A 'How to Ride a Bicycle on the Street’ Guide
May 1, 2023
Riding a bike on the road seems simple enough. Doesn’t it? How hard can it possibly be? Stay in the bike lane. Signal when necessary. Watch for cars. Wear a helmet. It’s not rocket science! Well, not entirely. There are certain rules in motion. Gravity and physics and all that. But that’s got nothing to do with the rules of the road. Oh no. That’s an entirely different mess with plenty of people out there moving right along with you, past you, beside you. Zipping and zooming around in their own worlds. And with an ebike moving at speeds up to 28 miles per hour, it only adds more reasons to revisit our place as cyclists on the street.
Let’s look at how we can implement cycling best practices and what that means with an electric motor behind our pedaling and how that can change how to bike on the road as well as taking your adventures off it.
Safety First, Then Ride Safely
Better safe than sorry. There’s no reason not to keep these precautions in mind when riding or preparing to ride day or night, on sand and snow, and through trails and traffic.
- Wear a helmet! It could be what keeps you alive. And if you ride an ebike with higher speed capabilities it is a MUST to protect your noggin.
- Dress in bright, visible clothes. Being fashionable is important but it’s also important to make sure other riders or vehicles can see you. Avoid wearing dark colors. (Especially at night!)
- Move with the flow of traffic. Some of you may ask, “Do you ride a bike with or against traffic?” It is illegal to ride a bike toward oncoming traffic, not to mention incredibly unsafe!
- Abide by traffic laws. Be mindful of speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights. (With an ebike it’s important to make sure you’re going below the speed limit and ride with caution through neighborhoods and business districts where speed limits are lower.)
- Yield to hoofers. Also known as “pedestrians”.
- Lights, lights, lights! Never ride in low light or at night without front and rear lights. (This brings us back to wearing bright colors. Let motorists know you’re out there on the streets with them. Just because they passed their driving test doesn’t mean they’re always paying attention.)
Traffic Techniques N’ Stuff
There’s a technique to the streets, technically. It’s a way to operate while rolling your wheels down the road (or off it). These are the unwritten rules to riding every biker and ebiker who commutes daily and should be aware of as they switch gears and break away from the bike lane.
- Distance makes a difference. Make sure there’s plenty of room between you and other rides or vehicles so you have time to react in case of an emergency. A good rule of wheel is approximately one bike length for every 5 miles an hour. This goes for cars as well.
- Curb hugging is a hazard. If you can, stay centered in the bike lane. Too close for comfort is a cautionary tale. There’s always a possibility the bike’s tires can rub up against it and cause an accident.
- Stay in the bike lane. Unless, of course, you’re passing another biker or making a left or right turn at a signal. Check with your state to see if it allows bikers to take over a driving lane (And only use sidewalks if necessary. Pedestrians have the right of way.)
- Be heard! Ring a bell, yell, wave an arm, scream! if necessary to let others (bikers or vehicles) know you’re coming through in case they can’t see you or in an emergency.
- Pass it to the left hand side. Signal with a hand, or simply call out to others on the road. Passing on the left is best and that’s just the way it goes, for everyone.
- Safety in numbers. When riding in a peloton (group of cyclists) be sure not to ride too close, keep up with the pace, call out hazards, and don’t ride your brakes.
- Two to a lane. Try to stay single file, but if it’s possible no more than two astride. In some states it’s legal to take over the driving lane (be sure to see if this applies to you).
- Predictable if possible. If you’re riding on a busy street or where there is lots of traffic, be predictable. Try not to swerve or move in a way that a car behind you or passing you may not see coming.
- None shall pass. That’s not true. It’s best to let them pass. Otherwise, they’ll honk and hoot and scream at you and that can cause panic or anxiety and then throw off balance and concentration. So, if cars start to stack up behind you, wave them on.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Road awareness is essential. There’s no telling what’s around the next bend, but if we pay attention then there’s a good chance we can see it coming, when it comes, whatever it is. If your eyes aren’t wide, you might as well be riding blindfolded when biking on the road.
- Eye contact can keep you alive. Be seen. And if you can, try to make eye contact with motorists. If they see you there’s a better chance to avoid a possible pile up.
- Don’t be afraid. Be confident when riding on the street. Know where you’re going and pump with passion. Move with the flow of the road and get to where you need to go.
- Approach with caution. Side streets are a possible sideswipe. Slow down and proceed with caution. Ring a bell if you have to or stop completely before riding on.
- Proper eye protection. Glare can be a heck of an eye sore. In fact! It can blind you for just enough time to cause an accident. Wear glasses while the sun is out doing its shining thing. (Side note: the sun never loses a staring contest. Also, some polarized lenses can interfere with certain ebike displays, so be sure to not only wear something that protects your pupils but still allows you to view your ebike display.)
- Respect the route. Know where you’re going. This can prevent abrupt changes in the route and bring peace of mind as your ride. No sudden changes in movement means motorists and other cyclists can adjust accordingly.
- Bike lanes aren’t force fields. Just because you’re in the bike lane doesn’t mean you're protected from traffic. If you see a car pull ahead of you be sure to watch its movements. Drivers often forget to signal when they’re making a turn and forget there’s other people on the road. Cyclists included.
Weather or Not
It’s kind of hard to predict the unpredictable. Good thing we have meteorologists to help us pinpoint approximate weather conditions so we can be prepared for whatever weather comes our way.
- Rain or shine. Be prepared for the weather. Know if you have the proper equipment for slick wet roads, or dirty trails. (Checking PSI is important, as well!)
- Slickers are quicker. If it’s cloudy with a chance of meatballs, bring a waterproof slicker with you. These lightweight waterproof ponchos can protect you out there on the road. Proceed with caution. (FYI, all Aventon ebike frames meet the water-resistant standard of IPX4).
- Wind, wind, go away. Avoid riding in extreme windy conditions if you can. And if you have to take the weather by storm, be sure the wind is at your back. It provides for a better balancing act.
Break Away From the Bike Lane, Safely.
This is where we bring it all together. This is where we make sure you’ve been reading closely and have all the information needed to keep yourself safe and ready for that street cred. And if you’re not, if there’s still some essentials missing to keep you riding a bike on the street safely, then maybe we have what you need: A bike helmet. Mirrors. Bike tools. A bike lock. A bell to signal your whereabouts! Well, we have those too. Now go! Hit the streets. Ride free. Ride hard. And most importantly, ride safe.