How To Safely Ride A Bike In Traffic

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When you live in a crowded urban environment, the choice to commute on a bicycle is a great decision. Bicycle commuting is usually faster than taking public transportation. You also save a ton of money from not paying car insurance, or outrageously priced parking fees. Bicycle commuting also provides a host of other benefits such as better physical and mental health. With so many great benefits that bicycle commuting provides, it’s very tempting to just hop on your bicycle and get going. Not to scare you away from bicycle commuting, but there’s a few things you should learn before getting started. After-all, you’re going to be sharing the road with cars, suv’s, trucks, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Now is a great time to learn how to safely ride a bike in traffic.


While cycling on the road you’re going to be dealing with all types of situations. Many motorists will be respectful, but there’s also a few that won’t look at you as an equal on the road.

You’ll be dealing with road raged drivers who will speed past you in anger. And might even honk or yell profanity out their window at you. Others will drive close to you, because they feel you have no legal right to be on the road at all. (I’ve been told many times I should ride on the sidewalk).

There will also be pedestrians crossing the street in intersections along with vehicles, both of whom you’ll have to keep a careful eye on. And then there’s the cyclists who don’t seem to know anything about the rules of riding on the road.

That’s why were going to be telling you the following tips on how to safely ride a bike in traffic

After reading these helpful tips you’ll be a smarter, safer cyclist.

Let’s first go over the basic rules of the road

By following the basic rules of the road (stopping at red lights and stop signs, and being cautious in intersections) your chances of commuting injury free will increase dramatically.

Bike safety:

  • Wear a helmet: A helmet can mean the difference between minor scrapes and bruises or death. (CHECK OUT: Triple Eight Certified Sweatsaver Helmet)
  • Wear bright, reflective clothing: Wearing bright reflective clothing with reflective tape or patches, especially in the dark or lowlight conditions helps drivers see you. (CHECK OUT: Urban Cycling Gear From Isadore Apparel and Topo Designs Global Jacket Is Cool As Heck)
  • Follow the rules of the road: Stop at all red lights and stop signs. And don’t ride going the opposite direction of traffic.
  • Always have control of your bike: Always be aware of the conditions that you’re riding in. If it’s raining, icy, or busy with traffic, adjust your speed, while also planning ahead for any circumstances that can arise. Give yourself enough time to stop or swerve out of the way of unexpected danger.
  • Watch out for pedestrians and vehicles: Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles.
  • Use bike lights and reflectors: Try to avoid riding in low-light or dark conditions. It you must, always carry front and rear bike lights and reflectors. (CHECK OUT: Bicycle Lights That Brightens The Whole City)
  • Protect your eyes: Wear sunglasses in the day so that the sun glair doesn’t prevent you from seeing ahead. And wear clear glasses at night to prevent debris from hitting you in the eyes. (CHECK OUT: Black Fly Sunglasses Last Forever and Bicycling Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes)
  • Hands are important: Gloves provide your hands better grip during wet conditions or sweating. They also help prevent your hands form getting scraped up during an unfortunate crash. (CHECK OUT: Specialized Cycling Gloves)

Perfect your riding technique:

  • Keep a safe distance: Maintain a safe distance between yourself and other riders and vehicles. Try to keep a distance of 1 bike length (or more) for each mile that you’re traveling. To keep from running into a vehicle that suddenly stops, keep at least 4 feet between you and vehicles.
  • Watch out for curbs: While riding or turning, don’t get too close to the curb. Maintain a comfortable distance from the curb’s edge to prevent flats or crashes.
  • Form a single file: While riding with other cyclists, don’t block traffic. Form a single file, with one or more riding behind you. If you can’t form a single file, try to ride on roads with less traffic. (NOTE: Some states allow cyclists to ride 2 abreast. Riding 3 abreast is usually illegal.)
  • Try to avoid sidewalks: Unless there’s no other safe options available, try not to ride on sidewalks where it’s possible to hit pedestrians. If you are riding on the sidewalks, don’t suddenly ride into the street. Also, be cautious when crossing the street at intersections, or passing driveways (Motorists don’t always see or expect you to be there.)
  • Careful around alleys: Slow down around alleys, because cars riding through might not be able to see you.
  • Passing other cyclists: Never pass other cyclists on the right.
  • Get others attention: Let others know when you’re coming up behind them by using your bell, whistle, or verbally.
  • Riding in dense, slow-moving traffic: Make sure that motorists can see you by riding in the middle of the lane. If you ride on the right, drivers may hit you while trying to squeeze around you.
  • Don’t get doored: Be careful when riding on busy streets with lots of parked cars. Never swerve back and forth between parked cars, and ride in a straight line at a safe distance. PREVENT GETTING DOORED! (CHECK OUT: Avoid Getting Doored While Cycling Around Parked Cars)
  • Braking in an emergency: Don’t ride one handed or with both hands off the handlebars. Keep your hands close to the brakes in case you have to suddenly stop.
  • At intersections: Look around carefully before entering an intersection, and continue to be alert while pedaling through the intersection as quickly as possible.
  • Let cars pass you: If cars are following too closely behind you (or there’s 5 or more), pull over to the right and let the them pass you if there’s nothing blocking you on the right (such as parked cars.)
  • Be predictable: Don’t suddenly cross lanes without using hand signals, or swerve back and forth between parked cars, the sidewalk, or intersection.

Have road awareness while you ride a bike in traffic

  • Be alert: Stay alert while you ride your bike in traffic. Motorists can be unpredictable or speed through red lights or stop signs at intersections. Know what’s going on around you at all times. And plan ahead for any possible situations that you think may arise.
  • Communicate your intentions: Let drivers and other cyclists know what you intend to do. Use hand signals whenever you plan to stop or make a turn.
  • Make eye contact: Always make eye contact with motorists to ensure that they see you, and also know what your intentions are.
  • Stay out of truck and bus blind spots: Semi-trucks and buses have a blind spot. If you’re following them, and you can’t see their mirrors, they also can’t see you. Move to where you can see their mirrors, so they can see you also.
  • Watch out for potential problems: Be alert to problems that can cause you to crash or have accidents with motorists. Sun glair, fatigue, night time, pot holes, missing sewer grates, and sharp bends in the road can all contribute to accidents.
  • Use good judgment: Make good decisions such as not following too closely behind vehicles or other cyclists, communicating your intentions, and paying attention to your surroundings.
  • Be careful in intersections: Intersections are the most dangerous places to ride though. This is where most cycling and car accidents occur.
  • Be confident: Ride with confidence by not making motorists nervous (don’t be timid, wobbly, unpredictable, disrespectful). Single or group cyclists who are respectful to motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists usually are given more room and respect in return.

When riding on the highway

As urban cyclists we understand that it’s not always possible to avoid riding on the highway. Maybe there’s no other way to go, or an alternate route is too far out of the way, etc.

We always suggest that you avoid riding on the highway as much as possible. Vehicles will be traveling at much higher speeds, and there won’t be any bicycle lanes to ride in.

If you have no choice but to cycle on the highway, obey the following rules to increase your safety:
  • Stay far right: Try to stay as far right as you can. Use the paved shoulder of the road behind the line whenever possible.
  • Know what’s behind you: Check for approaching vehicles by looking over your shoulder and listening carefully. You can also use a mirror mounted on your handlebar, helmet, or glasses. (CHECK OUT: Rearviz Classic Bike Mirror (An Illustrative Comparison) and Do You Need Cycling Mirrors For Your Bike Commute? and Take A Look Rear View Mirror Review)
  • Be prepared for passing vehicles: Brace yourself for passing vehicles (especially large trucks or other wide vehicles) by gripping your handlebars tight. Then lowering your body to decrease the wind resistance, and moving as far to the right on the road as possible.
  • Watch out for the wind: Wind from passing vehicles (especially larger ones) have a tendency to “pull” cyclists forward and toward them.

NOTE: Don’t take for granted that just because you’re a cyclist, you don’t have to obey the rules of the road. You can still get a traffic violation, so always follow the rules of the road.


Deciding to commute by bike in an urban environment is an exciting and smart way to get around your city.

You’re not only improving your physical and mental health, but also protecting the environment while saving a ton of money.

Bicycling can be very safe, especially if you’re following the tips that we provided on how to safely ride a bike in traffic.

When we created this article, “How To Safely Ride A Bike In Traffic”, we went by the experiences we gained in the last eight years while cycling in all weather conditions.

In order to ride a bike in traffic, under all types of conditions, and still be safe, it’s important that you’re always aware of what’s happening around you, following all rules of the road, and above all, ALWAYS HAVING FUN!

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