Biking 101

Bicycling is a time-tested activity that appeals to people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. With the right skills, anyone can experience the joy and freedom a bicycle can bring. Follow these tips to ensure a fun and safe bike ride:

Obey the law.

A bicyclist has the same rights and responsibilities on the road as the driver of a motor vehicle. Ride lawfully and predictably. One way a bicyclist can earn greater respect on the road is to obey stop signs and traffic signals. Watch out for pedestrians on sidewalks and on roads that do not have sidewalks. Do not ride your bike on sidewalks. Not only is it illegal, it is unsafe to bike on a sidewalk, as you will not be “seen” by motor vehicles. Announce yourself and your intentions before passing others.

Be predictable.

Act like a vehicle. Drive your bicycle in a smooth and predictable manner. Watch your speed. Look ahead to allow time to calmly avoid obstacles. Avoid abrupt maneuvers whenever possible. When entering a roadway from a driveway, alley, or curb, look and yield to oncoming traffic.

Ride with traffic.

Ride on the right side of the lane going in your direction. Do not pass motorists on the right. If you approach an intersection with a right turn lane and intend to continue straight, move to the thorough lane. If you are turning left, scan behind you, then signal and move to the closest lane to your left. Repeat the same steps until you are in the rightmost lane from which to turn left.

Be respectful.

In Alabama, every person riding a bicycle on a roadway is given all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to the driver of a motor vehicle. Share the road and take responsibility for your actions on the road.

Protect yourself.

The law says that everyone under the age of 16 is required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, but helmets are important safety equipment for cyclists of all ages. Be sure to replace your helmet every few years to ensure the fit is tight but comfortable, and that the padding is thick.

Wear the proper attire.

Wear protective, reflective, and bright clothing. Clothing made specifically for cyclists can offer many benefits as well, like moisture-wicking material, a longer tail that can be tucked in, bright colors, and reflective elements. Bike gloves provide extra shock protection for your hands, and grip fabric can help secure your hands on the handlebars. Bike shorts also provide added comfort. Finally, shoes with stiff soles can help keep feet happy during the ride.

Be sure you can be seen.

If you’re riding at night, use bright lights and blinky lights on your bicycle and ride with extra caution.

Remember your ABCs.

Perform an ABC Quick Check (PDF) before each bicycle ride. Check the following:

  • Air pressure: Spin your wheels and check that your tires are not too worn to ride.

  • Brakes: Ensure brake pads are clean, straight, and in proper contact with the rims.

  • Cranks, chains, and cogs: Try to wiggle the crank arms and be sure there is no movement. Spin the pedals and cranks to see if the chain is gliding smoothly. Clean the chains of residue and dirt.

  • Rear wheel: Make sure the gear levers and derailleurs work to shift the chain between gears.

  • Quick Release: Your bike likely has quick release levers that hold the wheels to the bicycle, on the brakes, or on the seat post. The wheels should be clamped securely. Should you need to adjust the quick release, hold the lever in the open position while tightening the adjusting nut. When you feel the nut creating resistance on the lever, close the lever and enjoy the ride.

Park considerately.

Don’t park your bike so that it interferes with pedestrian or sidewalk movements, and use bike racks properly. Also, use a bike lock.

To learn more about bicycling, check out some of our helpful tips at the links below.

For information on Alabama’s bicycle laws, visit the Alabama section of the AllAboutBiking.com website.