Cycling is increasing in popularity as more people are realizing the health and environmental benefits of bike riding. New or enhanced types of bicycles entering the scene, such as womens hybrid bikes, are also attracting more riders. While anyone can enjoy this hobby, it does come with a learning curve. You not only need to know how and where to use your bike but also what laws you need to follow. Each state has its own bike laws, especially regarding helmet use, but some laws are the same no matter where you ride. Become familiar with these to avoid an accident or a traffic ticket.
Move With Traffic
Bikes are considered vehicles, which means you have to act as if you are driving a car. Ride on the right side in the same direction as traffic. Use bike lanes or the road instead of the sidewalk. Usually only children are allowed to ride on the sidewalk so they can stay safe.
Stay as close to the right side as possible unless the lane is too narrow for both you and a car to move side by side. You can change lanes to pass, make a left turn, stay out of a right-turn-only lane, or avoid a hazard.
Obey Traffic Laws
Cyclists must obey all traffic laws and signals just as drivers do. This means you have to stop at stop signs, slow down in school zones, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, etc. A police officer can pull you over for violations.
Use Hand Signals
One traffic law is to signal before making a turn, and another is to have working brake lights. Motor vehicles are equipped with blinkers and brake lights, but bikes are not. Instead, your arms and hands act as your turn and brake signals. Here is how to show what move you plan to make:
- Left turn: Hold your left arm straight out to the side with all fingers or just the pointer finger extended.
- Right turn: Make a 90-degree angle with your left arm and with your hand upward and palm facing forward. It is similar to raising your hand in class but with your elbow bent to make an L shape. Another option is to hold your right arm straight out to the side with the hand or index finger extended.
- Stop: Make a 90-degree angle with either arm, but this time turn your hand downward. Your palm should face backward, and your arm should make an upside-down L.
Use Lights When Necessary
When it is dark outside due to the time of day or poor weather, you must use a white light at the front of your bike and a red reflector in back. All new urban bikes come with reflectors, but lights you will have to add.
Do Not Ride Drunk
Operating any kind of vehicle while intoxicated from alcohol or drugs is illegal. Do not think you are exempt from DUI laws simply because you are behind handlebars instead of a steering wheel.
Cycling is versatile, from providing entertainment to exercise. Keep things safe and fun by following bike laws and researching other local rules you need to know.