What I wish cyclists would do

The other day I said I’d post something about what I wish cyclists would all do.

Here’s that something…

Make your presence known.

  1. Use lights, front and rear. People need to see you up ahead, or coming at them on the street, or in a dark underpass on the trail.
  2. Wear bright colors.
  3. Ride where motorists can see you, not right on the edge of the road where you are easily overlooked.
  4. Be vocal; when you’re overtaking another cyclist or pedestrian, or a blind guy on a Segway, announce that you’re “Passing on your left.” Say this loud enough for the other individual to hear you, and early enough that you can get by safely even if the person is startled and moves into your path.


Make your intentions known.

Use hand signals. They’re explained pretty clearly in the short video above from the League of American Bicyclists.

Use your voice, too — a good idea any time, but especially important when communicating on a group ride. Going to stop? Use your hand signal and yell “Stopping!”

Be aware of your surroundings.

  1. Look around, a lot. Know what’s coming toward you from the front, both sides, and from behind.
  2. Lose the music. You need to be able to hear other traffic, both vehicular and bicycular. You can’t do that very well with foreign objects stuck in your ears.
  3. Use a mirror. Unless you have eyes in the back of your head like some teachers I’ve known, or you are truly adept at looking backwards frequently without veering into traffic, you simply can’t know what’s behind you without a mirror. All sorts of hazards could be gaining on you. If you see them, you at least have a chance of getting out of the way. You will also know when another cyclist is going to pass you, on either side, whether or not the cyclist warns you. Most don’t. See #4 above.

Obey traffic laws. Simple enough. The laws apply to you. What’s more, you are less likely to be hurt or cause an accident in which someone else is hurt if you behave like traffic is supposed to behave.

You are also less likely to incur the wrath and road rage of motorists, some of whom are armed and dangerous, and you will avoid the ire of cyclists like myself. When you ignore the rules of the road, you make life more difficult and dangerous for everyone else.


In that post the other day, I mentioned my “credentials as an expert witness.”

Here goes: Since 1994 I’ve ridden various bicycles a total of more than 44,000 miles, in several different states, mostly on city streets, county roads and state highways with motor vehicle traffic. Several thousand of those miles were on trails and sidepaths with walkers, runners, cyclists, people in wheelchairs, rollerbladers, cross-country skiers, dogs, cats, a legally-blind man on a Segway (with a white cane), snowplows, pickup trucks, and the occasional deer. I’ve ridden alone, in small groups, and in very large groups.

In other words, I write from experience.

I’ve been lucky; My only broken bones came in a crash that was my own clumsy fault and that involved only me. I’ve also made my presence known, tried to stay aware of my surroundings, and I stop when the light is red.

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