What do I need to know about bike safety?

State law, local ordinances, good cycling practices and common sense all come in to play when riding your bike. It’s important to remember that as a bicyclist riding on a street or highway, you are subject to the same rights and rules as motor vehicle drivers.

Here are our 15 recommendations for bike safety:

  1. Bike with confidence. We recommend taking a Bike Confidence Course offered through the SLO County Bicycle Coalition to get the information and confidence you need to navigate the roads of San Luis Obispo. Check them out here.
  2. Start small. Begin with short trips, working up to longer distances; this will ease muscles into shape and allow you to become more comfortable on a longer trip. Spend a few minutes stretching your legs and body before a ride.
  3. Be predictable. Obey traffic signs and signals. Cyclists must drive like motorists if they want to be taken seriously. Doing so is the safest behavior. Ride with traffic, not against traffic. When approaching a stop sign or red light, you are required to come to a complete stop (cease forward motion) and proceed only when safe to do so.
  4. Use “loop” vehicle detectors. Cameras trigger many traffic lights in San Luis Obispo County. However, some will be triggered by traffic passing over buried magnetic “loop” detectors. You’ll recognize these by filled-in cuts in the roadway. Ride over cut lines for best response. If your bike doesn’t trip the signal, wait for a motor vehicle to come up from behind or dismount and cross as a pedestrian. Some places in the City of San Luis Obispo now have Bike Signal Markings such as at Mill & California.
  5. Watch your speed. Observe posted speed limits and obey the basic speed law. Never ride faster than is safe under the existing conditions.
  6. Ride in a straight line. Ride to the right of faster traffic in a straight line about a car door’s width from parked cars. And don’t weave between parked cars. Instead, maintain a straight line. Motorists may not see you when you try to move back into traffic.
  7.  Ride smart. Bike like a car. Follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles including: Follow lane markings (don’t turn left from the right lane and don’t go straight in a lane marked “right turn only”), use hand signals to let other drivers know your movements before you change directions, be alert by watching for cars pulling out, make eye contact with drivers and assume they don’t see you until they stop.
  8. Choose the best way to turn left. There are two ways to make a left turn. (1) Like a motorist: Signal, move into the left lane, and turn left. In a left turn lane, stay to the right of the lane to allow any motorists behind to make their turn on your left. (2) Like a pedestrian: Ride straight with traffic to the far-side crosswalk, dismount and walk your bike across.
  9. Be careful when passing on the right. Motorists may not look for or see a cyclist passing on the right. Watch for any signs that the motorist might turn into your path.
  10. Respect pedestrians’ rights. Pedestrians in a crosswalk have the right of way. Don’t cross sidewalks via driveways without yielding to pedestrians. Be especially aware of pedestrians with disabilities. Don’t ride on sidewalks. Use the street, bike lane, or the bike path.
  11. Scan the road behind. Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving left. A rear- view mirror can be helpful.
  12. Avoid road hazards. Watch out for parallel-slat sewer grates, slippery manhole covers, oily pavement, gravel, and ice. Cross railroad tracks at a right angle. For better control as you move across bumps and other hazards, stand up on your pedals.
  13. Use your head. All bicyclists 18 years of age and under must wear a helmet meeting CPSC or ASTM 1447 standards when operating a bicycle. Regardless of age or the distance of your bike trip a helmet is an easy preventative measure to reduce injuries. Always wear a bike helmet.
  14. Stand out in a crowd. California State law requires bikes ridden at night to be equipped with a white front light visible from 300 feet in front and to the sides of the bike, a back reflector visible from 500 feet to the rear, pedal reflectors and wheel and side reflectors. Wearing light colored or reflective clothing further increases visibility.
  15. Reflective clothing. Did you know that one color tends to get lost and people who are colorblind tend to make the yellow turn red or green? It’s best to wear more than one bright color. Remember fluorescent eighties are back so wear your yellows and oranges with pride. And be sure to add some wide reflective tape to really call attention to yourself. The more drivers can see you the less likely you’ll be involved in an accident.

For more information on bike safety, please visit the Bike SLO County.