Bike Week – In the Road

Riding my bike gets me from point A to point B without gasoline and provides exercise. It’s fun too, but sometimes it’s intimidating.

I’ve been riding a bicycle since I was a kid, but back then I stayed on the sidewalks (or was supposed to). When I had a bike in college I also road on the sidewalk on campus and only later learned that technically that was illegal.

I also had a bike one summer in Massachusetts and attempted road riding. But I didn’t really have a good grasp of the rules, and would chicken out and jump on the sidewalk often.

But now I feel like it’s time to officially learn the rules of riding my bike in the street. That’s what a grown up does, right? So I’ve been studying up so that I feel more confident and know what my rights are.

I actually feel safer riding in the street than on the sidewalk. I don’t have to dodge pedestrians who always have the right of way. And if I’m on a mission to get to work, I’m moving fast. I don’t feel like cars in cross traffic are always looking closely at the sidewalks. They already look in the street, so if that’s where I am, they are more likely to see me and yield. I’ve learned that making eye contact with drivers also helps improve safety.

However, that doesn’t mean I can stop paying attention to where other drivers are. I’m going to start practicing looking behind me and maintaining a straight trajectory. I read about a technique where you put your right hand on the middle of the handlebar for better stability when taking your left hand off to turn around.

I’m using hand signals and stopping at every stop sign and red light. I figure drivers will respect me (and other riders) if I respect the traffic laws. That’s just common sense.

I’m getting braver about changing lanes and making lefts. I now know that I don’t have to ride in the gutter (there could be dangerous debris in there), and that if there’s a right-only turn lane, I have the right away to stay in the straight through lane.

So I’m curious — if you ride in the street, do you have any resources you’d recommend? I think we can all use more tips and advice for feeling confident on the road.


  1. Liz says:

    I do ride in the street and it can be super fun!

    Seattle is lucky to be super bike friendly. The City produces a Master Bike Map. The Cascade Bicycle Club also has good information and tips for those new to bike commuting. I find that riding on in the street on the weekend (less traffic, not anxious about getting to work) helped me feel more comfortable riding my bike when time mattered. The weekends also let me try to routes and time them!

    • jacqueline says:

      Going out riding with Travis this past Saturday did give me more confidence this week. Your are right that less traffic gives you an opportunity to get to know the roads and practice.

  2. Jen says:

    Way to go on bike commuting! This is a link to info on MN Statutes but it is a good idea to check laws in each state.

    I started riding in the road once I had the confidence to know what I was supposed to be doing and was able to maintain a reasonable speed. Even in the bike friendly Twin Cities people still get upset about bikes in the lanes of traffic, so knowing the rules and recommendations really helps.

    For example, if you are riding on a street with a good sized shoulder, try to stay to the side so traffic can pass you. But if you are riding on a very narrow street with no shoulder, take a position close to the middle of the lane. It is safer for you if cars have to wait until a break in oncoming traffic to pass you in the other lane rather than you riding close to the edge and cars trying to pass you in the remaining space. Knowing things like that and having the confidence to do them helps a ton. That way when you get the idiot yelling at you to bike on the sidewalk you can just shake it off.

    Happy trails!

    • jacqueline says:

      Is this a rare unicorn? Jen is that really you? Miss you a lot!

      Thank you for the advice on where to ride if the road has a shoulder vs. no shoulder. We haven’t had anyone shout at us yet, but someone did honk a bunch of times when we were out this past Saturday. Knowing my rights on the road definitely helps so that I don’t question where I should be.

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