Street Riding Tips

copyright Brian Miller

Ride with at least one finger on a brake lever.

For beginners: Try to ride with the direction of traffic flow. Riding against traffic may increase your view of cars, but will increase your contact with cars exponentially. Almost always safer to ride with traffic.

In the city we are tolerated to ride alongside parallel parked cars. In the door swing zone where no motorist would go. This is a rather safe area however, except for the doors.

Know traffic laws only to predict what cars should do. None were written for the bicyclist. Riders should only follow the rules that preserve your energy and your safety.

I like to use a rear view mirror and reflectors.

When riding two-way streets be extra wary of left turners facing you, they are unpredictable. Try to cross the intersection with a car at your side. One way streets are safer.

On multi-lane one-way streets, get out in traffic if there is an upcoming blockage on your side. Otherwise you can get trapped, resulting in much more dangerous maneuvers to get out.

Straddling the lane is recommended for advanced riders. This is fine if traffic is dead stopped or moving well. Be extra careful when traffic is moving slowly, drivers are antsy and often aggressively change lanes.

Conserving momentum is very important to efficient street riding. A rider cannot efficiently come to a complete stop, with zero momentum, and then be expected resume speed. The human puts out a mere .4 horsepower. A large amount of energy is wasted to reaccelerate. It uses less power for a rider to idle, to ride around in a circle, waiting for the traffic problem to clear.

Steering around a hole takes less energy that riding through it.

Stay visible, don't cower at the edge of the lane. Take the center of the lane when possible.

The car tire paths give the best traction on the street. The exact center of the lane is often greasy. This is extra important in the rain.

For beginners: Geez, don’t ride on the sidewalk. For advanced riders: take the sidewalk if your street is blocked; look out for opening building doors.

When approaching cross streets, pay attention to their direction. See the ONE WAY signs. Get in the habit of switching to the upstream side of that cross flow to avoid turning cars of your lane.

Advanced technique: When perpendicularly crossing flowing traffic, initially steer into the flow. When a large enough gap presents itself, dive through it.

Get in the habit of getting your ass off the seat and stretched back for panic stops.

Cross behind strolling pedestrians. They do not need to know what they are doing.

Say excuse me, if you can, when a mistake is made. Try not to piss people off.

Give the right of way to peds, demand your right of way from cars. Making eye contact with drivers will help this.

Concentrate on improving your peripheral vision awareness. Use eye protection. Listen.

Practice looking backward over your shoulder while riding straight.

When approaching a hairy situation, look at distant pedestrians in there. If they nonchalantly cross the street, relax a bit. If their eyes are popping, prepare for braking. This technique is very useful though not 100% reliable; some peds will accidentally walk in front of a car, some will intentionally cross 1 inch from a car.

Don't fall down. If you go down, don't hit your head. Try to fall on the back of either shoulder, or on the side of your ass (not hip bone). Roll.

Ride in drivers' mirror view. Be aware of their blindspots. The urban rider will often be going the same speed or faster than motorists.