Rules of the Road: Bicycle Commuter Etiquette

By Logan Harper on August 31, 2012

Safety, safety, safety. That should be a bicycle commuter’s number one concern, before any thought of sporting a new custom cruiser or rushing to class because they may be late. Almost every rule of the road is created with safety in mind and developing the conscientiousness of cyclists, vehicle drivers and pedestrians all sharing the road. Study these 10 rules for proper bicycle commuter etiquette and keep everyone safe:

1. Ride with traffic.
It is mandatory that you follow the same traffic laws of the road that you would if you were operating a motor vehicle. A cyclist riding the wrong way is not only dangerous, it is a distraction for drivers and also an unnecessary obstacle for cyclists who obey the law.

2. Stop at red lights and stop signs.
Sometimes cyclists think that riding a bike excuses them from standard traffic signals. That is never the case. As mentioned above, when on your bike, behave as if you are operating a motor vehicle. When you come to a stop signal, come to a full stop, take a rest and resume your riding after the light has turned green or there is no moving traffic.

Photo by berculture on

3. Use bike lanes when available.
Bike lanes are put there for a reason: your safety and the safety of drivers. And although there are no automobiles driving in the bike lane (hopefully), you still must abide by all traffic laws, including the two mentioned above.

4. Do not ride on the sidewalk.
Riding on the sidewalk, even at low speeds, can be a hazard to pedestrians and even you. You may think this is not an issue when you are slowly riding down the sidewalk, but even a low-speed collision with a child, an elderly person or someone who is disabled can have terrible consequences.

5. Stay off your cell phone.
You’re riding your bike with one hand and writing a text message with the other? Are you insane? Keep that phone away from your ear and keep both hands on the handlebars! If you need to talk or text, pull over to the side of the road, stop and only then pull out your cell phone.

6. Take off your headphones.
You need to have both your eyes and ears available when commuting by bike. Car horns are an obvious noise to listen for, but you also need to listen for the sounds of traffic behind you. You need to know when it is safe to look over your shoulder or to steer clear of debris by temporarily moving into traffic. If you are wearing headphones, you are basically riding half blind.

7. Do not rush.
Do not speed up of blow stop signals just because you are running late. Do your best to give yourself extra time in the morning to make it to your destination on time without sacrificing your safety in the process. But even if you do wake up late, remember that it’s better to get to work late than to never get there at all.

8. Find space on a train.
You may occasionally have to take your bike onto the train. In these cases, try to avoid rush hour whenever possible, as you will be overwhelmed by pedestrians. Do your best to find a car on the train that has designated storage for bicycles and to be aware of your bike and the people around it.

9. Lock your bike in a designated spot.
When locking your bike, do your best to find a bicycle stand. If you cannot find one, avoid locking it to a post or sign that will obstruct any doors, paths or sidewalks. Also try to find something other than that poor tree!

10. Wear a helmet.
It’s simple. Just do it for your own safety.

Logan Harper currently works in community relations for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s degree programs delivered online, which provide the opportunity to earn a Master of Public Administration  and  MBA degree completely online. Outside of work, Logan enjoys traveling, biking and watching documentary films. Follow him on Twitter @harperlogan.

By Logan Harper

Uloop Writer
Logan Harper currently works in community relations for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government's Masters of Public Administration program - one of the top MPA programs in the U.S. Outside of work, Logan enjoys traveling, biking and cheese boards.

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