How Do I Ride a Bike in Traffic Legally?

iStock_000019953923_LargeDrivers often see cyclists as slow, and tend to get upset if they think that we are holding up traffic. We may be slower on open roads, but there are a few situations when cyclists are actually the faster vehicle and are regularly brought to a stop by cars.

So, in those handful of situations when you may be moving quicker, what’s the safest way to ride a bike in traffic legally?

At a Stop Light

Probably one of the more common bike safety questions is about what you should do if you’re on your bike and a stop light won’t change. Many lights operate with various sensors that are supposed to detect the presence of cars, and then change the light to let them go. Bicycles are often too small to trigger the sensor.

If you’ve been sitting at a red light for a while, try moving around a little bit. If you know where the sensor is, you may be able to trigger it by turning your bike sideways to face it. If all else fails, you can use the crosswalk. Do not run the red light. Not only is it dangerous, but it is illegal.

When a Bus Stops

Too many people are confused about what the rules are for passing school buses. When the bus is moving, it’s perfectly fine to pass them up when they are moving slower than you. However, if the bus is stopped and has its flashing stop sign out, the sign is not a suggestion. All vehicles, including bicycles, are required to come to a full stop to allow children to safely board or leave the school bus.

Backed-Up During Rush Hour

When cars start lining up at traffic lights at rush hour, it’s understandably tempting to just move to the right and pass everyone up, but it’s not always clear if that’s allowed. Only two states (Illinois and Oregon) have specific rules explaining whether or not you’re allowed to pass on the shoulder when there is traffic.

You may think, like many of us, that if cyclists are required to ride far to the right to allow cars to pass that we should be allowed to pass on the right when cars are stopped, but it’s unclear. Either way, passing cars can be extremely dangerous, especially when you pass on the right. Always be sure to look out for opening car doors and drivers who may suddenly pull in front of you.

San Diego bicycle accident attorney Frederick M. Dudek is an avid cyclist himself and regularly commutes to work on his bike. He understands exactly what cyclists go through every day, and has the experience to help a fellow cyclist get what they need to start riding again after an accident.



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