Absolute Beginners: Ten Rules for a Civil Ride

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In cycling, etiquette means safety. For the AIDS/LifeCycle, the rules are laid out in the infamous Safety Speech. Other organized rides have similar rules to guide civility, for instance see the rules at ms150. Other sets of rules are available, such as the over-wrought (tongue-in-cheek?) Rules of the Velominati.

But the rules are only as useful as your preparation before your ride or your ability to recall them at key junctures. So, I’ve paired them all down to ten.

Image Credit: Cannondale Facebook group.
Thanks, André.
  1. Wear your helmet at all times. (Safety is an etiquette issue because unsafe riding may interfere with another cyclist’s ride.)
  2. Dress appropriately. (Inappropriate dress — non cycling clothing which cannot be layered for weather — can delay or end rides. Wearing a team kit you did not earn is just rude.)
  3. Maintain your bicycle. (Poorly maintained bikes are prone to mechanical issues and are just plain ugly to look at.)
  4. Obey traffic rules. (Bicycles are vehicles under the California vehicle code. You can and will get a ticket.)
  5. Ride predictably. (Pay attention to traffic and other cyclists. Maintain a straight line; don’t bob and weave. Pass only on the left. Look behind you before passing.)
  6. Announce your intentions. (Use hand signals. Call out: “Behind you.” “On your left.” “Debris in the road.” “Stopping.” “Slowing.” — in a loud, outside voice. These work to keep other cyclists safe and riding.)
  7. Be self-sufficient, but accept aid when needed. (Learn how to change your flat and keep a tube and pump on you while riding. But accept help from a more-skilled cyclist to speed a return to the road. Ask if you have trouble.)
  8. Stay hydrated and well-fed. (Nothing destroys a ride — both for the rider and his mates — faster or more completely than a bonk.)
  9. Help stranded riders appropriately. (Ask as you pass. If the rider indicates he needs help, stop. If you cannot help, say so. If you can, do it quickly and politely.)
  10. Not all riders have the same skills. (When passing, say “hi” or “good morning.” This will mitigate bad feelings. When being passed, don’t let your feelings of inadequacy guide you — if the passer was acting safely, there’s nothing wrong with it.)

And now for the corollaries:

  • Own your own safety, don’t rely on others. (Thus, riders in pelotons are individually responsible for knowing if its safe to pass. Relying on another rider’s call out “CLEAR,” is unsafe, so check for oncoming traffic yourself.)
  • Be fastidious about safety and the rules. (Your actions will lead others to act safely, too.)
  • Don’t upbraid other cyclists while on the bike. (This only leads to hurt feelings. Instead, if you see them at a rest stop, gently point out how they might have acted more safely.)
  • Be polite and smile. (Its easy to be rude, its really hard to smile and use kind words when you feel superior or belittled. Learn how to do it.)
  • Propagate these rules. (If you have a blog or Facebook page, post these rules or your own rules often. Hold your riding mates to these standards.)
My friend asked: “who gets to decide what is civil behavior for a cyclist?” To complete this post, I considered three principles. First, cyclists must obey the law — disobeying the law leads to uncivil and unsafe riding. Second, cyclists should not engage in unsafe behavior, even if it is technically legal; doing so will impact other cyclists negatively. Third, cyclists should act in a way which supports other cyclists, whatever their skill level. Sometimes that means cheering on faster cyclists as they pass, or cheering on slower cyclists as they exceed their goals.
Your Bear

Over the next couple months, I’m going to write a few articles with the lead-in title “Absolute Beginners,” explaining some of the basic principles of cycling. Most of the information is stuff I’ve learned from other cyclists, bike shop mechanics, classes I’ve taken, and Google searches. Please help me out and comment with corrections, additions, or supplements which will help my readers learn about how to operate their bikes!


One thought on “Absolute Beginners: Ten Rules for a Civil Ride

    Samantha @ SamanthaCycles.com said:
    January 6, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Great post! Hope you are well.

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