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The Bicyclist Rules of the Road: Your Guide to Biking Safely

Riding a bicycle can be an incredibly enjoyable experience. It’s an excellent way to exercise, enjoy nature, and take a break from the stress of daily life.

That said, it’s important to understand the bicyclist rules of the road to stay safe. Should you stay in the rightmost lane while riding? What right-of-way rules do you need to follow? How can you maintain your bike to prevent potential accidents?

At Sadaka Law, we aim to provide clients with more information so that they can ride safely. Trust us to explain what traffic laws to follow, how to utilize the proper hand signals, and what to do to keep yourself safe on the road.

Traffic Laws for Bicyclists

Bicycles are considered vehicles, just like any other one on the road. This means they must follow all of the standard traffic laws and regulations. If you’re a bicyclist, you must:

  • Obey any traffic signals
  • Stop at any stop signs
  • Follow any yield signs
  • Follow the flow of traffic
  • Follow any lane markings

In addition, if the road has a dedicated bike lane, it’s often beneficial to ride there rather than out in traffic. This can help you stay safe and avoid accidents.

Make sure to stay up to date on any road safety rules; this will help you avoid potential violations and reduce the risk of accidents.

Right-of-Way Rules

Like any standard motorist, bicyclists must follow certain right-of-way rules to keep themselves and others safe.

Pedestrians always have the right of way. Should a pedestrian cross the street, you must stop and let them go by, regardless of whether you’re riding a bicycle or driving a standard vehicle.

When entering a traffic lane, you must yield the right of way to all oncoming traffic. In addition, you must obey any road signs — like yield signs — and determine the right of way accordingly.

Bicyclists generally have the right of way when using a bike lane; should a motorist plan to turn right, they must yield to any bicyclists in that lane. In addition, bicyclists have the right of way when going straight or turning left through an intersection.

Hand Signals and Communication

man riding bicycle using hand signal on street

One of the more important rules of the road for bicyclists is to communicate properly with other vehicles. Since you can’t often speak to other drivers — and bikes lack the typical turn signals and brake lights cars have — bicyclists must rely on hand signals to inform drivers of their intent.

The Importance of Hand Signals

Bicyclists face many potential perils when riding. If a motorist doesn’t see you, they could hit you when you turn or stop. This, in turn, could lead to severe injuries or even death.

Hand signals aim to reduce this risk. By signaling, you let drivers know what you intend to do, allowing them to react accordingly. This can reduce the risk of accidents, keeping you and others on the road safe.

In addition, hand signals are invaluable when you intend to ride with other bicyclists. Using them allows you to indicate where you plan to go, which can prevent them from crashing into you or vice versa.

What Hand Signals Should You Use?

Bicyclists should know three primary hand signals:

  • Right turn: As the name implies, the right turn signal indicates when you plan on turning right. Generally, this means either sticking your right arm out straight or bending your left arm up at a 90-degree angle, depending on what state you’re in. To give drivers enough notice, you should signal about 100 feet before you plan to turn and leave your arm in position for approximately three seconds.
  • Left turn: The left turn signal, like the right turn signal, indicates when you’re turning left. For this signal, you must stick your left arm straight out; there are no other left turn indicators. Like with the right turn signal, lift your arm about 100 ft. before you plan to turn and leave it there for about three seconds.
  • Stop: Many vehicles have brake lights to indicate when they plan to stop. Bikes don’t, so you must show you intend to stop manually for your safety. Extend your arm and bend it downward at a 90-degree angle, with the palm open and facing backward. Like before, signal approximately 100 feet before you plan to stop and leave your arm out long enough for drivers to notice.

Before giving any hand signals, look around the road for any drivers. Make eye contact with any driver behind you so you know they see what you’re doing.

Bicycle Equipment and Maintenance

If you want to stay safe while on the road, it’s important to ensure your bike is in good condition. Checking your bike can help prevent accidents and keep you safe. In addition, traffic laws may require that certain equipment — such as lights and reflectors — remain in good condition to ensure road safety, so proper maintenance can help you comply with those laws.

Any reputable bike shop will be intimately familiar with such regulations and can ensure your ride is up to speed.

Before every ride, you should:

  • Double-check your tire pressure and inflate your tires if they feel flat
  • Ensure any reflectors and lights work properly
  • Check gears and chains for damage
  • Spin your wheels to see whether they wobble
  • Check your brakes to ensure they’re functioning as intended
  • Search for any debris in your tire tread

In addition, it’s helpful to have a toolkit with you when you ride; should anything happen on the road, you can address it and reduce the risk of further issues.

If you want to keep your bike in good condition, engage in proper maintenance. Store your bike properly to prevent damage or rust, check regularly for any signs of damage, and wipe your bike down every so often. While you can take care of many bike maintenance tasks yourself, it’s beneficial to take a severely damaged bike to a shop for more thorough care.

Riding in Bike Lanes and Shared Paths Safely

Bicyclists don’t just share the road with motorists; they may also have to keep an eye out for other bicyclists and pedestrians, especially if they’re riding in shared lanes. Riding with care can help protect others and ensure an enjoyable riding experience.

When riding in a bike lane, keep a close eye on other cyclists and watch for their signals. Signal properly to help reduce the risk of accidents. Watch for pedestrians and yield to them should they decide to cross the road.

Try to avoid sidewalk riding if possible. Because pedestrians primarily use sidewalks, your risk of a crash increases. In addition, sidewalks often aren’t as even as bike lanes, which could make your bike more likely to topple over.

In general, stay aware of your surroundings, use clear signals, and be courteous to others using shared lanes.

Riding Etiquette and Safety Tips

black and orange bicycle helmet and glove

Bicyclists can take certain precautions to reduce the risk of accidents:

  • Wear brightly colored clothes. Sometimes, accidents occur because drivers don’t notice bicyclists — which can become an even more prominent issue at night. Wearing bright clothes with reflective patches can help you stand out.
  • Don’t assume a driver will notice you. While drivers should yield the right of way under certain circumstances, they won’t always do so. Keep a close eye on your surroundings and proceed with care; don’t proceed until you’re sure a driver has noticed you.
  • Avoid distractions. Although listening to music while you ride might seem nice, it can distract you from your surroundings, leading to an accident. Store your electronics somewhere before riding; that way, you can focus more on the world around you.
  • Wear appropriate safety gear. Always wear your helmet when riding; should an accident occur, this can help reduce the risk of serious injuries. In addition, consider utilizing knee pads, elbow pads, or other safety gear.
  • Communicate clearly and effectively. Ensure you use appropriate signals so others sharing the road know where you plan to go. Failure to do so means drivers (and other bicyclists) have no idea where you might be headed.

By following proper safety procedures, you can protect yourself and others.

Request Help From Sadaka Law If You Were in a Biking Accident

Accidents happen. No matter how careful you are, you can’t prevent every potential issue. Perhaps a motorist wasn’t watching closely and hit you when they turned. Or, maybe a driver drove through the bike lane, forcing you off the path and leading to injuries. Now, you might want a way to pursue legal compensation.

At Sadaka Law, we understand how stressful a bike accident can be. That’s why we aim to provide clients with reliable legal representation and knowledgeable advice. We’ll fight for your rights and help you determine how to proceed.

Learn more about the bicyclist rules of the road and request help after a biking accident. Call (800) 810-3457 to request a consultation.



Principal & Founder
This article was written by Mark Sadaka, a seasoned trial lawyer in nationally significant cases. He fearlessly champions clients impacted by fatal or severe injuries caused by others or corporations. Renowned for his expertise in complex litigation, he's featured in books, sought after by media for interviews, and a highly sought speaker. Notably, he exclusively represents individuals facing life-changing injuries or substantial financial losses.

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