“On your left.”

Today is Bike to Work Day, a Cascade Bicycle Club event in the Puget Sound area. Many bike advocacy organizations organize bike to work days throughout the United States and Canada in the spring to encourage bike commuting. It’s part of Bike Month.

Everyone from beginning to more experienced cyclists are encouraged to commute to work on their bike. There are commuter stations throughout Seattle that provide food, goodies, biking information and support. In fact, my husband, Eric Mamroth – City of Seattle employee and part-time benefit auctioneer – staffs the City of Seattle commuter station every year.

Since so many riders will be on the road, I thought it would be helpful to post some bicycling etiquette tips.

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

Adhering to the rules of the road is not only the law, it’s good practice both for your safety and for maintaining goodwill with drivers. Riders who ignore the rules of the road but demand respect as a car are doing all bicyclists a disservice.

When passing other bikes, always pass on the left. Never pass on the right unless there is an emergency of some sort that would prevent you from passing on the left. Always, always say “on your left” as you pass. Why is that important? Because a biker could decide to turn left all of a sudden or just move to the left as you’re passing them if they don’t know you’re passing. It also keeps from surprising people.

One more thing about that. Don’t say just “left”. Someone said “left” as he was passing another rider and the rider being passed thought he was being told to turn left, so he did. The two collided and the rider who turned left ended up dying. Very sad!!

Stay in designated bike lanes. The City of Seattle has done a wonderful job of adding bike lanes and sharrows (symbols that mean both bikes and cars share the same streets) to protect bikers. 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, bike like a car, but use caution. Cars often don’t see bikes. Make sure you are visible.

Signal your intentions. When there are bikers behind you, it’s a good idea to let them know what you’re doing. When slowing down say “slowing”. If you’re stopping, say “stopping”. When you are turning left, either point to the left with your left arm or bend your right arm so it makes a U. When turning right, point with your right arm straight out. This is especially important when cars are behind you as they have no idea what you’re doing. If you’re turning, be sure they know that so they don’t run into you.

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 give them space and let them know when you are passing.

Finally, only pass someone when you are strong enough to sustain being in the front. This is a big pet peeve for my husband. I know I have been guilty of this once or twice. I get passed by someone and my ego gets the better of me. So I will pass that person, giving it everything I have only to die a few yards ahead of him/her. That person then has to pass me again. It’s annoying to the other rider, and humbling to me to be passed once again.

What would you add to this list? Do you have any biking pet peeves?


Please note: We have a new method of delivering blog posts to your inbox. If you have previously received these blog posts through Feedburner, please subscribe to receive these blog posts through the form below and unsubscribe to the posts you receive through Feedburner.

Feel free to share:


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 >>

Leave a Comment