How can lefties ride a bike

Obey traffic laws and safety best practices. Although the driver hitting you might be technically at fault, you are the one who will most likely be injured or even killed. Follow these basics for your own safety:

  • 1

    Know the rules and use your senses.[7] Every cyclist has a duty to know the road rules, both as they apply to you as a cyclist, and as they relate to other road users as well. This includes teaching children what rules they need to be aware of (see below). It is also important to use common sense when riding in traffic, relying on all of your senses to help guide you through traffic safely. Anticipate the unexpected to reduce surprises.

  • 2

    Ride in the direction of the traffic. Riding against traffic on the wrong side of the road is illegal and increases a cyclist's risk dramatically because it increases closing speeds and turning motorists are likely to not even look for traffic in the direction from which a wrong-way cyclist would be coming.

  • 3

    Prior to adjusting course left or right, always first look back behind you to make sure it's clear, and then signal your intent. Learn to be able to turn your head to look back behind you without veering off course. This can be done by practicing looking back while following a stripe in an empty parking lot. This skill is essential any time you need to move left or right from your course, like when you need to move over for a truck stopped at the curb or some other obstacle. Just because it's not your fault that you need to change course, does not mean that you have right of way to move over. If other traffic is using the adjacent line of travel, you need to yield to them, or negotiate for right of way to move there (see below). It's important to practice the looking back skill because many cyclists, even experienced ones, don't realize how much they veer when they look back. Looking back to make sure it's safe to move over is of no help if you veer left right in front of overtaking traffic as you look back.

  • 4

    Signal your intentions to other road users.[8] That is to say when turning or adjusting laterally on the roadway. Holding your arm straight and parallel to the ground with open palm faced forward is much more clear and attention-grabbing than an arm halfheartedly lifted and held in position with a bent elbow. Before taking your hand off the handlebar, be sure to scan the road ahead for obstructions like stones, potholes, or anything that can jerk your wheel. Not only does signaling let them predict your next move, but it gives cyclists a reputation of courtesy.

  • 5

    Stop for stop signs and watch for traffic. Obey traffic lights and signals, as well.

  • 6

    Weigh the pros and cons of listening to music. Some studies suggest cyclists are up to 10 percent less responsive to potential dangers, but other studies suggest that listening to music may not present much risk to your safety as long as you avoid dangerous environments, keep the volume low, and don't use noise-cancelling headphones.[9]
    • Additionally, listening to music can increase your endurance by about 15 percent.[10]
  • 7

    Choose a conspicuous lane position.[11] Realize that many motorists may overlook cyclists, especially those riding inconspicuously near the road edge. Some motorists are irritated by the presence of cyclists and seek to make it harder for you to drive near them. Don't get angry; if they honk that means they've noticed you! Convey gratitude by smiling, nodding or waving. Stay calm, keep your wits about you, and remain focused. A mirror can help you know when a motorist is approaching from behind. A well-timed look back, nod or even slow/stop arm signal can be very helpful in communicating to the motorist that you are not oblivious to their presence and your effect on them, which alone can often nip-in-the-bud a potential road rage situation.

  • 8

    Track your tires at least five feet from the side of cars parked at the curb to eliminate the risk of being struck, or being caused to swerve in front of overtaking traffic, by a suddenly opened door. Remember that even at 10 mph you're traveling the distance of an entire car length every second. If a door opens suddenly in front of you, you may not even have enough time to react, much less stop. And if you instinctively swerve or are knocked left by the opening door, you could be hit by overtaking traffic. Sure, they're legally obligated to look first before they open the door, but are you going to trust your safety - perhaps even betting your life - that they always will without exception? If you regularly ride in door zones, it's only a matter of time before you get doored. Since car and truck doors extend out as much as three-and-a-half feet when open, tracking five feet away allows your two foot wide body to be clear of an open door plus a minimum of six inches of error margin. Any closer than five feet puts you in the door zone and in serious risk. Don't be lured into riding in a door zone by a bike lane. That paint on the ground offers no protection!

  • 9

    Don't try to share lanes with other traffic that are too narrow for safe side-by-side sharing. Riding far right in lanes less than 14 feet (4.3 m) in width is a great cause of conflict and consternation in traffic. It makes the cyclist less conspicuous and invites motorists to try to squeeze into the lane side-by-side with the cyclist, causing them to either pass with insufficient safety margin, or realize too late that they have to at least encroach in the adjacent lane to pass safely. Alert them early of the condition that lane sharing is not an option by clearly controlling the lane by riding near the center of the lane, or even left of center, so they have the time and space to plan a safe lane change and pass.

  • 10

    Share the road wisely.[12] Between intersections when faster traffic is present, if the traffic lane is wide enough for traffic to pass you safely within the lane, keep to the side and make it easier for the drivers to leave you room. But during significantly long gaps in traffic, a more conspicuous position well out in the traffic lane helps grab the attention of the next driver who approaches, discouraging them from choosing to attend to a distraction until after you've been safely passed. A rear view mirror can help you notice when faster traffic is approaching, and to let you known when to move aside, usually after they've slowed indicating they've noticed you, but before they get irritated. Never use a rear view mirror glance in place of a head-turn look back prior to moving laterally on the roadway.

  • 11

    Know that most of the risk is in front of you, especially from traffic turning and crossing across your path. As you approach any intersection, junction or place where turns may be made, regardless of your intended direction, choose a conspicuous and predictable lane position with plenty of buffer space around you. The savvy cyclist adjusts for the proper position at least 100–200 feet (30.5–61.0 m) prior to the intersection, if she is not already positioned there prior to that.

  • 12

    Watch for cars on your right that are turning right. Turning motorists often check only for traffic where vehicular traffic is expected, sometimes overlooking pedestrians or cyclists positioned elsewhere. But sometimes they overlook even properly positioned cyclists (just like motorcyclists or even cars are sometimes overlooked), which is why the extra buffer space is important. Look for evidence that you've been noticed - and eye contact does not count (someone can look right at you and still not "see" you) - before relying on being noticed. Pay attention to where they are looking, which way their tires are turned, if they're rolling or completely stopped, etc. It's only a matter of time before someone overlooks you and cuts you off... so be ready and not surprised when it happens!

  • 13

    Moving laterally on the roadway sometimes requires not only looking back and signalling, but often negotiation is entailed. Remember that signalling your intent to move does not give you the right of way to move. Any traffic already moving into that space needs to yield to you first. So signal clearly and look back, waiting for others to yield to you before moving. If you need to traverse across several lanes, move with looking back, signalling and negotiation for each lane change, one at a time, just as you would if riding a motorcycle.

  • 14

    If you are turning left, use the left turn lane. Start preparing early so you have plenty of time and space to move across the road one lane a time with signalling and negotiation as needed. If you are not comfortable with this, pull over, get off your bike and walk it through the intersection using crosswalks based on pedestrian rules of the road.

  • 15

    If you are going straight, don't use the right turn lane or the part of the road normally used by right-turning traffic. Other drivers are likely to not expect straight-through traffic to be traveling there. Prior to the intersection, move left if you're not already controlling the rightmost lane that goes straight.

  • 16

    Don't pass slowing or stopped traffic on the right that can and might turn right. Instead, merge left to get behind them, or even further left to pass them on the left. Beware of motorists that pass you, and then slow down enough for you to catch up and start passing them... on the right. More often than not, they are slowing in order to turn right... that's you're cue to look back and merge left to pass them on the left. Don't shoot the gap! If you are passing stopped cars on the right, beware of the possibility of a passenger door suddenly opening - especially if it's a taxi. Passing on the left, with more than four feet of passing space, is much safer, and usually faster.

  • 17

    Know the speed limits. It is important for you as a cyclist to avoid speeding, and to obey all speed limits in slow zones (such as around pedestrian crossings, and school zones).

  • 18

    Know when to ride on the road, on the shoulder or in the bike lane. The rules will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but, generally, shoulder use is optional but never required, and bike lane use is generally only mandatory when faster traffic is present and they can be safely and reasonably used. Beware of glass, rubble and other debris that tends to collect in shoulders and bike lanes because they are not being continually swept clean by vehicular traffic as the rest of the road is. Take into account the extra risk you assume by riding as far right as bike lanes and shoulders usually are because you are less conspicuous there (less conspicuous to drivers approaching from behind as well as to those ahead of you). Being so far right also shortens your sight lines to potential hazards in front of you, and reduces the amount of safety/buffer space between you and potential hazards near the edge of the road. In short, decide where to ride by imagining where you would ride if there was no stripe per the considerations given above, and ride there. Remember that stripes are in fixed locations, and the best location for you to ride depends on the current situation and conditions, so don't blindly rely on bike lane stripes for guidance.

  • 19

    Don't ride in bike lanes that are marked within the door zone of parked cars.[13] Remember that bike lanes are usually only 4–5 feet (1.2–1.5 m) wide, so even if it's a relatively wide 5' bike lane adjacent to parked cars, you should not ride in that bike lane. The closest you should be to the parked cars is by tracking on the bike lane stripe.

  • 20

    Use of cycle tracks running next to the road are rarely legally required, but can be preferred, especially for relatively slow recreational riding. Even more than when riding in bike lanes, be aware of the additional risk assumed by riding where traffic is easily overlooked, whenever approaching any intersection with a road or driveway.

  • 21

    Avoid cycling on the sidewalk or footpath. Generally, it is not a good idea to ride on the sidewalk and in many jurisdictions, it is illegal to do so. One clear exception to this is where a sidewalk has been specifically designated as a marked bike path but be careful still, as it is likely you will still need to share it with pedestrians, as well as cyclists coming in the opposite direction. On the whole, many roads are generally smoother, making the ride easier, quicker, and more comfortable than trying to navigate a bumpy, frequently obstructed sidewalk.

  • 22

    Take extra caution when cycling in wet conditions.[14] This is especially true if these are the first rains for some time: oil and grease in the tarmac is free to float on the surface. Therefore do not lean into curves and be wary of slick markings and drain covers. In icy conditions extreme caution is required, but consider delaying your journey until after midday or canceling it altogether. Having large wheels will help you ride in wet conditions.

  • 23

    Cross railway/railroad lines at right angles. The tyres can otherwise get caught in the tracks, or when wet the wheels will slip.

  • 24

    Always carry identification, like a medical ID bracelet or ID card in your seat bag. This can be invaluable to EMS responders if you're unconscious.