Bike Etiquette for Beginners
New to cycling? We offer up some pointers on basic bike etiquette.
This summer, there are a lot of new cyclists on the roads. As a first-time cyclist or someone who’s going for a ride after a long (long) break, you might need a little refresher on the rules of the road as they apply to bikes. From bicycle signals to common courtesies, you’ll find that there are quite a few things you’ll need to know before riding off into the sunset. Worry not – that’s what we’re here for.
Keep reading for everything you need to know to have a safe (and courteous) ride.
Ride on the road
In cities like Toronto, the expansion of the bike share program means more designated bike lanes – which makes it easy for beginners! If you see a bike lane, then you can bet that’s where you should be riding.
If you don’t spot any bike lanes, then ride as close to the right side of the road as you can. While cycling on most roads is acceptable, remember that you should never ride your bike:
- On controlled access highways (think the 400-series)
- Across a road with a pedestrian crossing – you should walk your bike over
Use hand signals
Drivers have horns and blinkers to communicate with others; cyclists have bicycle signal lights and hand signals. Whether you want to pass a vehicle or make a left turn, this is an effective way to let people know your next move.
Here are some key hand signals all cyclists should know:
Left turn: Extend your left arm out sideways with all fingers extended. Or use your index finger to point ‘left’.
Right turn: Extend your right arm out sideways, bent up at a 90-degree angle. Your arm should be pointing upwards, with your palm facing the front. Alternatively, you can extend your right arm sideways, with all fingers extended.
Stopping: Extend one of your arms sideways, bent down at a 90-degree angle. Your hand should be pointing downwards, and palm facing backwards.
Slowing: Extend your arm with palm down. Then move your hand up and down.
Now that you know the hand signals, you can practice along with us!
Watch your speed in bike lanes
Just because you have a designated lane, this doesn’t give you licence to ride at top speed. Just like you, there are other first-time cyclists that may be anxious on the road. Never tailgate fellow bike commuters or zip past them without warning them first.
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Your bike may seem small and non-interfering, but you can still rile up fellow commuters with a poor parking job. Use bike racks properly; if it’s full, don’t try to jam your bike in there, as it could damage someone else’s ride. Instead, look for the next available rack.
Never lean your bike against a shopkeeper’s door, even if you’re just in and out for a coffee. Not only do you risk theft – it’s impolite to other patrons to block entrance ways. Chain your bike to a nearby pole or use a designated bike rack instead.
The rules of distracted driving apply to cyclists too; never bike while using your phone. Stay unplugged, so you can hear background noises and listen for potential hazards. If you need to talk or text, always pull over.
Many cyclists will listen to music during their commutes, but we encourage beginners to either keep headphone volumes low, or avoid music altogether, so you can stay focused.
While you may be a beginner now, you’ll rack up experience on the road quickly, and become a confident rider before you know it. Once you’re cruising comfortably, remember that there may be a number of new cyclists around you; it’s important to give others some leeway if they’re just learning the ropes.
Wave to fellow cyclists, or send a quick smile. If they’re in trouble, don’t be shy to stop and lend a hand.
Keeping these etiquette tips in mind can help make you a confident, considerate rider. The best advice we can give you now, is to get out on the road, and practice!