I ride everywhere but urban riding is my specialty. I’ve been riding city streets
for more than a decade now and in that time, I’ve established for myself a set of
rules that I feel help keep me in one piece.
- Sidewalks Are Evil: Though cars are big and fast and scary, pedestrians on sidewalks are freakishly unpredictable and slow and always in the way. Furthermore, sidewalks are littered with signs and light posts and telephone poles that require navigating around. It’s all insanely slow and frustrating. Stick to the street when you can.
- Don’t Get Pinned: The rule says to ride as far right as is practicable. This
does not mean ride in the ditch. If you ride too far right, the motorists behind you will get lazy and decide that they don’t have to merge left slightly to pass you. They’ll just do on their merry way while you remain pinned to the curb. Ride in your lane with confidence and let the motorists pass you when you decide that it’s safe to do so.
- The Right Lane: The right lane is the most common lane for cyclists, which is fine to a point. If the right lane is for right turning only, ride on the right side of the lane to the left of right turning lane. Sometimes you’ll be in the right lane at a red light and cars will start piling up behind you waiting to turn right. Being a bicycle, you have the advantage of sliding left far enough to let the cars behind you go. I do this only when the car behind me is signaling to turn right.
- Ride With Traffic: The biggest danger in traffic is the cars behind you. You’re forced to depend on them pass without hitting you. I don’t like being dependent on motorists. They just aren’t reliable. Do what you can to keep vehicles from piling up behind you. Ride in the lane where traffic is easiest to keep up with. If you can’t keep up, let them pass. If it’s getting ugly, try a different route but more often than not, if there’s a lot of traffic then the traffic is moving slowly.
- The Art of the Left Turn: If you need to make a left turn, use the left turning lane. Don’t sneak ahead in the left lane. Go with the flow of traffic. Left turns chaotic enough without tricks.
- Don’t Blow Lights: I can’t stand anyone who runs a red light whether it’s a pedestrian or a car or a cyclist. Bicyclists have a bad enough reputation as it is on the road without shitting on the most basic fundamental rules of the road. It doesn’t save you any time anyway. Traffic lights work in a pattern so if you blow one, you’re just going to have to stop at the next one.
- Bicycle Paths Suck: If you look at a map of bicycle paths, you’re understand that they’re wavy round about design is not meant for cyclists who actually need to get somewhere. Secondly, bicycle paths aren’t that different from sidewalks. They’re cluttered with annoying pedestrians whether they’re supposed to be there or not.
- Learn the Bus Routes: Transit Buses can be a pretty handy tool when navigating the city. They’re big, slow, predictable, and almost always around. If you know where a bus is going and where it stops, you can cuddle up behind it and ride without any concern for traffic around you. It’s like a bird on a rhino. Another trick with older buses is to peek in the rear window to see if the “next stop” light is on. It helps when you have to decide whether to pass the bus or to continue drafting it.
- Watch for Cell Phones: This has to do more with the next rule but it’s so
important that it deserves it’s own place in the list. As far as I’m concerned,
motorists who talk on the telephone while driving their car are impaired and should be treated as such. Basically, stay the hell away from these idiots.
- Read the Traffic: As a cyclist, you have the advantage for being able to see almost everything around you. With experience, you start to see patterns in motorist behavior. The biggest threat on the road is bad drivers and they’re not that difficult to spot before they even do anything stupid. The following are just a few things to keep an eye our for:
- Crappy old beaters: If they don’t care enough to drive a decent car then they probably don’t care that much about how well they drive or if it gets destroyed or not.
- Front-end damage: A car with a banged up front end means the driver was dumb enough to rear end someone of something. Watch for any damage (see rule a.) but front-end damage is key.
- That blank stare: Keep an eye out for motorists who look like they’re staring out into oblivion. It’s pretty common if you watch for it and it’s kind of scary that these people are behind the wheel.
- Taxis: They’re stop anywhere and u-turn anywhere else. They’ll break every rule they can get away with to get where they need to be. Always expect anything from these clowns.
There are dozens of other rules and guides to bicycling. There are just a few of the ones I live by but please for god’s sake use discretion. I’m not responsible if you get run over because you read these few rules and decided you knew it all.