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By Kathy Schramm
Your bicycle is a vehicle. When you cycle on public roadways in any country, you assume all the same rights and responsibilities, and are subject to the same laws and local ordinances as the driver of an automobile.
“Bicyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles”, John Forester.
Traffic flows smoothly when all drivers of vehicles can predict what each other will do. When you bicycle predictably, act like a vehicle and show your intentions so motorists have time to respond accordingly. However when you ride unpredictably, motorists cannot be certain of what you will do next. Making a “surprise appearance” in the path of an oncoming vehicle greatly reduces the drivers response time, and profoundly increases your chances of having a collision.
Never ride against traffic. Motorists aren't looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. Many other hazards threaten the wrong-way rider.
Obey traffic signs and signals, and basic right-of-way rules. Cyclists must ride like motorists if they want to be taken seriously. Doing so is the safest behavior. When approaching a stop sign or red light, you are required to come to a complete stop and proceed only when safe to do so.
Use hand signals to tell other road users what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.
Ride in a straight line. Whenever possible, ride in a straight line, to the right of traffic but about a car door's width away from parked cars.
Don't weave between parked cars. Don't ride to the curb between parked cars, unless they are far apart. Motorists may not see you when you try to move back into traffic.
Follow lane markings. Don't turn left from the right lane. Don't go straight in a lane marked "right-turn-only." Stay to the left of the right-turn-only lane if you are going straight.
Your hands and arms are valuable tools in communicating your intentions to others. Motorist, pedestrians and other cyclists, can’t read your mind. Don’t surprise them, always use hand signals when you turn a corner or change lanes.
Choose the best way to turn left. There are two ways to make a left turn. 1) Like an automobile. Signal, move into the left lane and turn left. 2) Like a pedestrian. If you are within a designated crosswalk, dismount and walk your bike across.
Bicyclist are entitled to ride at least three feet from the curb. Gutters contain accident-causing hazards like large sewer openings, rocks, sticks, loose gravel and cracks. Riding in the gutter is very dangerous and can cause you to loose control of your bike and fall into traffic.
Watch for right-turning traffic. Motorists turning right may not notice cyclists on their right. Watch for any indications that a motorist may turn into your path.
When approaching intersections try to stay far enough from the curb to allow cars to turn right on your right. Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.
Look back before you pass or merge. If you scan for traffic, briefly turn you head, (it helps if you touch your chin to your shoulder), and take a quick over-your-shoulder and glance at the situation behind you. Always scan before changing lanes, and turning corners. Leave a good three to four feet when passing a pedestrian or another bicyclist. A rearview mirror is a good idea, but don't rely on it alone.
Motorists and cyclists will never expect you to pass them on their right. So don’t. Always pass on their left, giving them at least three feet of clearance.
Respect pedestrians' rights. Pedestrians always have the right of way. Don't cross sidewalks via driveways without yielding to pedestrians. Don't ride on sidewalks. Use the street, bike lane, or bike path. Give a warning: use your bike bell, or call out "Passing on your left.”
Keep both hands ready to brake. You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Never break only with your front brake; it will send you flying over your handlebars. Allow extra distance for stopping in rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet.
Avoid road hazards. Watch out for street-car tracks and old railroad tracks. Cross them perpendicularly. Avoid parallel-slat sewer grates, slippery manhole covers, oily pavement, gravel, potholes. All are hazardous, especially when wet.
Always, ride at least three feet (the width of a car door) from parked cars. Biking into an open car door can be a very painful experience. Never swerve in and out of park cars.
Watch your speed. Observe posted speed limits and obey the basic speed law: Never ride faster than is safe under the existing conditions.
Safe braking techniques.
Figure out which brake handle, controls which brake (usually right = rear, but not always)
Never use only the front brake (or you'll launch yourself off the front of your bike).
In an emergency stop, squeeze your rear brake lever with moderate force and your front lever firmly, aiming for a 3:1 ratio of front brake force to rear brake force.
Wear light-colored or reflective clothing.
Always wear a helmet when you ride. Helmets that have passed Snell Foundation or ANSI Z90.4 standard crash tests are best. Bike helmets must be replaced after a fall.
Maintain your rental bike in good working condition. Keep tires properly inflated, check and them daily. Let us know if any adjustments need to be made that you cannot make yourself.
Stretch. Before you start riding, spend a few minutes stretching your legs and body.
Parking and locking tips
Bicycle parking should not interfere with pedestrian and vehicle movements. Use bike racks properly, so there is plenty of room for more bikes to park.
Always lock your bicycle.
Bring a U lock or a thick combo cable lock and use it correctly. U-shaped locks offer the best security when locked through a tire, the bike frame and a post. If the U portion of the lock is completely filled with the wheels and frame, the lock has less chance of being broken open. Tall signposts and ironwork are the best objects to lock your bike against. Small trees are easily cut, permitting thieves to lift a locked bike away from its support. Be sure to secure both wheels and the frame, and never leave the padlock resting on the ground.
Sources: John Forester, Effective Cycling. (MIT Press, 1994).