The following overriding principles guide us in developing specific tactics that bike riders should employ for their own safety, the safety of others, and to uphold the club’s reputation as responsible, courteous road users.
For general safety, the SPBC principles of safe riding are:
- Take charge.
- Be predictable.
- Be courteous.
- Drive your bike like your car.
- Don’t let paint think for you.
- Be seen.
- Think ahead.
- Take responsibility.
Using these principles, we recommend these SAFETY TACTICS
- Ride in the road as if you belong there. You do!
- “Ride big.” Motorists are looking for large hunks of metal in the middle of the lane, not tiny bikes and riders close to the curb or near parked cars.
- Know the law. In Florida the law is Title XXIII, 316.2065 of the state code.
- Under Florida law, you needn’t ride as close to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway if the lane is too narrow for bikes and cars to share. The Florida Department of Transportation has determined that any lane less than 14 feet is too narrow to share. Otherwise, ride as far to the right as practicable or in the bike lane if it available and safe to do so.
- By taking up to 33-50% of the right hand portion of the lane that is too narrow to share, you are discouraging motorists from passing you without crossing the left hand lane line.
- Don’t ride in a driver’s blind spot. From behind, make sure they can see you in either their rear view or side view mirror. If you can’t see their mirrors, they can’t see you.
- Obey all traffic laws, particularly stop lights.
- Signal any change in your ride—turn, stop, slow, etc.
- Get in the appropriate lane. If you’re turning left you should be in the left turn lane.
- Don’t go straight from a right turn lane.
- At stop signs, traffic there before you has the right of way. Look in all directions to ensure it’s clear, safe and that you have right of way before proceeding.
- Let cars that arrive at 4-way intersection before you to pass thru first. Don’t assume “they’re letting us go.”
- If a motorist waves you thru a stop sign, thank them.
- When you hear a car approach from behind and you can see far enough ahead to know the car can pass safely, you may move farther right in the lane and use your left hand to wave them around.
- If at the head of a large group, let cars in intersecting lanes go thru a stop sign first.
- Avoid uncertainty regarding who has the right of way.
Drive your bike like your car
- Ride with traffic only & avoid riding on sidewalks.
- Signal lane changes, turns, and stopping or slowing.
- At intersections position yourself where a car would be, so that cars making a left in front of you can see you in advance (usually the left-hand portion of the right lane). This also prevents cars from passing you and then turning right in front of you (the “right hook”).
- Maintain a safe distance from both bicycles and cars. In a group of experienced riders, you may leave less than one foot from the wheel in front of you, but for a car you need adequate distance to stop.
- Don’t swerve. Hold your line. Check behind you before moving laterally.
- An advantage you have over a car is your hearing. Learn to listen for cars behind you and judge their distance and driving path.
- Don’t “override” your headlights at night. Go slower.
- Never pass a car on the right. You’re inviting a “right hook.”
Don’t let paint think for you
- Ride in a marked bike lane only if it’s safe. They should be at least 4 feet wide and free of debris and potholes.
- Shoulder lines do not mark bike lanes, If the shoulder is wide enough, you may want to ride in it; if not, move toward the center of the lane.
- Generally, ride at least one-third into the lane if it is less than 14-feet wide. (Almost all travel lanes are 10-12 feet.)
- At intersections, it’s often best to be in the middle or left hand portion of the right hand lane, rather than in the bike lane, where cars obscure your presence.
- Ride at least four feet from parked cars on your right to avoid being “doored.”
- Don’t relinquish your road position when approaching a hill top or curve; otherwise, you may encourage a motorist behind you to pass when he shouldn’t.
- Give yourself enough room to your right in case cars pass too close or you encounter potholes, road debris, etc.
- Wear brightly colored clothes.
- Use front and rear lights at night and in rain or twilight conditions.
- Make eye contact with drivers and wave to get their attention. Make sure you are seen.
- Anticipate! If you want to be in the left hand turn lane, make your move well before the intersection.
- Look ahead for potholes or where the bike lane ends or the shoulder disappears. Establish road presence well before you need to be in the travel lane.
- When approaching railroad tracks, try to cross them at right angle, if possible.
- Always scan for cross traffic, where motorists often fail to see you.
- Remember that motorists often think bikes are moving slower than they are. Motorists may pull in front of you due to this miscalculation.
- Don’t let the bike rider ahead of you think for you. If she runs a stop sign, you could be the one hit if you follow.
- Make sure your bike is always in good working order. Do the ABC Quick Check: Air, Brakes, Chain, Quick releases. Top off your tire pressure before every ride. Underinflated tires cause pinch flats. See that brakes are not worn and touch the rim evenly. Lube your chain every 100 miles or so. And make sure your wheels are secured tight in the dropouts.
- Every few weeks, check tire wear. Worn tires get flats more easily.
- Ride within your skill level. If a rotating paceline makes you uncomfortable on crowded roadways, hang back. If you’re uncomfortable closely following a wheel, hang back. You’ll get the benefits of a draft even a couple of bike lengths behind another rider.
- When signaling a lane change, look quickly over your shoulder to ensure it’s clear. Learn to do so without swerving.
Here is a helpful video about lane position. Remember control the lane and you can better control the traffic. Don't let paint think for you. See: http://bit.ly/CtrlLane.
SPBC acknowledges and appreciates the information from Cycling Savvy, the Florida Bicycling Association, Ian Seecof, who is an SPBC members, an LCI Instructor and former safety/education chair of the Central Indiana Bicycling Association, and all the riders who've shared their knowledge with us over the years.
St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Inc.
PO Box 76023
St. Petersburg, FL 33734
The St. Petersburg Bicycle Club, Inc. (SPBC) is a non-profit, social and recreational club that exists to promote safe, satisfying bicycling opportunities to both club members and the general public of all ages and skill levels, through planned activities and events.
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