Bike commuting isn’t scary when you follow a basic bike etiquette and remember that we are all human and we are all in this together – cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.
Here are my top 10 on how to do commuting right
1. Pay attention – and don’t assume everyone else is following the rules!
I’m a triathlete and bike racer, but I certainly don’t set any Strava records when I commute to work. As a cyclist, you’re more vulnerable than drivers, so I like to pay extra attention to how traffic around me moves. When approaching an intersection, I try to read the cars’ behaviors much more than purely relying on them doing “their job”.
2. Pass on the left, with an audible verbal warning and at a safe distance.
This is one is probably not as universal, but I really appreciate it when people alert me when they pass. In the end, they don’t know what I’m up to, if I’m about to swerve to avoid a pothole, etc. By announcing your pass, you will also avoid startling or scaring the person you’re passing – you never know how comfortable they are riding, and I like to respect that.
3. Use hand signals / group riding signals to alert fellow cyclists
It should be a given, but it’s really helpful to follow basic traffic rules and signal your turns. When there’s heavy traffic in the bike lanes, I also use hand signals to alert riders that I’m slowing down for any reason or when approaching a potentially dangerous situation.
4. Don’t stop in the middle of the bike lane. EVER.
I can’t recount the number of times that a rider suddenly stopped in the middle of the bike lane to snap a photo, take a call, or grab their sunglasses. If you feel the need to stop or slow down significantly, please alert riders and do so at a safe spot so as not to endanger the riders around you.
5. Don’t shoal.
Your commute is not a race. If you are faster than the person riding in front of you, please do pass them. But don’t just shove yourself in front of them at each red light, just to be passed again the next second. This happens particularly to us ladies, because men seem to think they by definition are faster than you. Turns out, they’re not.
6. Keep a smile on your lips and say thank you. It works.
Commuting in heavy traffic can be stressful. But let’s assume neither drivers nor pedestrians are out there to intentionally harm you. I certainly alert people that are opening their doors into the bike lane or when pedestrians are about to just mindlessly walk on the bike lane. It is dangerous after all! But most likely they’re as startled or scared in that moment as you are. So instead of yelling and poisoning the atmosphere between cyclists and others further, I try to be forgiving instead of aggressive. Whenever I see drivers making the effort to check bike lanes and respect the traffic rules, I say thank you to positively reinforce their behavior – it’s surprising how far a smile can go!
7. To draft or not to draft
As much as the winds in Chicago make me want to draft on my morning commute, unless you know whose wheel you’re following (and even then, as I assume they can’t control traffic either), leave a safe distance between the cyclist ahead of you.
8. Chose your position in the bike lane
I usually ride on the outer edge of bike lane. This is certainly not to complicate it for other people to pass me, but to avoid dooring. It is safer to ride closer to moving traffic as drivers are – ideally – paying more attention to who is sharing the road than stationary car users.
9. Be safe and be seen
This is probably one of the easiest ways to make your commute safer: Get appropriate lights and ideally some reflective gear. It will make all the difference for car drivers to see you, especially when commuting at dusk and dawn.
10. In case of an accident
Even if you feel fine, make sure to get everyone’s information – you never know how fine you really are. Call your local crash support hotline.
Jasmin is a Moxie Cycling Ambassador and blog contributor. Check out her bio here!