Where you can and can not ride your bike is something most people aren’t 100% sure about. Today I’ll be covering where you can or can’t ride your bicycle.
Cycling on the road you have the same rights and duties as a driver of a vehicle. This means you must stay in your lane, use hand signals, and follow all road rules. Here are some common places where you may not be sure if you’re allowed to ride or not.
Can you ride your bicycle on sidewalks?
This is probably the most misunderstood rule when it comes to where you can bike. Generally, since you’re considered a vehicle and have the same rules as cars you should be biking on the road.
However, there are also lots of places where you can bike on either and if you’re on the sidewalk then you’re considered a pedestrian and should walk your bike. When you’re riding on the sidewalk you have to watch out for other pedestrians.
Bikers feel safer biking on the sidewalk but other pedestrians feel more endangered. It is also generally safer for lots of cyclists especially if they’re new to riding or inexperienced and may not have as much control over the bike.
Riding in the winter also causes lots of riders to take to the sidewalks as the edge of the road is covered in snow. Make sure you know local rules before riding on the sidewalks as it’s illegal in lots of places.
Can you ride your bicycle on bus lanes?
Certain cities allow the bus lanes to be also used by cyclists. This can be a great option for cyclists as when there aren’t buses then it’s a wide, empty, and generally flat lane.
This gives lots of space for cyclists to ride. Most of the time they are also located on the far right lane which most cyclists will find more appealing than the middle of the road.
Always be cautious when riding in a bus lane as they are large and fast-moving vehicles that may not be expecting cyclists to be in their lane. Make sure to check your local laws as this often varies from city to city or make sure there is a small bike symbol on the bus lane.
Can you ride your bicycle on the highway?
Another place where it’s generally unknown if you’re allowed to ride a bike is the highway. Even in the US, each state has different laws regarding cycling on the highway. About 65% of the states prohibit all riding on highways with the possible exception of special events and races. A bunch of states allows it if there isn’t a better alternative route. Others discourage riding on the highway but don’t prohibit it and few allow it on all interstates.
Even if you can ride on the highway that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Highways generally have narrow edges or concrete barriers putting you closer to cars if you’re riding on the side. With the fast-moving cars and drivers not expecting cyclists, I would highly recommend avoiding the highway if you can.
Can you adjacent to another rider?
Riding your bike beside another rider can actually be a good idea at times. If you’re riding in the middle of a lane having another rider beside you can help ensure drivers can see you better.
However, if you’re riding on the side of the road it’s probably best to avoid going side by side. Cars will be trying to pass you and taking up more space than you need to will cause unnecessary hazards to yourself and other road users.
Again, some places don’t allow it so make sure to check your local regulations.
Using dedicated bike lanes
Lots of cities and towns are implementing dedicated bike lanes. These are the perfect place for bicyclists as they’re not endangering pedestrians but they’re also not in the way of cars. Most drivers still don’t comprehend how they work yet so still be cautious when riding in one.
Protected bike lanes are even better as there is a divider or median between the road and the bike lane. This avoids the confusion some drivers may have and is the safest option. The downside to bike lanes is that they cost a lot and reduce the space for parallel parking.
Position in the lane
A common misconception is that when you’re riding on the road you should keep as far right as possible. This is not always the case.
Riding on the far right of the road is actually more dangerous a lot of the time. Riding on the edge where there are curbs, change in surface, signs, and other hazards can be quite dangerous.
It can also cause you to swerve into the lane sporadically to avoid these objects. Most of the time that riders get hit is also because they aren’t seen by drivers.
This is why it’s safer to ride in the middle or slightly to the left of the lane unless the shoulder is big enough. This ensures that you are visible to cars while also avoiding the hazards on the side of the road.
Safety when riding on the roads
When it comes to riding your bike safety is the largest concern especially when riding on the roads. Using hand signals is a great way to indicate your intentions in order to stay safe. If you ride on the road often you probably already know these but if not I’ll go over them briefly.
When turning right you can use either hand. If you use your right hand simply straighten your arm and point it 90* to the right. Most people choose to use their left arm only in order to maintain your right hand on the rear brake which has better stability when slowing down with one hand.
To turn right with your left arm simply point it 90* to the left and bend it at the elbow 90* so your hand is above your elbow. Turning left always use your left arm unless you have a special reason not to like having your rear brake on the left side of the bars. Just point your arm 90* to the left. When turning left make sure you move into the left side of the lane or left of center.
Another thing you can do to ensure your safety on the road is to make suer your helmet fits(wearing one is the law in most places and you can get fined for not wearing one). Shoulder checking before you turn is also a good practice as lots of drivers don’t understand they have to yield to cyclists.
When riding in poor visibility it’s a good idea to wear a reflective safety vest and red blinking light on the tail of your bike.
Following these safety precautions will help ensure you stay safe on the road.
Hi, my name is Noah Dalton. I am an avid, young rider from Canada that loves mountain biking primarily Enduro and Downhill.
“I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life, I ride a bike to add life to my days!”