Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bicycle Safety 101: Back to School, Review the Rules

August brings about school, and living near Clemson University, one can't help but notice the influx of 20,000 people into small-town life. The return of students means an increase in traffic. Most students will be driving, some catching the bus and a few riding bikes. I would like to see more on bikes...but that is for another post.

If you're new to riding your bike to get you from point A to point B (also known as commuter biking) or its been awhile since your last ride, reviewing a few safety tips will make the experience calmer, safer and more enjoyable. It's also helpful if your car-driving friends know these rules. Cyclists have the state-legislated right to "share the road" (as many signs on the roadways point out), and if all road users come to know what to expect when they see a cyclist (assuming the cyclist follows the rules), the road becomes a safer place for everyone.

Enough of the PSA (public service announcements) schtuff. Here are a few of the major rules that should be followed when riding on the road:
  1. Ride with traffic. Maybe when you were younger you were taught to ride against traffic so cars could see you and you could see the cars. This is no longer the recommend way to ride. Riding with traffic is actually safer because you are acting like a car on the road. This helps cars to better anticipate where you might turn, stop or otherwise maneuver. Make sure you ride with traffic at all times (unless otherwise noted or riding in a "contra flow" lane).
  2. Ride on the street. Not on the sidewalk. Though you may feel safer on the sidewalk, it's actually more dangerous. Folks driving cars don't expect to see bikes on the sidewalk. They don't expect them, and, therefore, don't actually "see" them. When you come to a cross street and just ride on through, you're putting yourself at greater risk for being involved in a bike crash.
  3. Obey all traffic laws. If cyclists, especially commuters, want respect from drivers, we have to earn it. Cars must follow all the rules of the road. So must bikers. If we want to keep our rights, we must respect the rules. That means stop at every stop sign, obey every traffic light and road sign, signal before performing a maneuver (aka making a turn) and be courteous to others (cars, trucks, pedestrians) around you.
  4. Wear a helmet. For safety's sake! Might mess up that 'do, but your brain is worth it!
  5. Wear lights at night, dawn, dusk or in bad weather:  White for the front and Red for the back. Wearing lights at night is state law, and it makes any cyclist much easier to be seen. There are all kinds of different types that you can buy at your local bike shop or on-line. 
  6. Be assertive. "Take the Lane." This is the idea that if a cyclist needs to make a turn, merge into a lane or make some other maneuver in traffic that they act as boldly as a car, actually taking the lane. Does this take practice, courage and a bit of daring? Yes, and others riding in traffic around you will feel more comfortable if you act with purpose.
  7. Be courteous to pedestrians (and others). Good biking karma is a good thing to cultivate. Always yield to pedestrians (it's also state law). Give the "thank you" wave to any auto that waves you through. And treat others how you'd like to be treated.
If you decide to take to the road, just remember a few of these tips. You can also review the state rules here, and the biking policies at Clemson University here. No matter if you're in elementary school, high school, college or life-long learner, in the Upstate or out-of state, avid biking commuter or car-driver, knowing the rules of the road for cyclist will help create a safer environment for all. Got a favorite tip or rule to add? Post 'em below!


  1. Well said - always a valuable refresher! Plenty of road to go around...

  2. Thanks, Dan! You've always been a model athlete/community member, as a cyclist and motorist. Thanks for the support. Keep up the good work!