When you ride your bike around town, or on a highway, do you understand the rules of the road and how they apply to a cyclist? Many cyclists do not, as is the case with most motorists!
Essentially, cyclists are to adhere to the same rules as a motor vehicle. That means stop at the stop signs. Ride on the right side of the road (with traffic, NOT facing traffic). Use signals to indicate your intentions. Yield to pedestrians. And so on.
This also means stay off the sidewalks. Bylaws in most cities actually prohibit riding a bike on a sidewalk and you could receive a fine for doing so. Multi-use pathways are generally fine to ride on unless posted otherwise.
Riding in the City
So, now that we’re on the street with our bikes, now what? Basically, act like a car. You cannot go as fast, obviously, so have some consideration. If you’re going down a single lane holding up traffic for a long period of time, move over and let them by you. However, you have a legal right to your own lane. It is actually illegal for a car to pass a cyclist in the same lane. They must move over, as they would passing another vehicle. That means if you try and stick as far over to the side of the lane, you simply encourage them to try sharing the lane with you which is dangerous. Ride in the middle of your lane.
Sharing the road with cars over the many miles I’ve done in the saddle has taught me one thing. Wherever I am in my lane, cars will give me exactly the same distance. If someone is considerate and moves right over, they will do so regardless. However, those that pass by within a few feet will keep that distance no matter where I am. So if I’m in the middle or on the side, they will maintain that same distance (whether I like it or not). Legally, motorists must give 1m (3 feet) of space minimum. The same goes for cyclists passing parked cars or other cyclists. But not everyone will unfortunately.
Also note that there are bylaws in each city regarding cyclists on streets. Generally, you can ride side-by-side but only two cyclists abreast. If you are in a group of more than 2, maintain 2 side-by-side maximum.
Riding on the Highway
If you’re on the highway, choose the highway wisely! Find highways with wide, smooth shoulders. In this case, staying to the far side of the shoulder isn’t a bad idea. As long as it is clean and smooth. If the edge is full of rocks, garbage and eroding, you will be safer staying closer to the middle.
There are a few things to be wary of while riding on highways. First, you can quickly find yourself loosing focus as the miles go by, so do what you can to stay alert! Second, wind currents can be fun and they can be dangerous. Riding in a headwind while a car passes you going in the same direction will likely give you a boost for a few seconds. But when vehicles come the other direction, that same wind can be very turbulent. Cross winds are tricky as you will find yourself leaning into them, yet when a vehicle passes that wind will disappear for a few seconds causing you to lose your balance slightly. Be prepared!
Finally, if you are going to ride on main streets and highways, you will want to make sure you are properly setup. Tire pressures should be close to the maximums to ensure smooth rolling. Your drivetrain should be clean and well lubricated and properly adjusted to avoid distractions. Brakes should be in good working order.
Also pay attention to what you are wearing. Visibility is key, but you should also consider something comfortable and not too loose. Flapping jackets, billowing hoods, pant legs that get caught in your chainrings, all these things cause distractions and possibly more dangerous issues. Not to mention they all just slow you down.
And finally, bring along a toolset if you are going for distance (or a friend who has one!). A pump, a spare tube, a patch kit and a small multi-tool kit are just some of the basics that you should have along in the event of something going wrong.
If you are interested in learning more about riding on the road, come by for a chat. Or, better yet, join us on our weekly rides to see if it’s something you would be interested in or not! We have a couple of demo road bikes that you could try if you don’t have one yourself.