Cycling can be dangerous if you don’t understand the traffic rules well. This article explains whether a bicycle has the right of way.
In 2020, the number of total deaths in the US due to cycling was 1260. Of the deaths, 806 were motor vehicle crashes, while 454 were non-traffic incidents.
These statistics are troubling. No one should lose their life when cycling. As someone who’s had many near-death incidents while on my bike, I have first-hand experience with how easy it is to get into an accident.
The concept of right of way plays a significant role in ensuring sanity on the road. It’s a set of guidelines that specify who has priority in certain traffic situations. It’s something you must understand to reduce risks when you’re out cycling.
Let’s dive in!
Bicycles as Vehicles
Bicycles fall under the legal definition of a vehicle. Therefore, the same traffic regulations as automobiles, lorries, and other motor vehicles bind them.
Some cyclists can be tempted to break the rules by running stop signs or red lights. However, doing so puts other road users, such as pedestrians and drivers, in danger. The cyclist also runs the risk of being hurt.
Here are some essential guidelines to remember when you’re out cycling:
Traffic indicators: You should follow all traffic signs, including stop signs and red lights. Some bikers might be tempted to treat red lights as stop signs, but doing so is unsafe and against the law.
For cyclists, intersections can be hazardous. Most accidents happen at intersections. So always stop at red lights and only go when the light turns green.
Turning: Using hand signals to express your desire to turn is good practice. This action clarifies your intentions to other drivers. And it also guarantees that you are acting legally. Signal your turn when you’re 100 feet or more in advance.
Bike lanes: Many cities have designated bike lanes. If they are available, always use these lanes. However, bike lanes do not automatically guarantee safety. Look for potential dangers like parked automobiles or debris on the road.
Riding position: As standard practice, cyclists should ride in the right lane, as close to the right side of the road as feasible. But there are some expectations to the rule.
For example, if the lane is too narrow for a bike and a car to travel side-by-side safely, the cyclist can choose to “take the lane” and ride down the center of the lane.
Right of Way for Bicycles
In various situations, you may need to give way to other cars or pedestrians or request the right-of-way.
Here are the typical areas:
Intersections: At an intersection, traffic lights, stop signs, and other traffic control devices determine which vehicle or pedestrian has the right of way. Without a traffic signal, the car to the right usually has the right-of-way.
But always remember that this is not set in stone. As a general rule, always think you are the only sane person on the road. So pay attention to other road users and make the best decision.
Here are the general rules for the party with the right of way in an intersection:
- The party with the right of way is the one without a stop sign in its lane.
- The vehicle that reaches an intersection and stops first gets the right of way once the other vehicle halts if both the car and the bicycle have stop signs.
- Whichever car/bike is on the right will be given the right of way if both simultaneously halt at the stop sign.
Crosswalks: Pedestrians in a crosswalk always have the right of way. Always give way to pedestrians in a crosswalk as a bike and provide them enough room to pass safely.
Merge lanes: As a cyclist, surrender to other cars when entering a busy road and wait until there is a safe space for them to pass. The bicycle, however, has the right of way if they are already in the lane and a car is merging.
Bicyclists typically have the right of way over drivers when using a bike lane. However, be mindful of your surroundings at all times.
Team rides are great. You meet other cyclists and get to enjoy your riding experience together. If you ride out as a group, always communicate through hand signals or even shouting if need be. Riding in a single file may also be necessary for safety issues.
Bursting Cycling Myths
As with any topic, some “riding beliefs” hold back cyclists from being effective while on the road. Here are some of them:
The right of way is always given to cyclists: Although they have some rights on the road, bikers do not always have the right of way. There are many situations that you’ll have to make way for others.
Ride your bike on the sidewalk: This is a common misconception that many cyclists believe. As I previously stated, bicycles are treated as cars. Wouldn’t it be weird seeing a vehicle on the sidewalk?
Well, that’s precisely what you should think about the next time you ride on a sidewalk. It’s illegal in many jurisdictions and downright too risky.
“The driver always sees me”: It’s easy to assume that drivers see you when you’re out on the road. But it is not always the case. Drivers are human. They make mistakes.
Next time you’re out cycling, remember drivers can be distracted, especially in crowded areas. That’s why you should take personal responsibility for your safety. Wear reflective or bright clothing and ensure you communicate. It makes it easier for everyone.
Cycling is safer with a helmet: While helmets play a massive role in ensuring safety, they are not the be-all and end-all solution—the best way to protect yourself when out cycling is to adopt good cycling practices. Observe traffic laws and be on high alert.
Still, having good-quality gear is essential. You’ll have fewer problems and a better cycling experience. If you want to check out my gear recommendations, check them out here.
Interacting With Other Road Users
When cycling, always remember you’re not alone. There are pedestrians and motor vehicles you have to watch out for.
When sharing the road with motor vehicles, here are the best tips you should follow:
Wear bright, reflective clothing and use lights, especially when riding at night or in low light conditions.
Follow traffic laws
Stop at red lights and stop signs, signal when turning or changing lanes, and ride in the same direction as traffic.
Stay in a straight line
Avoid weaving in and out of traffic or swerving between cars. Stay in a straight line and use hand signals to communicate your intentions.
Take the lane when necessary
If the lane is too narrow to safely share with a car, take the lane and ride in the center.
Avoid blind spots
Avoid riding in a driver’s blind spot, especially on the right-hand side of a vehicle.
Use caution at intersections
Slow down and be extra cautious at intersections, as this is where many accidents occur.
Make eye contact
Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you and understand your intentions.
Watch for turning vehicles
Be aware of vehicles turning right or left in front of you, and adjust your speed or position accordingly.
Avoid distractions such as using your phone or listening to music while riding, as this can make it harder to stay aware of your surroundings.
Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. Here’s what you should follow when cycling as regards them:
- Always yield to pedestrians, even if they are not using a designated crosswalk.
- Look for pedestrians before turning or entering a crosswalk.
- Use hand signals to communicate your intentions to pedestrians.
- Give pedestrians plenty of space and avoid riding too close to them.
- When passing pedestrians, give an audible warning signal, such as a bell or a verbal warning.
- Never ride on sidewalks or other areas designated for pedestrian use only.
- Be especially cautious around children, seniors, and individuals with disabilities who may have difficulty moving quickly or seeing/hearing approaching cyclists.
Which is the right side of a road bike?
Typically, the chain is situated on the right side of a road bike. As a result, the derailleur and gears will be located on the right side of the bicycle, while the brakes will be found on the left. But remember that some bikes have different configurations, so check.
Do bikes count as vehicles?
Yes, in most jurisdictions, bicycles are regarded as vehicles. This implies they must abide by the same laws, signs, and signals as other vehicles, including traffic laws. The same traffic laws that apply to drivers of motor vehicles also apply to cyclists, who are required to abide by them.
What side do you get on a bike?
Standing on the left side is the proper way to get on a bicycle. Grasp the handlebars with both hands and swing your right leg over the seat. Then put your feet on the pedals and modify the handlebars and seat to your preferences. When getting off, swing your right leg back over the bike to stand on the left side.
What is the correct way to bike?
The best bike riding technique may vary depending on factors such as expertise level, terrain, and goal. However, general rules guarantee a safe and enjoyable bike experience, such as wearing a helmet and other safety gear. Observe traffic rules, use hand gestures, and stay alert for potential dangers. Also, ensure you do proper maintenance to keep your bike in pristine condition.
Is biking a right?
The right to use transportation is universally recognized but not the right to bike. Biking is a mode of transportation that eases traffic congestion and promotes good physical health. There is no intrinsic right to ride a bike, but as long as traffic laws are followed, people are typically free to use bicycles for transit and leisure.
Are bike brakes left or right?
The brakes may be on the left or right side, depending on the bike’s maker and model. However, the front brake lever is typically located on the left side of the handlebars, whereas the rear brake lever is located on the right side. This is because shifting gears is usually done with the right hand, and putting the rear brake on the right side simplifies transferring ratios while stopping. The brakes may be on the opposing sides of some bikes, especially those made for left-handed riders.
What is the left side of a bike for?
The shifters and front derailleur, used to change gears, are usually on the left side. The front brake lever is often on the left side of bicycles with drop handlebars. On bikes with drop handlebars, the rear derailleur and shifter are usually located on the right side of the bike.
What are the 3 bike signals?
There are three bicycle signals:
Left Turn: Extend your left arm to the side to indicate a left turn.
- Extend your right arm to the side.
- Bend it at the elbow.
- Point your hand upwards to show a right turn.
Stop: Extend your left arm to the side, bend your elbow to a 90-degree angle, and point your hand downward to indicate a halt. Alternatively, you can make the same gesture with your right hand.
What is the road marking for cyclist?
There are different markings on the road for cyclists. Some locations may have designated bike lanes, identified by a solid white line and a bike symbol. Other areas have shared lane markings (often called “sharrows”) representing that cyclists and vehicles should share the lane, such as dashed white lines. Bike boxes are another possibility at some intersections. They are designated places at the front of the intersection where bikes can wait for the light to change.
Before You Go…
Next time you’re out cycling you now better understand the traffic rules. Ever wondered whether you can use cycling shorts to swim?
Here’s a helpful article you can read:
Can cycling shorts be used for swimming?