It’s a welcome development that an increasing number of people are understanding the importance of bicycles in environmental conservation and road congestion reduction. Many cyclists can also now rest easy knowing that riding a bicycle on the highway is now much safer than it was a few years ago.
Many countries have invested in ensuring that cyclists have sufficient space on the roads. There have also been commendable campaigns on the need for safe coexistence among drivers, riders, and pedestrians.
If you are one of the people who prefer to get from A to B using a bicycle, you must understand the bicycle road rules that you should follow. These regulations can mean the difference between life and death. Bicycle road rules will also help you gain knowledge on dealing with different scenarios on the road. Let’s look at some standard bicycle rules that you need to follow before you hit the road.
Bicycle safety requirements
To be safe on the road, your bicycle should be fitted with the following safety equipment:
- Reflectors – Reflectors allow motorists to see you when you’re cycling in misty weather and at night. Unless you’re riding a sidewalk bicycle, you must have a reflector. The law requires you to have a red or amber reflector on your bike at the back, a colorless one on the front, and amber reflectors on the front sides of your pedals.
- Lighting – it’s vital that your bike has sufficient white lighting, especially when riding at night. You should have a light that points straight forward and another one pointing backward.
- Helmet – A helmet is an important safety tool as it protects your head in case of an accident. Helmet requirements vary by state and by the age of the rider. For instance, states such as Georgia and Alabama require all cyclists under 16 to wear a helmet. Other states such as Alaska and Arizona have no helmet laws, but it’s still essential that you always wear one for your safety.
- Brakes – Your bicycle, just like your car, should have well-functioning brakes. You can have front and rear brakes or rear brakes only. The brake laws differ by state, but most states require that at least one of your brakes should be functioning. Similarly, the bicycle must be roadworthy, meaning you should regularly service and maintain it.
General cycling rules
These are rules that you should always adhere to wherever you are riding in the US. They keep you and other road users safe.
1. Obey the road laws
Just like any other road user, you’re supposed to obey the road laws set for a particular road or state. You should also adhere to road signs. For instance, if you come across a ‘give way’ sign, you should know it’s meant not only for other motorists but for you as well. Where cyclists are given priority, the signs are clearly stipulated and well-displayed.
You are also expected to ride in the same direction as the traffic flow. Many cyclists assume that they are allowed to ride against the traffic or use the sidewalk, which is wrong. In fact, this assumption is one of the leading causes of accidents. So, always stick to the road rather than riding on the pavement.
As a rider, you are also expected to stick to the appropriate lane depending on your speed. The general rule in the US is for slow motorists to stick to the outer lane on the right. If you’re on a wide lane, you can share the road by riding on the right side of the lane. In case you’re on a smaller lane, use the center lane.
It’s your responsibility to obey road rules and regulations. If all road users follow these rules, then safety is guaranteed for everyone.
2. Use of hand signs
As a cyclist, you should master all the hand signals to communicate effectively on the road. Hand signals are meant to alert, warn, or advise other motorists on your next course of action.
For instance, when stopping, you’re expected to extend the left arm horizontally and place your forearm vertically and downwards. When turning right or left, your right or left arm should be stretched to indicate the direction of movement.
3. Ensure you are visible
Your bike is small compared to most vehicles, which is why you should ensure you’re visible on the road. Your dressing and protective gear should give you an edge when it comes to visibility.
When riding on a busy road, make sure the drivers in front and behind can see you. Riding behind long trucks is a mistake many riders make that often result in accidents. Always identify the blind side of any vehicle and stay clear of it.
4. Predict the movement of other road users
Bicycle riding calls for high concentration and alertness. Unlike motor vehicles, your bicycle has minimal technology to warn you of impending danger. You should always assess and anticipate what other road users are doing or thinking and react accordingly.
Even when you have the right of way, it is always advisable to make sure other road users intend to give you the way.
Additionally, always make it easy for other road users to anticipate your actions. For instance, you shouldn’t change lanes haphazardly or swerve without any warning. When everyone on the road alerts others on their next move, accidents are bound to reduce.
5. Ride prepared
Sometimes, accidents happen unexpectedly. For example, your bicycle may break down on the road despite regular maintenance.
In such instances, you should be prepared with the right tools. A tire inflator and a toolbox are among the recommended accessories you should always have. Similarly, it’s widely reported about what drivers should do should they find themselves involved in a traffic accident with a cyclist, but what happens if you as a cyclist hit a car or parked car? While cyclists do not have to be insured to use the road, it’s extremely sensible to be covered under another insurance policy, for example, home contents.
6. Exercise patience on the road
Most often, cyclists get into accidents because of rush decisions. The most common one is when cyclists want to pass at tight spaces instead of waiting for the road to clear.
Overtaking or changing lanes without a right of way is also a cause of multiple accidents. As a rider, you should always yield and wait for the road to clear before changing movement.
Why appropriate coexistence between drivers and cyclists is important
Even as cyclists are urged to follow the road rules, lack of respect and coexistence between drivers and riders is still a significant obstacle to cyclists’ safety.
Most drivers don’t accept that cyclists also have the right to the road, which often results in road conflicts.
Here are useful facts that every road user should note that can improve the coexistence between drivers and cyclists.
- Cyclists are vulnerable and more likely to suffer in case of an accident- Motorists should acknowledge that they enjoy more safety when in a car than cyclists. Thus, drivers should refrain from unnecessarily road chest-thumping as a cyclist is more likely to suffer when an accident occurs.
- Understand that a cyclist also has a right to the road- Motorists should take time to understand the rules and regulations that govern riders. This can help them to understand and predict cyclists’ behaviors on the road. Drivers should also respect that cyclists also have a right to the road as other motorists.
- Mutual respect – Cyclists should accord motorists the respect they deserve on the road. The same is expected from drivers as the road is enough for everyone.
If you intend to use your bike on the road, ensure you adhere to the road rules and regulations. Respect between cyclists and drivers is also crucial if road conflicts and accidents are to reduce. But there is still a great need for public campaigns that can educate road users on the importance of peaceful coexistence.