Bike safety

So Do You Bike With or Against Traffic?

You may have heard conflicting information about which side of the road to walk, run, or bike on, right?  The answer to this age old question can have serious implications:  so do you bike with or against traffic?  


Do you bike with or against traffic



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Do You Bike With or Against Traffic?



The simple answer to this question is you should ALWAYS bike WITH TRAFFIC (unlike with running and walking where you should move against traffic).  As nerve wracking as that may seem, especially for new bikers, there are reasons.  Here’s the why behind the reasons:


  1. It is Illegal
  2. Motorists May Not Be Watching
  3. Less Time to React
  4. Collisions Can Be Worse
  5. Viewing Traffic Signs and Signals
  6. Headlights 
  7. You are Operating a Moving Vehicle – Act as You Want Other Operators to Act



Now that you know the reasons for why you bike against and not with traffic, let’s take a closer look at each.



Do you bike with or against traffic




#1: It is Illegal



In short, it is the law!  State laws towards biking vary by state, but one thing is universal, it is the law in every state that you bike with traffic.  You are operating a moving vehicle, so it follows the same rules as other moving vehicles, such as cars. 



If you are biking against traffic, it is against the law.  A police officer can ticket you.  Even worse, if you were to be the cause of an accident because you were biking against traffic, you could be found at fault.  



You can always check your state’s laws in regards to cycling.  My home state of Texas has these cycling laws in place.  As well as these Texas Biking Safety Tips!



For other information on biking laws in all 50 states, check out this link to a state by state breakdown.



#2: Motorists May Not Be Watching



-this is true in any circumstance, but even more so in regards to whether you bike with or against traffic.  Drivers are not trained to watch for cyclists biking against traffic.



#3: Oncoming Traffic Equals Less Time to React



When a car needs to pass a cyclist, they can adjust their speed as they pull up to and alongside the bike.  They can adjust their speed in order to pass.  In a oncoming traffic situation, there is less time to react and adjust because the cyclist and driver are coming at each other with their respective speeds. 



An even more terrifying situation could occur if the driver was faced with the choice between hitting a cyclist biking against traffic, or swerving into oncoming traffic to avoid said cyclist.  



#4: Collisions Can Be Worse if  You are Biking Against Traffic



This is because a collision with a cyclist from behind equals the vehicle’s velocity impacting the already moving bike going in the same direction, whereas a oncoming collision that occurs when a biker is biking against traffic equals the combined speeds of both the bike and the vehicle colliding into each other.  Basically, it boils down to physics!



For example: if a car traveling 30 miles an hour hits a bike from behind that is moving at 10 miles an hour, the biker essentially got hit at 20 mph.  If the bike was coming against traffic when the collision happened, those speeds would be combined and now the biker would get hit at 40 mph. 



Biking with or against traffic in this situation literally either halved or doubled the force of impact.  Why does this matter so much?  The higher the speed of impact, the the higher risk of injury or death, particularly for the biker.  



#5: You Need to Be Able to See Traffic Signs and Signals



Because you are operating a moving vehicle!  We expect drivers to be able to see, read, and follow signs, and the same goes for bikers.  Because the traffic laws apply to you equally as well.  You need to be able to see stop signs and stoplights, as well as other traffic signs, in order to follow them and operate your bike safely.  



#6: Oncoming Headlights at Dusk or Night



I typically won’t ever recommend biking at night as one of my most basic biking safety rules, but in the event that it were to occur, oncoming headlights can be quite blinding if you were biking against traffic instead of with traffic.  This effect could be extremely detrimental, as just a second’s distraction or impairment can have devastating consequences for someone riding a bike.  



>>>MORE:  Check out all 11 of my biking safety tips!



#7: Basically, Behave As You Would Want Others Operating a Moving Vehicle to Behave!



Cyclists are held to the same standards, though, to be honest, the burden of safety falls more to a cyclist.  More harm is likely to come to you if you are involved in a collision due to biking against traffic, so bikers need to operate and react proactively and defensively.  



What are Some Other Basic Biking Safety Rules?



Aside from knowing the answer to whether you bike with or against traffic, what else can you do to protect yourself and be a defensive biker?



  • ALWAYS wear a helmet


  • Stay alert and pay attention


  • Make yourself visible – wear bright and/or reflective clothing


  • Use hand signals to communicate your intentions to others on the road

(check out this post for more information on biking hand signals)


  • Don’t bike at night or in inclement weather


  • Obey all the rules of the road as any other vehicle operator would


  • Be especially cautious and vigilant at intersections


  • Yield to pedestrians and other vehicles


  • Be considerate of others on the road – if a long line of vehicles forms behind you, consider pulling over to let them safely pass.


  • Keep a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles, bikes, curbs, etc.


  • Don’t attempt to pass other cyclists on the right


  • Drive at a speed and conduct yourself in a way that allows for plenty of reaction time


  • Consider using a biking bell to notify others of your presence


  • Be poised and ready to brake at all times


  • Give yourself the space you need, but also stay as close to the side of the road as possible 





Do What You Can to Help Make Yourself Safer






  • educate your friends and family on how to approach and pass bikers in a vehicle.  Encourage them to NEVER try to pass a cyclist on a blind curve, or approaching a hill where you cannot see the oncoming traffic.  Encourage them to give cyclists plenty of passing room, and to not try to speed up in order to pass a biker, then move over back in front and drastically decrease their speed.  


  • ALWAYS pay constant attention for obstacles


  • don’t engage in erratic behavior with another moving vehicle, even if the other operator is at fault.  Ride defensively and proactively.  



****Going Solo? Here’s 7 solo biking safety tips you can’t afford to miss!


Solo cycling safety tips

So Why Is It So Important to Know Do You Bike With or Against Traffic?



Bikers will always be most at risk on the roads.  In a collision between a bike and a motor vehicle, bikers are almost always more likely to be more seriously injured or even killed.  Knowing this basic rule of the road is crucial in knowing how to not only protect yourself on your bike, but how to do your part to protect others on the roads.  



But Walking and Running are Different Rules, Right?



True, in regards to walking and running, you want to walk or run against traffic.  Find out why here!



>>MORE: Got Your Cycling Sights Set on Training for a Long Distance Race?  Check out the shop for cycling training calendars for century and half century rides!





Do you bike with or against traffic

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