excellent explanation with clear pictures of why lane positioning is so important:

Bicycling Safety Information in Spanish

Federal Highway Administration Information

San Mateo County Peninsula Traffic Congestion Relief Alliance Brochure http://www.commute.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5&Itemid=4&phpMyAdmin=Xm6T3gSq,nrbiIJYDP3Ej-qc7a9#bikeSafety