Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.
That is the basic principle behind the League's Effective Cycling Program. Basic rules
for safe cycling in traffic all conform to this simple principle.
To cycle safely and efficiently on crowded roads, you must follow both traffic law and
safe cycling principles.
Legislators frequently find that it is far more difficult to tell you how to do
something right than it is to tell you what not to do. That is why traffic laws cannot
tell you all you need to know. Traffic law can be viewed as elementary knowledge,
whereas safe cycling principles are the advanced knowledge and skills necessary for
improving your performance and safety.
The five basic principles of cycling in traffic are:
- Ride on the right side of the road with traffic--never against traffic and
never on the sidewalk.
- When you reach a more important or larger road than the one you are on, yield
to traffic in the new lane or line of travel. [Yielding means looking forward and
backward, and waiting until you see that no traffic is coming.]
- When you intend to change lanes or move laterally on the roadway, yield to
traffic in the new lane or line of travel.
- When approaching an intersection, position yourself with respect to your
destination direction: on the right near the curb if you want to turn right, on
the left near the centerline if you want to turn left, and between those positions
if you want to go straight.
- Between intersections, position yourself according to your speed relative to
other traffic; slower traffic is nearer the curb and faster traffic is nearer the
- By obeying these five principles, you can cycle in many places with a low
probability of being involved in traffic conflicts. With these principles alone
you might not do absolutely everything in the best possible way, and you might
not know how to get yourself out of troubles that other drivers cause, but you
are sure to do better than those on the road who do not follow these guidelines.
There are many other aspects to sharing the road safely with others, from signaling
intent to arranging your riding position on multi-lane roads. By recognizing and
following these principles from the moment you leave your driveway, you can cycle
safely while gaining the experience to understand and practice more advanced habits
For additional training that can increase the enjoyment and safety of cycling,
contact the League of American Bicyclists at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or www.bikeleague.org to locate a certified Effective Cycling Instructor near you.
This E.C. Notebook was adapted from the "Basic Principles of Traffic Cycling" and
"The Why and Wherefore of Traffic Law" chapters of Effective Cycling by John
Forester, Sixth Edition, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American
Bicyclists. Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit
their web site, www.bikeleague.org,
or e-mail them at email@example.com.