Ten Simple Rules for Successfully Sharing the Road



Ten Simple Rules for Successfully Sharing the Road

When riding on public roads

1. Follow the rules for cars:

  • Stop at Stop signs
  • Signal your intended direction
  • Turn left from the rightmost lane travelling in the direction you intend to go (that means use turn lanes; don’t turn left across traffic going in your direction)

2. Ride 2-3 feet from the curbing or edge of the road and out of the band of silt and sand that is present on the roads in the spring.

3. Be predictable – ride straight and use BIG gestures to communicate your directional intentions to those with whom you are sharing the road.

4. Be visible – dress brightly and use “blinkie” lights both fore and aft.

5. Wear a helmet – PERIOD!

6. Don’t  put ANYTHING in your ears. They are your best sensory organ to alert you to a vehicle approaching from the rear.

7. Eat before you are hungry, drink before you are thirsty.

  • Dehydration occurs fast – especially in cooler weather.  Hypoglycemia creeps up on you too. The effects of both are reduced mental acuity resulting in poor decision-making. Stay hydrated and fueled.  If you “bonk” on a ride, stop and find a can of Coca Cola. There aren’t many better ways to re-start your mental metabolism than that.

8. Put an emergency app in your smartphone.  It will text your location to your emergency contacts with one touch.

9. Always carry a form of identification.

10. Think, think, think!

  • Road, light and weather conditions change rapidly. Good decision making is your best asset for staying safe on your bicycle.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!


  • MattM
    Apr 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    While I'm all for helmet use and use one >99% of the time, however, understanding why a helmet and what it protects from is important. Telling people they have to wear a helmet to ride and be safe seems to me to be counterproductive to communicating the idea that there is nothing inherently dangerous about using a bicycle.

    Protection from serious injury in a high speed collision, probably not. Reduction of severity of head injuries from a minor bump, loss of control or the learning to use new pedals, absolutely.

  • durishin
    Apr 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Any activity through which one may reach a velocity faster than a human can attain unaided, is inherently dangerous.

    Do helmets afford:

    Protection from a body blow – like the side of a car? Nope.
    Protection from a blow to the back of the head by a truck's side-view mirror? Hopefully.
    Protection from a fall and strike to the head by pavement, curbing, rock, tree? Absolutely!

    Brentacol (http://brentacol.com/) hit an errant stone, flipped into the air and went down very hard on a ride along the bike path we were all on a couple of years ago. Had he been helmet-less – we'd have airlifted him out, hoping for the best.

    Nancy McBride was sideswiped by a van that began to turn right, then came left, as she was passing it a few years ago in Westerly. Sans helmet, that beautiful, young mother would not be with us today.

    So, unless you plan to have body-blow accidents only, a bicycle helmet should be mandatory when you ride.

  • Labann
    Apr 10, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    I was assaulted by thugs with baseball batts on bikeway at night… cracked the helmet entirely in half. Luckily my head was down while riding at about 20 mph, so assailants spun round, batt bounced off, and I continued on with arm and body bruises but no head trauma. "Head up" and I would probably be dead. Several falls from bikes reveal my tendency to land on my back and whip back of head against pavement, another thing helmets protect against. One should roll, but often that means pivoting on your noggin. Naysayers haven't had the thrill of being doored, pinched off road, or thrown full cans of brew at. Helmets seem a nicety until such times.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 11, 2012 at 8:21 am

    4. wearing bright colors as a visibility aid is probably 50-50 as people hit school busses frequently. People have to be paying attention to see you. I have found that being in in the lane at least in the right tire line is as good.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 11, 2012 at 8:22 am

    5. A helmet is only good for what it is designed to do which is a fall at a velocity of 15 MPH with no other forces (like a two ton car) involved.A helmet does not prevent a concussion because that happens when your brain slams into the inside of your cranium due to rapid deceleration. A helmet can only save you from a mild bump or scrape nothing more in fact manufacturers put disclaimers on their products stating they won't work in vehicle impacts.Helmets lead to risk compensation in that people with helmets take greater risks believing that the helmet will protect them this is amply studied.
    Helmet users get passed closer than non-users by drivers this from a study in England.
    Helmets can cause acute axional injury, this is an injury to the spinal cord and neck caused by rotation of head due to the helmet sticking to the pavement in sliding impacts.
    As I have stated before millions of people ride millions of miles every day all over the world and never wear a helmet. I also agree that making bicycling look dangerous and expensive to do is counter productive to increasing ridership.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 11, 2012 at 8:25 am

    And as at least two of the recent fatalities were wearing helmets saying they save lives is a stretch .
    Labann/Alan Barta if your helmet cracks in half it failed.
    And wearing headphones or ear buds is against the law in Rhode Island for all vehicles including bicycles.

  • durishin
    Apr 11, 2012 at 8:43 am

    @ Bill, that is to argue that the energy absorbed by the helmet, thusly split, would be better absorbed by skull. Do you really believe that?

    • Bill Lewis
      Apr 11, 2012 at 11:16 pm

      However, it is common for helmets to break without the polystyrene foam compressing at all. A major helmet manufacturer collected damaged childrens' helmets for investigation over several months. According to their senior engineer, in that time they did not see any helmet showing signs of crushing on the inside (Sundahl, 1998). Helmet foam does not 'rebound' after compression to any significant extent. If the styrofoam does not compress, it cannot reduce linear acceleration of the brain. The most protection that it can give to the wearer is to prevent focal damage of the skull and prevent minor wounds to the scalp. It is not likely to prevent serious brain injury.

  • Labann
    Apr 11, 2012 at 9:19 am

    1.3 million bicyclists die annually in traffic accidents, <700 of them Americans who tend to wear helmets. Emergency and operating room technicians call patients who didn't wear helmets "organ donors". Riding in Newport is among my least favorite places in New England, because gawking tourists and partying drunks are higher per capita and streets don't comply with federal law which specifies bike-fed facilities alongside. And bicycles are emphatically not vehicles. They are a conveyence more closely related to apparel and sneakers than fume belching busess, cars or trucks. You pick a bike from a rack, or "wear" a custom fitted unit. The English study was disreputable and severely flawed. Personal experiments have proven to me that earbuds IMPROVE hearing, because they cut wind noise; so as long as what you're listening to is at decibels than wind rushing by your ears, you can hear threats better. Studies of blind and deaf cyclists were inconclusive, since you have, in total, 24 different senses upon which to rely. Bill is entitled to his opinions, and we wish him well, but policies should emerge from careful study and consensus.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    @ durishin to continue: In a impact with the helmet spliting it happens in about 1/1000 of a second and absorbs relatively little energy.
    You can study helmet safety and eficacy or you can read the advert from the helmet company.
    The helmet doesn't save you from injury, not getting in a situation keeps you from it.
    If you ride with a helmet and your head down you can hit a car and die it just happened in Middletown.

  • durishin
    Apr 12, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Bill, you may be the best bicycle handler since Tinker Juarez but, accidents are unplanned and uncontrollable (ergo, the moniker). That is to say that the squirrel, loose ball, dog, stone or – here – pothole – that finds itself under your wheel doesn't care who you are and you will go down. You cannot plan for those things so, I'd say, best to be as prepared as possible. If you'd rather take a header (and God forbid you do) sans helmet, ride without one. You choose and Darwin decides. Cheers! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-payruR2-k

    • mdieterich
      Apr 13, 2012 at 10:34 am

      I've actually come across two cyclist who have experienced the "squirrel in the wheel" affect, during my short tenure in RI. Many people joke about these types of accidents, but they do happen.

      Personally, I don't see the downside of wearing a helmet. It won't save me from a serious crash involving a car, telephone pole, etc., but it has certainly helped me in one crash. Would I have been fine had I not been wearing a helmet? Probably. Would I have suffered more injuries had I not been wearing a helmet? Definitely. So while it may not save your life in the really serious crashes, there is no doubt in my mind that it can help.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 13, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I would be loath to take a bicycle handling course from such a poor bicyclist that he needs a piece of beer cooler on his head to ride. Do you own a bike shop or just get kick backs from helmet manufacturers?
    When I see people with fred hats on I give them a wide berth as it denotes someone unable to stay upright on a bike.
    I see you brought out a couple of little straw men to knock down. In all my years riding a bicycle and I have been car free the whole time. I have never seen a squirrel try to take me out. A loose ball, dog or pot hole?
    I tend to avoid pot holes they're bad for the rims. And by the way when invoking Darwin you lose because how could we ever have evolved if we died from a bump on the head? You have almost the same chance of being killed by an accidental gun discharge as being killed on a bike should you wear a flak vest also?

  • MattMoritz
    Apr 13, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I envy your perfect world, where you have perfect attention to every detail of your immediate environment and prescience of the actions and movements of everything around you.

    Just because something hasn’t happened to you personally doesn’t mean it isn’t a real risk. Perhaps we all imagined those crashes in 2007, 2009 and 2010 at the Tour de France, or if bicycle racing isn’t close enough to the rest of us, the woman in Grand Rapids who was rammed by a dog while out on her normal ride, http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ss…. Or perhaps the case of Charles Chopin who died due to head trauma after falling while trying to navigate his bicycle on the sidewalk. Aside from the wisdom of riding in that case, at less than 15-mph, this sounds like exactly the sort of head strike that a helmet might have been effective at reducing.

    Its a question of choice, not an indication of confidence or ability. If an inexpensive piece of safety equipment can reduce the severity of some of the most likely injuries without compromising my ability to enjoy the activity, then why not use it? I personally wear my beer cooler because I have fallen by misjudging a patch of ice, misjudging where my peddle was and falling when setting out from a stop, or forgetting to correctly disengage my foot from my peddle and losing my balance.

    Despite the invocation of Darwin, fatalities aren’t the only point of concern. And while those chances may be the same for the entire population, we as a subset engaged more actively in bicycling have a much HIGHER risk of a death since I ride a bicycle daily than I do of an accidental gun discharge. Chances calculated across an entire population don’t carry down to subsets very accurately.

    it’s a shame the Ken Kifer site is currently down, his page on the risks of cycling is an excellent read.

    • Labann
      Apr 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm

      Ken Kifer was killed years ago in an accident having been overtaken by a truck while bicycling.

      There is a lot of misinformation here about the downside of helmets. Let me assure naysayers: If it were not for helmets, loved ones would have probably talked me out of what they imagined as risky behavior.

      I've actually fallen at speed, hit squirrels, and survived group riding and random assaults. I attribute much success after over 100,000 biked miles to the helmet, which becomes part of your "roll cage", and so increases confidence. Last year in America, 53 times as many motorists died as bicyclists. Granted, a lot more miles and trips were taken by car, but there are 1/3 as many bicyclists as motorists. Maybe they ought to require drivers to wear helmets, or, at least, master skills and recertify frequently.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 13, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I'm sorry you folks here don't really seem to be invovlved with the greater world of bicycle safety and advocacy. If you did you might have a better understanding of just what a bicycle helmet can and can't do.
    So all you can come up with is a blogger's page? And a broken link at that.
    The odds are the same as the same number of fatalities occur from accidental gun discharges. You have a greater risk to head injury in the shower do you take a shower everyday? You'd better wear a helmet!
    You have lost the argument because you think a helmet will save your life, tell that to Mike Strickland and Mark Lanoue. As far as Mr. Chopin he should 've not been on the sidewalk It is not a safe place to ride a bike. I'll repeat a helmet can not prevent brain injury a helmet can save you from cuts and scrapes. Fatality rates are the same as before helmet use, except less people ride now. Get over your self and read the studies not some safety nanny's blog.

    • MattMoritz
      Apr 13, 2012 at 9:58 am

      I don't recall that I have yet to say that a helmet will prevent a fatality. I have said it may reduce the severity of an injury, which is exactly what it's designed to do.

      It's rather a large world to be on top of all it, but I think I have a working grasp. I think that everyone on this conversation has pretty much a firm grasp of what a helmet is designed to do and has indicated their expectations of when a helmet may or may not be of benefit to them. It is you who keep bringing the conversation back to fatalities and seem to insist that it is a useless piece of equipment, which is certainly your right. I think what the rest of us are saying is that helmets have cases where they are useful.

      So if I never take a shower, my chance of dying in the shower is the same as someone who does? Is that what you are indicating, that chances are equal across all people regardless of mitigating risk factors? So a person who never rides a bicycle has the same chance of being injured on one as someone who rides ever day for 30 years? Since you haven't sourced your references for the chances, its hard to discuss whether they are applicable to the discussion we're trying to have.

      I agree that in the case of Charles, it sounds like a situation that he shouldn't have been in, as it was probably adding more risk factors, but he obviously felt comfortable with them. That's irrelevant however, to the possibility that the helmet might have reduced the severity of his brain injuries by absorbing some of the energy of the impact instead of translating that directly to his brain.

      Since I have a day job, I have to content myself with relying on the well thought out, documented and referenced research of others, and if that happens to be a blogger (killed in a collision with an automobile as it happens), so be it. You can choose to accept it or not, I posted the link as a suggestion for thoughtful reading, not as an argument in either direction. You may be aware, Mr Kifer was adamant about not using helmets as well, using very good logic to arrive at the conclusion that he chose not to use one. I find no fault with that logic, and I am not out to enforce anyone else use one, which is exactly why I made the first statement on this post, of making sure that we as advocates in talking with prospective riders, make them aware of the choice and inform them so that they can make an informed choice on their own.

      I choose to wear one most of the time, since it does me no harm to do so and there is some small chance that it will benefit me at some point when a situation occurs for which it is designed that I cannot avoid.

      • mdieterich
        Apr 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

        I choose to wear one most of the time, since it does me no harm to do so and there is some small chance that it will benefit me at some point when a situation occurs for which it is designed that I cannot avoid.

        My sentiments exactly. I have seen very little research that suggests there are significant downsides to wearing a helmet. I know it won't save my life in a very serious accident, but every little bit helps in the type of accidents I'm likely to experience over my lifetime.

  • durishin
    Apr 13, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Nancy McBride would be dead had her head been sans a helmet when that van turned into her. I know a couple of bike messengers here in Providence who have gone down in rain-filled potholes and are happy they were helmeted and there are countless pros (Ivan Basso, Jens Voigt, Tony Martin – to name a few) who are still extant because they were wearing helmets when they crashed or, in Tony's case, were hit.

    But, you know, it's America and in this part of it, once you're 15, you can make your own decision about protecting your brain when you bicycle. Unfortunately, I don't think that a physics course is a high-school requirement.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    We've been through this before about tour pros and the fact that even though Jens Voigt was helmeted he still got a concussion. and the helmet did nothing to protect his face. Ahelmet can not save your life and no helmet maker claims it to. In Australia and New Zealand ridership went down went down when helmets were mandated and injuries went up. In the Canadian provinces where helmets are mandatory ridership went down. The health benefits of cycling far outway the extremely small chance of fatality.
    If you truly care about getting more asses in saddles get off the helmet train it makes people afraid to ride and think it requires considerable exspense.

    • MattMoritz
      Apr 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm

      The health benefits of cycling far outway the extremely small chance of fatality.
      If you truly care about getting more asses in saddles get off the helmet train it makes people afraid to ride and think it requires considerable exspense

      Agreed. Again, part of the reason I questioned the "PERIOD" that Richard posted in his list was that if we start the conversation with "you need safety equipment", and then talk about the benefits and general safety of the activity, we do indeed raise the bar, and don't accomplish the goal of getting people to think about choosing a bike instead of some other transport mode. Instead start with education on driving a bike for bicycle users, how to operate a car around a bike for auto users and getting the built environment to be less focused on moving large metal boxes around quickly.

  • Bill Lewis
    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    If you wish to find a healthy and ongoing debate on and ample links to many studies on helmet and other bicyce safety issues I suggest you go to bikeforums.net as I mentioned a long time ago. I read that blog ages ago and it was pretty much a nanny page.
    If you say so and so would be dead without a helmet you are claiming it can save your life
    Mark all you need to do is look at the 78+ pages of debate on helmet safety alone. Bring an open mind and read the studies. http://www.bikeforums.net/forumdisplay.php/8-Advo

  • durishin
    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Bill, in the years of going back and forth over this I hear what you are saying and I understand both your argument ~ and the physics and physiology involved – in concussions.

    I don't see, though, that you make the distinction between a concussion and a cracked-open skull. Certainly, a well designed helmet attenuates the force of a blow to the skull. That's a good thing…ask…Brett Favre. So I don't understand why you are so adamantly against helmets. I don't think they frighten anyone away from cycling more than seat belts frighten people from driving (I know…, I know…).

    Certainly you can acknowledge that brain injury can come internally, externally and ~ sometimes ~ chemically (again, I'll defer to Mr. Favre on that one). 🙂

    Beyond brain injury, what do the studies say about spinal cord injury prevention by the attenuation of applied blows?

    Be well! Watch out for the squirrels.

  • Bill lewis
    Apr 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    durishin, a cracked open skull? Please explain what exactly that is. Do you mean broken bone? or scalp tearing?
    If you read up on football players and brain injuries I think you'll find a number of players are suing for the reason that helmets don't stave off concussions and that repeated concussions are cumlulative.
    A helmet does not stop your brain frrom impacting the inside of your skull due to deceleration this is what causes concussions and it's why football helmets don't stop them.
    If I had a dime for every person I saw today wearing a helmet wrong and totally uselessly by way of a ball cap underneath or too far back on the head or too loose. I'd have about thirty bucks.
    And I addressed spinal injury earlier, helmets cause difuse axional injury where the helmet "sticks" to the pavement during sliding motion and and the body continues to rotate. This is all in the posts at bikeforums.net in the helmet thread. There are links to all manner of studies on the issue of helmet safety and efficacy. all you have to do is go there and read.

  • Labann
    Apr 18, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I don't want to be forced to wear a helmet, either. I choose to wear one from past experiences where they proved totally effective. Don't need misinformed commentors on open forums for bad advice. I knew cyclists without helmets who abraided their scalp and cracked skulls. Helmets are supposed to break on impact as if a crumple zone, which does help brain from impacting inside skull. Since cyclists seldom reach turnpike speeds, it's all they need in a relatively slow fall. But cyclists ought to be able to choose which guidelines they'll follow, as you don't need a license to ride, so compliance is voluntary.

  • Rick
    Apr 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Is it my imagination, or does "Turn left from the rightmost lane travelling in the direction you intend to go" make it sound like you should be in the right lane for a left turn, opposite the more sane advice in the parenthetic statement that follows it – "(that means use turn lanes; don’t turn left across traffic going in your direction)"?

    Not having a death wish, I won't use the rightmost lane of anything to begin a left turn.