The following are some tips to help you with your bicycle traffic skills.
See and be Seen
Take responsibility for and ownership of your space on the road. Always stay alert. Make eye contact with other drivers. If riding at night, wear reflective clothing and use bright lights on your bicycle. Always be respectful and put your safety first. Position yourself so that motorists can see you.
Go with the Flow
In most cases, the safest way to ride is with the direction of traffic, going with the flow of the normal traffic pattern. Bicyclists who ride this way get where they’re going faster and safer.
The more you follow the normal traffic pattern, the safer and more predictable you become. The rules of the road set up a pattern for every situation, telling which driver has the right of way. Bicyclists have the same rights – and responsibilities – as motorists. By riding as if you were a car, the rules of the road protect you by making it clear what you’re going to do next.
You’re Right on the Right
Alabama law says ride as far right as is practicable. There is a difference between as far right as “possible” and as far right as “practicable.” “Possible” is defined as within the available means, i.e. the furthest right which permits forward travel. “Practicable” means what is safe and reasonable (according to the cyclist’s judgment). The slowest traffic normally keeps to the right, and faster traffic passes in the left lane. Since your bicycle is slower than other traffic, you ride near the right of the road.
Use the Full Lane
Using the full lane makes cyclists more visible, encourages motorists to pass in the next lane, and allows cyclists to avoid road hazards. When riding in the full lane, ride just shy of the middle so you don’t hog the lane, but no one can ride beside you.
Watch Your Blind Spots
Scan the route ahead, and be aware of your blind spots. Keep your eyes on the traffic and on the road ahead. Watch out for side streets, driveways, parked cars, and opening vehicle doors. Don’t ride too fast to be aware of your surroundings, and slow down if you encounter a hazard.
When approaching an intersection, use the rightmost lane going to your destination. If the lane goes more than one destination (left turn, straight, and/or right turn), use the 1/3rd of the rightmost lane going to your destination.
Keep the pedals moving while being prepared to brake at intersections if you do not yet have the right of way. Moving pedals indicates to motorists that you do not intend to stop.
Use the Bike Lane
Bicycle lanes provide an exclusive location for bicyclists’ use on streets and help to guide you to ride in a safe position while on the road with vehicles. There are some things to keep in mind. They may have debris such as glass and rocks, because they are not “swept clean” by motor vehicles. If that is the case, don’t use it. Don’t be afraid to leave the bike lane when it’s necessary for your safety – bicycles and vehicles share the road.
Always be aware that motorists will cross the bike lane to enter parking spaces and driveways or to turn right at upcoming intersections. At all times, be aware of parked car doors opening into the bike lane. Pass others (in the bike lane) on the left within the bike lane whenever you can.
When coming to an intersection it may be in your best interest to enter the full lane. When turning left, you will certainly enter the full lane, which you and motorists should expect. When you wish to turn left, scan behind you to check for traffic, and when safe, move left, out of the bike lane, before an intersection if you are going straight or turning left. Alternatively, you can cross the intersection by dismounting your bike in the pedestrian crosswalk, waiting to cross while walking your bicycle.
Dealing with Dogs
Dogs are man’s best friend… as long as he’s not on a bicycle. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for dogs to chase bicyclists, and this poses serious risk to cyclists. When you encounter a dog on the road, shout “NO” or “BAD DOG” at the dog. Try varying your speed by slowing down as the dog approaches and speeding up at the last moment. If you have a water bottle or pack, squirting water at the dog can be effective. Sometimes, the best option is to dismount your bicycle and walk.
Tips for Child Cyclists
The safest place for bicycle riding is on the street where bicyclists are expected to behave like traffic, but young children are allowed to ride on the sidewalk for safety. When riding with children, adults should ride on the outside flank of the child, closest to traffic, and help point out upcoming obstacles (like opening car doors, cars pulling out of alleys or side streets, and turning vehicles) to children. Resist the urge to pull ahead and “lead” your child on your bike.
Children should always wear a proper-fitting helmet and ride on a bicycle with a size-appropriate fit. If you know a child cyclist that needs a helmet they can’t afford, please fill out this form.