If you currently live in or near an urban city you probably have noticed that there has been an increase in bike lanes to protect bicyclists.
But where there are no bike lanes, you may have wondered, can cyclist go in bus lanes?
Cyclists who ride in heavily trafficked areas where there are no bikes lanes may find bus lanes safer to ride. But some local laws may prohibit riding in bus lanes marked “Buses Only” because the path does not allow a cyclist to travel alongside the bus safely. Bikes are allowed to ride in bus lanes with signage or clearly marked roads with “Bus and Bikes Only”. Each cyclist must consider the risk and use good judgment whether it’s safe to proceed.
There are cities and roads that may not always have signage for buses and bikes only but maybe only buses travel on them. This places a cyclist in a sticky situation and at risk of having to ride along an unsafe path. In this article, we will discuss where cyclist are allowed to travel and what you can do to ride safely.
Should Cyclist Ride In Bus Lanes?
In most urban cities cyclist and motor vehicles are constantly battling for right-of-way on the road.
Cyclist should take precautions and only use bus lanes when it’s allowed, when riding in another lane puts them in danger, or after the hours of bus operation.
Some lanes marked “Buses Only” take up lanes that would normally be safe for a cyclist to ride along.
In these situations, a cyclist may only have the option to ride with the heavy traffic to their left or be squished between a bus and the curb.
It’s not always common, but areas where buses and taxis are only allowed in a lane really make it difficult for cyclists to take the path of least resistance.
Many cyclists will just take the safest path for them to avoid being up against a bus or traffic.
The safest path may be to take the road to your left and take the middle of that lane to safely get by. Motor vehicles traveling that way may not like it but you may not have a choice.
I’m aware of areas like in San Francisco, Ca which has many red marked lanes for certain vehicles which makes it very frustrating for a cyclist to get by safely.
When transit lanes block off bike lanes, what should a cyclist do?
You may see cyclist ride in bus lanes regardless of the local laws and signage and many seem to get away with it without getting a ticket.
But some cyclist run stop signs, sprint through stop lights and jump on sidewalks, but that doesn’t make it ok.
There just isn’t a clear cut answer what a cyclist should do when a bike lane is blocked off by transit and other vehicles.
I would take the safest path possible at my own risk and use the bus lane when it’s unsafe to ride in the left lane.
Also, while riding in that bus lane I would be sure to yield to the vehicles that were assigned that lane and move out of the way.
Sometimes you may not be able to safely ride along a path due to high motor traffic and will have to take a longer route just to avoid danger.
Where I lived before outside the urban city of Sacramento, I could choose to ride the busy streets into town or I could choose to take the long route to the bike trails.
Not everyone will have that option so just proceed safely, looking out for oncoming vehicles and use good judgment.
Can You Ride A Bike In The Middle Of The Road?
Some motorists are annoyed by cyclists who ride in the middle of the road and have often wondered if this was legal.
Riding in the middle of the road is not illegal but a cyclist may do so to avoid getting hit by doors of parked cars, avoid potholes and curb debris, and or keep cars from driving close to them in the same lane.
The term when cyclist ride in the middle of the road is called, “overtaking the lane” or “taking the primary position”.
I would agree with a motorist that some cyclist take this too far, but then others may be doing this as part of an organized “bike party” or “bicycle movement”.
Those cyclists that reasonably bike in the middle of the road are looking out for their safety.
What cyclist see on the road may be unseen to a motorist as they are in an enclosed vehicle and have to rely on side mirrors and obscured views through windows.
Riding close to the right side of a curb, cyclist face running over glass, spare tires, road kill and other street hazards that could put them in harm’s way.
We all know that many of our roads were not structured in a way to accommodate bicyclist, so many riders have to ride paths that aren’t very safe.
Some areas have narrow one-way roads that make it dangerous for a cyclist to ride alongside a vehicle in the same lane.
You may even notice at some intersections, where cars can make a right turn, dashed lines break up bike lanes which may force the cyclist to take the middle part of the road.
Then, you also have some lanes that split off from a two-way lane and one of the lanes turns into a “Right Turn Only” lane, where someone may not see that coming.
If roads were meant for bikes primarily I don’t think there would be so much confusion and grey areas discerning who has right of way.
Since cyclist and motorist alike have to share the road anyway, it would be ideal if everyone took the side of precaution.
It would be awesome too, if everyone looked out not only for themselves, and try to minimize some of the dangers cyclists must face on the road.
Should Cyclist Ride Against Traffic?
I understand riding a bike on the road can be dangerous at times which leads some to ride against traffic.
In many states and local cities, bicycles are considered a vehicle and it’s illegal to ride against the path of traffic. It’s even more dangerous to ride against traffic as this is not expected in most areas which can lead to more accidents.
I’ll never forget the day I decided to ride against traffic, even though I knew it was not right.
I was crossing a very sketchy intersection that turned along a street with 3-Way traffic.
Many cyclists were at risk of having an accident going with traffic at this intersection, so deciding to go against traffic seem reasonably safe to me.
Before I knew it, another cyclist came flying toward me yelling, “You’re going the wrong way!”, “Get over on the other side of the road!”.
I eventually moved over, but this placed the oncoming cyclist in a predicament where he had to move over into the middle of the street with cars coming on the side of him.
Some beginner cyclist may believe that cars will see you more if you ride against traffic.
The truth is that motorist are only looking at oncoming vehicles going with traffic, so if you’re coming against it, it’s very likely they will not see you.
People in cars should look both ways and look out for pedestrian coming towards them, but the motorist will not be expecting someone coming down the wrong direction.
If you ride against traffic, you will not see the traffic signs and signals which will put you in danger when crossing an intersection that would be red for you, but green for oncoming vehicles.
Riding at night becomes very dangerous if you ride against traffic as this will confuse motorist thinking you’re another vehicle or not seeing you at all.
The safest route to ride may not always be to ride with the flow of traffic, but this again is where you will have to use good judgment and do what’s safest for you.
Can Cyclists Ride On Sidewalks?
In some states, riding on sidewalks is not widely prohibited, but it may be illegal according to some local authorities.
Cyclists who ride on sidewalks are more at risk of getting into an accident with vehicles pulling out of driveways, cars turning at intersections, and running into pedestrians.
Even though it may not be illegal in some areas to cycle on sidewalks, the cyclist should proceed with caution.
Most vehicles and pedestrians are not looking for a moving object going 12-15 mph on the sidewalk and can be caught off guard.
There are times where there are no bike lanes, or riding in the street poses more of a risk getting hit by a car, but it still would not make it ok to ride on the sidewalk.
It’s better to avoid riding on that busy cross section if at all possible. Some cities, if you look on Google Maps, have routes that others have ridden that might be safer.
If you’re an avid cyclist, you can use STRAVA which is an app for tracking your miles and efforts on a bike to help you navigate to common bike paths riders take.
At times, avoiding an intersection all together and finding a safer bike path may be unavoidable.
When there are times where taking a safer route or finding a bike path is not possible, consider a few tips:
- SLOW DOWN – Most people on sidewalks are only traveling 3-5 mph, so consider riding close to that speed
Pedestrians have right of way
- Make sure to use signals and call out where you’re going
- Ride a short Distance on the sidewalk- ride on the sidewalk just far enough to make it safely across another intersection
- Walk your bike- this may be the best option to avoid alarming pedestrians and approaching vehicles
- Remember, sidewalks weren’t meant to be traveled by bike, but are safe paths for pedestrians to travel on.
Should Cyclist Ride Side By Side?
Some cyclist ride side by side during group rides usually on bike paths and this is ok if there is enough room for bikes to pass safely on the left. Only a few states prohibit riding side by side and you will have to find out what the local authorities state regarding that. Now, in cases where the bike lane or path is only enough for one rider, then cyclists should not ride side by side.
Can Cyclist Ride On Footpaths?
When you refer to riding on footpaths, this is the same as pavement or sidewalks. Some local laws prohibit riding on sidewalks or footpaths. But then there are some exceptions that allow adult riders to ride along the path with their adolescent children under the age of 12. Most experienced cyclist know that riding on sidewalks is looked down upon if they don’t fit that exception. So, it’s safer for most to ride on the road away from pedestrians and others who need the footpath.