Although bike paths are prevalent in the Twin Cities, it is likely that you will need to become comfortable riding on streets in traffic when commuting by bicycle. Riding on sidewalks is illegal in some areas and is often the most dangerous option. Riding lawfully, predictably and confidently — while indicating your intentions to other vehicles — is essential for safety.
In general, ride in a straight line in the same direction of traffic. Ride to the right of faster moving traffic and at least three feet from the curb to make yourself visible and to avoid roadside hazards. When riding alongside parked cars, signal and move into the lane far enough to avoid opening doors. Always pass other vehicles on the left.
If you must use a sidewalk or crosswalk, consider walking your bicycle or ride very slowly. Always yield to pedestrians and let them know you are approaching when passing. Be especially cautious when transitioning to and from the roadway.
Cross train tracks, sewer grates and other obstructions at a right angle and transition your weight toward the back of the bicycle to prevent getting your wheel caught, which could cause a crash. Cross railroad tracks only at marked crossings. Expect a train from any direction, on any track at any time. Always look and listen before crossing tracks.
Safety Around Buses
Before passing a bus or making a lane change, make sure the driver can see you and be sure to signal. If you can’t see the bus mirrors, the driver can’t see you.
Never pass on the right side of a bus. Buses make frequent stops, so always pass on the left.
Never turn in front of a bus at an intersection — wait until the bus has left the stop.
When preparing to turn or to make a lane change, plan ahead to avoid a last-minute decision. Signal about 100 feet before turns or lane changes.
The diagram below shows the correct lane positioning for a variety of different scenarios. Graphic courtesy of Commuter Connection.
A simple way to acknowledge – and be acknowledged by – motorists.
Clearly indicating where you intend to ride can be a useful signal in ambiguous situations.
Briefly looking over your shoulder prior to signaling is a good way to both assess the traffic situation and indicate your intentions to motorists behind you. Practice this skill in an empty parking lot to learn to do it without swerving.
Put your foot down
When approaching an intersection with traffic from other directions, taking a foot off of your pedal while braking is often the clearest and easiest way to signal your intent to stop.
Using a bell, horn or your voice when passing others or in other situations is also a good skill to develop.
In certain situations like narrowing streets or tight/blind turns, the “Stop/slow” signal can be effectively used to warn motorists of a change ahead. It can be used effectively along with . . .
Taking the lane
If you can ride the speed of traffic or traffic can’t pass you safely, pulling into the center of the lane is generally safest way to ride.