Remember These Tips When Riding in Traffic

Triathlete in aero position on the bike
July 18, 2019

Jim Hallberg


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Cycling is a beautiful part of our sport. It can be liberating and adventurous but unfortunately, at times, dangerous. Thankfully we have choices to ride inside with Zwift, TrainerRoad, or just on the trainer. But how do we keep ourselves safe when we want to be outside?

One thing I try to do when I am headed outside to ride is to think like a driver.  I flip that when I'm driving, and then I try to think like a cyclist.  Each gives me the opportunity to anticipate the moves the other could be making and helps to create a safer encounter.

With my driver's hat on, I understand that the one thing drivers really dislike is being impeded. Whether it's a bike or another car slowing them down by 5 mph, being impeded can be frustrating.  Granted some drivers simply hate everything and anyone that is not in 4 wheels, but with the following tips and reminders, you can be safer on the road and enjoy your ride whether you are riding solo or are in a group.

  1. If you have a choice for a safe route or a shorter route, take the safer route.
  2. At all cost, avoid impeding traffic.  If you have a shoulder, PLEASE stay right of that white line.  It is literally your safe zone. I see time and time again cyclists crossing that white line when they have a 2-6 ft wide shoulder. If there is glass or potholes, you may have to cross the line, but only if it is clear of traffic.  Bunny hopping skills are helpful and or fine small movements, not drastic ones! Look ahead and plan ahead.
  3. When the white line IS the shoulder and you have mere inches or less before its dirt, hug that white line or stay as close to it as possible. Be predictable, no quick or drastic movements.
  4. Know when to be in arrow bars and know when not to be. Some times you might be faster in aero, but you might have better handling and be a steadier rider to traffic if you are upright.
  5. Some roads are a means to an end, you simply need to get on that road to get over to the nice, open, safe road. This a time to get MOVING! Don't take your time on busy roads, GO!
  6. When an angry motorist honks at you, just WAVE! Seriously! Chasing them down and giving them the finger, is not typically going to end in an apology.
  7. When a patient motorist waits and then passes you with 3 ft., WAVE!
  8. If you have a bike lane, USE IT.
  9. Know when you are a cyclist vs. when you are a motorist. If you can't keep up with traffic, then you are a cyclist.  If you can keep up with traffic, then you are a motorist. It's not always advisable to ride with traffic,  but if you are keeping up with traffic then you need to own that lane and become one of them. Keep your eyes up, looking 2-3 cars up.
  10. When you are in a group ride, follow the same thing as above, and no aero bars. Keep your eyes up 2-3+ cyclists up the road so you can plan ahead. As soon as you can't keep up, pull to the right so they can pass. Does that sound like proper driving etiquette? Indeed, and it also applies to cycling.  This has nothing to do with speed limits, its about flow.
  11. You are coming to a red light, do you roll in behind the driver or do you roll up past the cars to the red light? Either option you choose, be careful and make sure you can be seen in their side mirrors, or are slightly ahead of them. Do not hang in their blind spot.
  12. Anticipate the driver, especially when they are going to make a right-handed turn. If they are ahead of you, my preference is to let them make the turn. Where is the flow if you pass cars on the right when they are trying to turn? Why do drivers wait for us to come by and then turn right? That's really illogical and very unsafe.  Plus, its a form of impeding traffic. When in traffic you are now a motorist! If they break to turn, I would break too! Do not assume they see you. Often times, they just past you and now you are totally forgotten about! Do not assume they remember you.
  13. If you are in city traffic - NO AERO BARS!
  14. If you need to cut across traffic from your bike lane on the right to a left-hand turn, plan accordingly, use your hand signals and try to maximize your speed so as to not impede.  
  15. This is important - BE SEEN. Get red flashing rear lights and a bright white front light. Cycliq makes a very nice light with camera for front and rear visual aid as well as visual recording. Also 3MMM or similar makes a bright yellow reflective tape. I have put it on most of my bikes. And it's kinda cool looking.
  16. Regarding group ride:  if you are on barely-used, rural roads, socializing and riding side by side is typically acceptable; as soon as traffic is behind you, pull ahead or behind your riding partner and ride single file. This means BE AWARE and always be listening for traffic.  Check your shoulders often.

In a nutshell, I want you to be safe and enjoy your outdoor riding.  Remember to be seen, be predictable, stay to the right, and don't impede the flow of traffic.

**If you are a D3 Athlete, Coach Jim is co-leading a Coach Chat with Coach Bill Ledden about Bike Handling Skills on Monday, July 29th at 5:30 pm (mountain time).  Please check your emails and the Team's private Facebook group for details.

Coach Jim Hallberg is a USA Cycling Certified Coach, USA Triathlon Certified Coach, and a Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach.  And he notes, "It doesn’t matter if you’re a novice or professional, Junior or Master, my goal is to help you reach yours!"

Coach Jim Hallberg notices that some athletes spend too much time focusing solely on their strengths or just on their weaknesses. As a coach, he believes you should work on both. Your strengths can give you a competitive edge in one or more of the disciplines but spend an inordinate amount of time on them and you can forgo progress in other areas. Not enough time and you’ll see them diminish. Same with your weaknesses.  Coach Jim works with you to build a plan to balance the two and make you the best overall athlete you can be!

Coach Jim is a 5X USA Triathlon National Champion, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach and USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach.

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