| Lists |

Eight Rules of the Road for Cyclists Who Want to Show Their Street Smarts

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Colorado is an active state, no doubt about it. Every year we either have the lowest rate of obesity, or we’re bitter about losing out to those skinny bitches in Massachusetts. And we’re by and large environmentally conscious, too. Put those two factors together, and you have the reason why there are a whole lot of bikes on the streets every day. 

But here’s the thing: Many of those folks on bikes act like asshats. Not all of them, but enough to give bicyclists in general a bad name — whether because they're displaying passive-aggressive behavior or just exercising an indulgent sense of entitlement. In any case, it can be maddening to “share the road” with everyone who chucks their motor vehicles, buys a bike and joins the ranks of the decisively two-wheeled. But, really, can’t we all just get along?

The answer is yes. Here are eight ways how.

8. Follow the Rules of the Road
One of the biggest complaints of drivers is that bicyclists often completely ignore the traffic laws that do, in fact, cover them. Yes, it seems silly to stop a bike at a traffic light when there’s clearly no cross traffic. But you know who else thinks that? All the cars patiently waiting for the light to turn green. I’ve heard bikers claim, “Hey, stopping would impede my momentum” or the like, but they're ignoring the fact that the same holds true for motor vehicles, and whether or not you want to stop for that sign or light has no bearing on whether or not you’re obligated to stop. In short: If bikers want to be protected by traffic law —and they should be — then they need to respect and follow that law, too.

7. Go With the Flow
When I was a kid, I used to think it was a good idea to bike against the direction of traffic — but this was based on the theory that “at least that way I’ll see what’s coming.” While it has some logic to it, it’s far safer to bike in the direction of traffic. 
6. Be Willing to Dismount
Yes, of course, it seems silly to walk your bike in certain areas — but again, these posted rules aren’t just suggestions. For the sake of safety, bikers are required to get up off their seats and walk their bikes in areas where pedestrian traffic is concentrated, difficult to ascertain in terms of pattern, or both. Either way, the rule is pretty simple: If the sign says “Don’t bike here,” then don’t.

5. Don’t Bike on the Sidewalk
Sidewalks are for foot traffic, not for bikes. Sometimes bikers can get away with this, when car traffic is heavy or in spots with relatively few pedestrians around, or if they’re seven years old. But generally speaking, you shouldn't leave the roadway for the sidewalk just because you want to. After all, if bikes want to be treated the same as cars and trucks and motorcycles, it should be noted that none of those vehicles are allowed to just jump the curb to get around a traffic line.

Keep reading for four more bicycle rules of the road.

4. Use Lights at Night
One of the lesser-known rules of biking is that bikes, too, must have lights after dusk, just like cars. It’s a safety issue for everyone, and those little red reflectors just won't do the same job as full-on lights. Both headlights and taillights are required — to make sure that others can see you coming and going. Bonus: You can see where you’re going, too.

3. Signal
Those hand signals that we all learned as kids seem so old-fashioned and provincial, so 1950s suburbia. Something that should have been tossed in the trash bin of mid-century phenomena, like vegetables in jello and candy cigarettes. But bike signals can actually communicate important information to the folks behind you — like turn signals on cars do. Think about how pissy you get when the car in front of you suddenly turns left without a signal. Think about how irritating cars are when their blinkers are left on, because you don’t know if or when they’re going to turn. Now imagine everyone behind you trying to read your mind because you think bike signals are for kids. Frustrating, right?

2. Think of the People Around You
I got hit by someone on a bike once, and it was because the rider waited until he was right next to me before he yelled “On your left!” But I'd already turned, because I wasn’t expecting anything there, and he ran smack into me, and it was a mess. Fortunately, neither of us sustained long-term damage, though his bike got a little banged up. Afterward, the biker admitted that he should have 1) warned me before he was right next to me, 2) not been on the park sidewalk in the first place and 3) maybe not been going so fast while passing so close. All true. The lesson here? Give the people you might be dodging around a chance to avoid you.  

1. Realize That “Share the Road” Doesn’t Mean “Make Way for Bikes”
Avowed bicyclists feel that they're not given enough respect on the roadways, and this resentment can breed contempt for drivers on the road. What shouldn’t be an antagonistic relationship can suddenly become one, and there’s no way that bikes are going to be able to bully cars off the road — except, perhaps, in a battle of egos. But that’s the core issue: Once everyone digs in their heels, there’s no forward progress to be made.

Be the better biker: Everyone can share the road if we’re all following the same damn rules.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.