Burnett & Williams

Bicycle Rules of the Road

Bicycle Rules of the Road

With the warmer weather arriving, it will be nice to get out and enjoy some fresh air (while practicing proper social distancing, of course). Here are some tips to help keep you safe if you’re taking your bicycle out for a ride.

Bicyclist riding on bike path

Every year, the arrival of spring has many of us eager to get outside after a long winter spent mostly indoors. This year the stay-at-home orders we’ve been navigating these past few months makes the idea of outdoor time even more appealing than usual! As long as you wear a mask and practice appropriate social distancing, heading out on your bike is something that can be good for both your physical health and your mental well-being. 

When you’re out and about on your bicycle, the most  important thing to remember is that bikes are subject to many of the same laws that govern cars. Bikers should behave just as they would when behind the wheel of a car: stop at stop signs, ride with the flow of traffic, and signal turns (with hand signals) before turning. Keeping your eyes wide open and riding defensively is a big part of biking safely; situations that could lead to a fender-bender between two cars could be far more dangerous to a biker and could lead to serious injury or even death. Sometimes it can be easy to think that cars will always see you and yield to you if you are riding a bike, but this is simply not true. Not every motorist is keeping an eye out for cyclists.

In Virginia, a law went into effect on July 1, 2014, that requires cars and other motor vehicles pass bikers on their left by a width of at least three feet, and that they drive at a reasonable speed. Cars being required to give bikers a wider berth is really helpful when it comes to keeping cyclists safe, but it’s no guarantee. Even if you are following all of the laws, there’s no assurance that the person behind the wheel of a car is doing the same. With that in mind, in addition to biking defensively, you can further protect yourself by always wearing a helmet. Bike accidents all too often result in a traumatic brain injury, and a good helmet is your first line of defense against a head injury. If you’d like guidance on picking the best helmet for you, take a look at a couple of blogs we’ve written on that topic.

As far as safety goes, the clothing you wear can even play a role. Bright clothing (and reflective clothing for nighttime rides) help make you easily visible to cars, and therefore less likely to be in a traffic accident. And make sure that your clothes fit well — you don’t want anything loose that could get snagged in your bike’s wheels or chain.

If you have a child who is thinking of venturing out on a bike on their own, be sure that they are familiar with the rules of the road, and insist that they always wear a helmet. It’s also a good idea to teach them about bike-care: how to pump up tires, check the brakes, fix a slipped bike-chain, and adjust the height of their handlebars and seat. Biking is a really fun activity, and a great way for kids to have a little bit of freedom, but it’s also a big responsibility and needs to be taken seriously.

The bottom line is, as the weather gets nicer it’s a great idea to grab your bike and head out for a ride! Just be sure to hit the road or the bike trail with safety in mind.