Traffic law says that
slower vehicles should stay to the right. But where exactly should bicycles
ride? Here are some basics.
Never Ride Against
Traffic: If you
feel safer riding against traffic, you're wrong: one out of five car-bike
collisions results from cyclists going the wrong way. Drivers moving down a
street--and drivers turning onto the street--don't look for vehicles coming at
them in their lane. And if they hit you, it'll be a much harder head-on than
When to Stay
right if you're moving slow compared to traffic, but remember: the farther from
the curb you ride, the better motorists can see you--whether they're in your
lane, oncoming, or on cross streets. Riding closer to traffic keeps cars from
passing you on the left and then turning right immediately in front or
When to Ride In the
safest to ride in the middle of the lane when you're moving at the speed of
traffic, the lane's too small for cars to pass you safely, or you're avoiding
potholes or the doors of parked cars. If you're riding in the middle and traffic
starts to move faster than you can, move toward the curb if there's room. Some
Lanes: You can
ride in the middle of marked bike lanes. But when you find parked or moving
vehicles in these lanes, follow the lane practices described above.
Areas: If you
come to a dangerous area--like a bend in the road that you can't see
beyond--ride in the middle of the lane to be more visible.
weave in and out of parked cars, because you'll confuse drivers; ride in a
straight line. Ride at least four feet away so you don't get hit if someone
opens their door. And if a car door starts to open into you, yell and brake;
swerve out of the way only if you have enough room.
extremely careful when you ride side-by-side with other cyclists. It's best to
never have more than two riders side-by-side when riding in traffic. If you ride
next to someone, don't block cars or bikes that want to pass you. When another
cyclist turns or changes lanes, don't assume it's safe for you to go too. Always
look behind you before you make a move. When you're with a group stopped at a
light, line up single file so you don't block or slow other vehicles.
spots: To be
safe, know where a driver's blind spots are--and stay out of them! This is
especially important when you're approaching an intersection because drivers can
turn right into you if they don't see you.
follow a vehicle so closely that you can't see potholes or other pavement
problems until you're on top of them. If you're following a large vehicle--like
a van, truck, or bus--don't follow so closely that it blocks your field of view.
Also, big vehicles coming at you can hide other cars. Slow down or don't proceed
until they get out of your line of sight.
Intersections: Almost half of urban car-bike collisions happen at intersections. This
section tells you the safest places to put yourself when you reach an
intersection, whether you're turning or going straight.
you're about to cross an intersection, don't veer to the left or right. Try to
move in the straightest possible line to where you'll ride on the other
It's dangerous to make pedestrians cross farther into the intersection. Besides,
before a Turn:
When you're turning left on a multi-lane street where traffic isn't much faster
than you, merge left one lane at a time. Where traffic moves much faster,
drivers won't have time to react to you--so it's safest to wait for a gap in
traffic and move across all the lanes at once.
Turning Left from a
Follow these steps for making left turns just like cars do.
- From the right side of
the street, look behind you for a gap in traffic. Start looking a half-block or
more before the intersection.
- When traffic allows,
signal left and change lanes. If you can't find a gap and you're sure of your
skills, get a driver to let you in by making eye contact and pointing. Don't
change lanes until you're sure the driver will yield!
- Go to the middle of
the left-turn lane.
- If there's a car
already waiting to turn left, get behind it. Never put yourself next to a car in
the same lane! Don't be afraid of oncoming cars that are stopped facing you,
waiting to turn left.
- Turn just like a car
does. ( After the turn, move into the right lane--unless another vehicle is
there or you're making another left turn immediately.
Turning Left with No
If there's no turn lane, ride about four feet from the center stripe--far enough
out so a left-turning car behind you can't pass until you've finished the turn.
If a car's stopped at the intersection and you can't tell whether it's going to
turn left, don't try to pass it on the left. Stay behind it until it gets
through the intersection.
turning left from one one-way street to another, you can turn into the left or
right side of the street. In this case, California law allows left turn on
red--you can make a left turn after stopping at a red light and yielding to
vehicles on the cross street.
The Box Left
Turn: Use the
box left turn if you can't merge left before you reach the intersection. Here's
- Stay in the right lane
and ride across the intersection on the left side of (not in) the
- Just before the
opposite corner, check whether there's room for you in the traffic lane to the
right of the crosswalk, behind the stop line. If there is, go there and align
yourself with traffic.
- If there's no room
behind the stop line, stop on the intersection side of the crosswalk and align
yourself with traffic.
- When the traffic light
changes, move with traffic.
Stop Signs and Turns
on Red: At a
stop sign or right turn on red, the law says you must stop--not just slow down.
Remember to act like a vehicle. If you're at a stop sign and a vehicle on the
cross street got there first, let it go through first. If you're turning on red,
yield to any vehicles coming at you in your lane.
Don't Veer to the
veer into the right-turn lane as you go through the intersection. You're easier
to see if you stay away from the curb. And you won't have to move back over when
you get across the intersection.
Cars Stopped in Both
cars are stopped in the left and right lanes, it's safest to stop in the middle
of the right lane. But if the right-lane car is turning right and you're sure of
your traffic skills, stop on the left side of the right lane. Stop where drivers
in both lanes can see you.
Right on Red
you're going straight at a red light where right turn on red is allowed, stop on
the left side of the right lane--leaving enough room for right-turning cars. If
a car's stopped in the left lane, stop where drivers in both lanes can see
At a red light in a three-way intersection, stop on the street you're traveling
on. Don't cross the diagonal street to wait on the next corner, because you'll
confuse driver about which way you're really going.
Passing. In most cases you should pass cars in your lane as you would if
driving a car: look behind you, signal left, get into the left lane, and pass.
Here are some things to remember about passing:
- Pass Left: Pass moving
cars on the left when you can. That's where motorists expect you to pass, so
that's where they look.
- Don't Pass on Turn
Side: If a vehicle is about to turn, don't pass it on the side it's turning
- Opening Doors: When
you pass a stopped car, watch out for the driver or a passenger opening their
door. Pass four feet from the car, or pass on the side with no
- Cars Speeding Up: If
you're passing a car and it speeds up, stay in your lane and slow down. After
the car passes you, look back, signal, then merge back behind the car.
you're in a traffic jam with cars backed up for a block. It's safest (and most
legal) to get into line with the cars and wait it out. But if you do squeeze
between the cars to get through, here what to watch for:
- A car door can open in
front of you, on the left or right, at any time. Look inside cars for passengers
who might get out. Keep your hands on your brake levers.
- When pedestrians cross
the street in the middle of a traffic jam, the last thing they expect is you
zooming down on them between the cars. Watch out for pedestrians, especially
when passing trucks or buses.
- If a space opens up in
the traffic jam--and you're near a driveway or cross street--watch for a car
from the opposite direction turning into your path.
Buses: Here are
a few tips for passing buses at intersections or bus stops:
- When you come to a bus
that's nearing or stopped at a bus stop, don't pass on the right. You might get
squeezed into the curb or hit a passenger.
- When you pass on the
left of a bus with its rear stuck out in traffic, look around carefully. And
pass the front of the bus with plenty of room in case it pulls out suddenly, or
a passenger crosses the street in front of it.
- Don't pass a bus to
turn right immediately in front of it. Buses sometimes speed up suddenly.
Ramps: When an
exit ramp merges from the right, first look over your right shoulder to see
what's coming. If a lot of cars are merging, stay straight so they pass before
you on the right. As you move farther, they'll pass behind you on the left. If
there's a break in the merging traffic, move to the right as soon as you
Cyclists can swerve faster than cars--so when you pass a bicycle, pass at least
three feet away on the bicycle's left (not the right). Always shout "On your
left" before you pass so nobody's surprised.