Learning to ride a bicycle is one of those childhood rites of passage that almost everyone goes through. Nowadays, with rising gas prices and an ever increasing downtown population, it only makes sense that people look for alternative means of travel. So what are the rules of the game when you take a bike into the streets? In actuality, they are the same as if operating a motor vehicle. Here is a rundown of things cyclists should be aware of.
Spring is here and as usual, Richmond is simply covered in bicycles. My friend and this week’s guest columnist Ian Dunwiddie was born and raised in Richmond and might as well have a bicycle for the lower half of his body. Which qualifies him to deliver some long overdue cycling etiquette.
Learning to ride a bicycle is one of those childhood rites of passage that almost everyone goes through. Like so many other things, once you learn how, you never really forget the rudimentary principles. Nowadays, with rising gas prices and an ever increasing downtown population, it only makes sense that people look for alternative means of travel. Cycling is the logical choice.
So what are the rules of the game when you take a bike into the streets? In actuality, they are the same as if operating a motor vehicle. Here is a rundown of things cyclists should be aware of.
A cyclist must obey all traffic laws, signs, lights and markings.
It is totally feasible to be pulled over for speeding on a bicycle (personal experience) or get a ticket for running a red light (personal experience). These are not instances of bored policemen harassing cyclists. These are instances of safety violations.
Always ride with the flow of traffic.
Cyclists must ride their bikes as close to the side of the road as possible. In the Fan there is plenty of space between the white line and parked cars for cyclists to maneuver without having to worry about traffic. Keep your head up and watch the parked cars as much as anything else in front of you. You never know when someone is going to throw their driver door open without checking their mirror first. Also, no one likes that guy who rides his bike against traffic on Cherry St. It’s dangerous and makes drivers do weird things. So don’t be that person.
Riding on the sidewalk is OK
Rumors were going around for a while that it was illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks in the city. This isn’t Brooklyn. If you must ride on the sidewalk then yield the right of way to pedestrians. That’s all there is to it.
Cyclists must signal their intention to turn or stop.
Remember those hand signals you had to learn when taking driver’s education? Yeah, the real dorky ones that just about everyone scoffs over. Well, cyclists are required to use those to alert motorists. Need a refresher? Form a 90 degree angle with your left elbow. Hand up means right turn. Hand down means stop. Hold your left hand straight out from your body to signal a left turn.
- Wear a helmet. It’s for your own good. For all the times you get chastised for not “looking cool” the one time you have a serious accident is when you’ll be glad you were wearing a helmet. Helmet regulations vary depending on the county you live in. Wear one anyway.
- Use front and rear lights. It’s required between sunset and sunrise. This is a super easy way to make drivers aware of you that is well worth it.
- Keep at least one hand on your handlebars at all times. It’s really hard to brake when you’re texting and drinking coffee and a student walks out in front of you.
- Don’t wear headphones in both ears. It makes it very difficult to hear traffic around you, which could be potentially dangerous.
The most important part of cycling in the city is to take a defensive approach to motorists and pedestrians. Don’t test your mettle against automobiles. Don’t buzz students as they walk out into the street oblivious to everything. Just enjoy your indirect exercise, infinite parking options and fuel savings. Visit VDOT for more information on bicycle laws in Virginia.
Have an etiquette question and need some advice? Email email@example.com.
- VDOT’s Laws for Bicycling
- [Also, here's the only bit of Richmond City Code I could find about riding things on sidewalks. -- Ed] – City Code Sec. 102-157.1.a – “It shall be unlawful for a person to operate an electric personal assistive mobility device, a motorized skateboard or scooter, motor-driven cycle or electric power-assisted bicycle, as defined in Code of Virginia, § 46.2-100, on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk where such operation is prohibited and where signs indicating such prohibition are conspicuously posted in the general area.”
- A multimodal Pecha Kucha