Seven bicycling etiquette tips for everyone

Did you know May is National Bike Month? Many bike advocacy organizations organize bicycling and bike to work events throughout the United States and Canada in the spring to encourage bike commuting.

My husband and I are avid bicyclists, although lately, he’s been more devoted than I have as he rides his bike to work most days and I’ve ridden my bike only a couple times this year. National Bike Month is a good nudge to encourage me to tune up my bike and get out there. I won’t be the only one. Everyone from beginning to more experienced cyclists will be jumping on their bikes this month. Since so many riders do give cycling a shot this month, sometimes for the first time, some bicycling etiquette tips are in order.

Heed the rules of the road. Bicyclists follow the same rules of the road as cars. That means you need to stop at stop signs and stop lights. And queue up behind other cars when waiting for a light rather than pushing ahead of the cars.

Pass left. When passing other bikers, always pass on the left. Never pass on the right unless there is an emergency of some sort that would require you to do so. And, always, always say “on your left” as you pass. Why is this important? It keeps from surprising a fellow cyclist. And, avoids having a biker turn left all of a sudden or just move to the left as you’re passing her because she didn’t know you were there. I know of someone who was in a very serious accident when he unexpectedly turned left into a bicyclist who was passing him quietly.

Stay in designated bike lanes. Many cities have added bike lanes and sharrows (symbols that signify both bikes and cars share the same streets) to protect bicyclists. Take advantage of those bike lanes and try to ride in them rather than on the rest of the road. And, when you are in streets that are designated as shared roads, ride like a car, but use caution. Drivers often don’t see bicyclists. Make sure you are visible by using lights as well as wearing bright and reflective clothing.

Be predictable. Avoid weaving in and out of cars or lanes and making sudden direction changes. You’re more likely to get hit by a car if you do something unexpected.

Signal your intentions. Always let other bicyclists and vehicles know what you’re doing. When there are cyclists behind you, it’s a good idea to use verbal signals in addition to hand signals. If you’re slowing down say “slowing.” When stopping, state “stopping.” In addition, put your left arm straight down with an open palm. When you are turning left, point to the left with your left arm. If you’re turning right, use your right arm to point right.

Yield to pedestrians. I know as a bicyclist it can be frustrating having to navigate around pedestrians on the street or on a trail, but pedestrians have the right of way. They are slower than us; so slow down, give them space and let them know when you are passing.

Be humble. Finally, only pass a biker when you are strong enough to sustain being in the lead. Don’t let your ego get the better of you and cause you to pass a rider only to die a few feet ahead of him. This is a big pet peeve for many experienced bicyclists. Not only is it annoying to the other rider, you’ll likely be embarrassed as you are passed.

Is there anything you would you add to this list? Do you have any biking pet peeves?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. Holly on September 12, 2018 at 9:36 am

    I’ve noticed that many bikers are foregoing the “On your left” (or bell chime) courtesy when passing pedestrians these days compared to when I first moved here 10 years ago and was so impressed by it. I’m more often the pedestrian than the biker, so when a bike whizzes by without warning, sometimes much to close for comfort, it is quite unpleasant. When folks do alert me, I try to move as far right as I can and say thank you quickly so they can hear as they pass to let them know their kindness is appreciated. Are there any other suggested ways to encourage this positive behavior?

  2. Arden on October 9, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Holly, it can be really frustrating and scary when bicyclists don’t let you know they are passing. Saying thank you when people do is a great way to acknowledge them for doing the right thing. You could try saying something like, “Oh, you scared me!” to those who don’t state their intentions. Something to let them know they need to warn you. I hope that helps.

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