Rules of the Road for Safe Bicycling
Bicyclists are subject to many of the same laws as motor vehicle drivers.
Additionally, drivers are subject to special requirements to ensure safe driving around bicyclists.
- When passing a bicyclist, drivers must slow to a reasonable speed and keep the right edge of their vehicle (including the mirror) at least three feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle and its rider.
- If the travel lane is not wide enough for a driver to pass a bicyclist with the required three-foot or greater gap while in that same lane, the driver must change lanes.
- Drivers may cross any centerline—to pass a bicyclist with the required three-foot or greater gap.
- Drivers should always stay behind the rider until they are certain they can overtake safely, ideally by changing lanes.
Bicycles may be ridden both on and off roadways.
- Bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks, paths, and trails (except when prohibited by signs or local ordinance) as well as on roadways (except all Interstate Highways and when signs prohibiting bicycles are posted at the entrance to other major roads).
- When traveling on a roadway, riders have the same general rights and duties as drivers of vehicles. When traveling on a sidewalk, path, or crosswalk, riders have the same general rights and duties as pedestrians.
Riders should practice safe and legal bike operation.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic whenever bicycling on a roadway.
- Obey all traffic signs, signals, and pavement markings.
- Stop and look both ways before entering the street from a private road, driveway, alley, or building.
- When bicycling on a sidewalk or shared-use path, slow down and look for any approaching traffic at all un-signalized intersections. At signalized intersections, cross with the green light or “walk” signal but watch for turning traffic.
- Be courteous when sharing a sidewalk, path, or trail with pedestrians and other slower users. Give others an audible warning before overtaking and pass carefully at a reasonable speed and ample distance when overtaking is safe.
- Ride predictably when using roadways. Avoid right-turn-only lanes and paved shoulders when proceeding straight through an intersection, and don’t weave in and out of parking lanes. Use your roadway and lane position, hand signals, and even your voice to communicate your intended movements to other road users.
- Before moving laterally or turning, use hand signals if safe to do so and look for—and yield to—any nearby traffic behind, ahead, and/or on the cross-street.
- Plan your route carefully. Low-speed and low-volume neighborhood streets may provide safe and efficient route options. Consult a bicycle map or app for your area.
- Ride defensively—anticipate the actions of other road users and watch for road hazards.
- Ride near the center of most travel lanes to improve one’s visibility and vantage, avoid various hazards near the roadway edge and discourage unsafe passing by overtaking drivers.
- Pass vehicles with extreme care—the drivers may not see you.
- Be aware of motor vehicle blind spots while riding or when stopped at an intersection.
- Be cautious when passing vehicles on their right and watch out for vehicles preparing to turn right. Use extreme caution before approaching any truck or other large vehicle on its right side—it may turn right unexpectedly, and its driver might not be able to see you.
- Walk your bicycle when you get into traffic situations beyond your cycling abilities.
- Exercise great caution when riding in bus traffic—watch out for buses pulling to and from curbs and passengers getting on and off buses.
- Park your bicycle so you do not block sidewalks, disabled accesses, building accesses or emergency lanes.
Equip for Safety
Stay safe by reducing your risk of brain injury in a fall or crash, enhancing your visibility to motorists, preventing clothing mishaps, and improving your situational awareness.
- Wearing a bicycle helmet can prevent brain injuries in falls and crashes.
- Maximize your visibility at night—use one or more white front and red rear lights after dark, and attach front, rear, and pedal reflectors to your bicycle.
- Wearing bright-colored clothing and having reflective elements on your bicycle, helmet, shoes, and clothing can help drivers see you.
- Consider using white front and red rear lights (solid or flashing) even in daylight.
- Secure loose pant legs and shoelaces so they won’t get snagged by the chain.
- A rear-view mirror can improve your detection, communication, and comfort regarding the drivers behind you. A small mirror mounted on the left side of your helmet or eyeglasses can be particularly effective.
Learning to ride a bicycle is an exciting accomplishment for a child. Making sure that riding is a safe and enjoyable experience for your child is important:
- Ensure the bicycle is the appropriate size and weight for the child and mechanically sound.
- Provide your children with an approved bicycle helmet. Teach them to wear helmets correctly on every ride.
- Ensure children less than 9 years old are properly supervised.
- The decision to allow older children to ride in the street should depend on available infrastructure, traffic patterns, individual maturity, adequate knowledge and ability to follow bicycle rules.
- Teach your children how to keep their bikes in good repair. Check the tires and brakes frequently and adjust the seat and handlebar height as they grow.