Vacation Etiquette – Part 7: Cycling

Bicycle Etiquette

Whether you travel by bicycle for recreation, such as touring or mountain biking, or you use your bicycle to get to or do your work, there are the rules of the road and the rules of etiquette to follow.

The important fact to remember when you are bicycling on the highway, trail or city street, is that you are on one of the most vulnerable vehicles on the road.  But, it’s not just other vehicles with which you must contend; expect to encounter pedestrians (including children, people pushing strollers, disabled and elderly people), dogs, deer, horses, other bicyclists, etc.  Many motorists resent bicyclists on the road because they are afraid they are going to hit a bicyclist; many pedestrians resent bicyclists on the trail and city streets because they fear the bicyclist will run into them.  Bicyclists have been known to flout the law by speeding, running red lights, disregarding pedestrians, failing to signal properly, riding erratically or in a driver’s blind spot.  Bicyclists are frequently viewed as nuisances on the road, trail or in the city.

As a bicyclist – whether for fun or profit – you can change this perception and enhance the reputation of the bicyclist by becoming an expert and sophisticated rider who obeys the law and adheres to the guidelines for civility and proper etiquette, which often overlap with safety guidelines.  Following are some of these guidelines to help you properly enjoy the wonderful recreation, transportation and sport of bicycling:

For touring on the highways and byways:

  • Follow the law and bicycle safety rules.  It is your responsibility to know the law and the safety rules, including signaling properly, stopping at red lights and stop signs, wearing your helmet, and so on.
  • Remove your helmet when entering someone’s home or a diner, restaurant or other building!
  • When riding in a group, endeavor to stay together rather than fanning out over the roadway, which can confuse motorists and cause an accident.  If you become separated from riders behind you, slow up a bit to allow them to catch up.  Your first consideration, however, is highway safety.
  • Dress appropriately to avoid getting clothing caught in the gears and causing you to spill.
  • Don‘t use cell phones, headphones or other devices, or try to eat or drink while you’re riding your bike.  Stay focused on the road and what’s going on around you.
  • Don’t litter, spit, curse drivers or other riders, or behave arrogantly or inconsiderately.
  • Ride smoothly and predictably, avoiding sudden turns or changes in your rhythm.  Do your part to put motorists, motorcyclists and other bicyclists at ease and create a safer road environment.
  • Signal properly if you have to pull over, and get off the roadway onto the shoulder or grass.
  • Smile and wave a “thank-you” to motorists, motorcyclists and other bicyclists who slow down to let you change lane or show you any other roadway courtesy.  Motorists and riders are part of the same team when you’re on the road together; you all want to an enjoyable ride and to arrive at your destinations safely.
  • For additional information on general bike etiquette and safety, click here.

For mountain, trail or dirt biking:

  • Follow the rules that are published and posted.
  • Stay off your cell phone, don’t use headphones or eat or drink.  Stay alert.
  • Be aware of and be prepared to yield to other users on the trails, including pedestrians, people with strollers or in wheelchairs and other legal motorized vehicles and other bikers of all ages and conditions, as well as horses, dogs, wildlife, etc.
  • Use appropriate signals and shout a warning to those ahead of you as well as those behind you when passing or if there is an obstacle ahead of you.
  • Be pleasant and kind to those around you.
  • Offer assistance to others along the way should you come across another bicyclist or anyone else who is in trouble or needs assistance.  If you can safely help, fine; otherwise, use your cell phone to call the police or other party to report the problem.
  • For IMBA’s trail guide to etiquette and safety, click here

In the City

  • Stay off the sidewalks and ride only where bicycles are designated, unless otherwise instructed–or in an emergency.
  • Travel at a safe speed, stop at red lights and stop signs and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
  • Watch out for pedestrians, cars, horse-drawn carriages (AKA hansom cabs), police on horseback, stray dogs and other subjects and objects in motion.
  • If riding your bike is necessary to your earning a living, such as in the case of a messenger on bicycle, please remember that driving at a safe speed, obeying the traffic laws, driving in designated areas, not squeezing between cars and avoiding an accident is preferable to the opposite, which can delay you permanently.
  • Behave civilly and pleasantly to everyone you pass and encounter.  Add a wave of thanks and acknowledgement to your signals.
  • For additional information on city bike riding, click here

Be a bicyclist ambassador of goodwill.  Ride safe.  Ride smart.  Ride courteously.

Join me next Tuesday as my Summer Vacation Etiquette series continues.  And,  please let me know if there is a particular topic that you would like addressed.

Until next time,


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