Safe Cycling Tips
Wrong Way Cycle Riding in Traffic
Intersection collisions involving adult cyclists riding in the opposite direction of traffic are the number one reason for bicycle/car collisions.
A motorist in a side street attempting to make a right turn is looking left, where they expect the traffic to be coming from. What they don’t expect is other vehicles, including bicycles, to be coming in the opposite direction.
With very few exceptions, the safest way to ride is as part of the traffic, going with the flow of the normal traffic pattern.
Bicyclists who ride with the traffic flow get where they're going faster and, according to scientific crash studies, have about five times fewer crashes than bicyclists who don’t adhere to these rules. Also, the State of Idaho considers a bicycle to be a vehicle, and expects all vehicles to drive on the right-hand side of the roadway.
Cycling, Stop Signs and Stoplights
Idaho has a very unique law relative to stop signs and stoplights for cyclists. In fact, Idaho is the only state in the United States with this law. It is very important to understand your responsibilities under Idaho’s law, but also how best to act around motorists.
First the facts about Idaho’s stop sign and stoplight laws. For stop signs, a cyclist has the right to proceed through the intersection without coming to a full stop, if there are no other vehicles in or approaching the intersection and if the cyclist has slowed appropriately to see the entire intersection. If there is another vehicle stopped at the intersection or is approaching, the cyclist is required to stop completely and to take their turn proceeding through the intersection just like any other vehicle.
For red stoplights, the cyclist is always required to come to a complete stop first. If there are no other vehicles in or approaching the intersection, the cyclist is allowed under Idaho law to proceed through when safe. A cyclist is allowed to make a right turn against a red stoplight without stopping if they have slowed and if there are no vehicles proceeding left to right or turning into the intersection.
Keep in mind that these laws are very unique to Idaho and that all other states require cyclists to stop just as vehicles are required. It is highly recommended that cyclists always stop at stop signs and remain stopped at stoplights anytime motor vehicles are present. While the cyclist may be acting correctly relative to the law, it is safer for cyclists to abide by the same road rules as motorists.
Proper Lane Positioning
Idaho’s law regarding cyclists and lane positioning says that the cyclist must ride ‘as close to the right as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway’. As close to the right as practicable means that the cyclist has the ability to select the safest position relative to the edge of the roadway.
It does not mean that the cyclist must ride along the edge of the roadway. This is often more dangerous position as there is debris along the curb, there is no room for emergency maneuvering, and the cyclists are placing themselves in the ‘door zone’. The door zone is the area three or four feet immediately next to a parked car where a car door will open right into the path of a cyclists.
Many cyclists are hurt and killed each year from collisions with doors being opened. The safest place to ride is three to four feet away from all parked cars.
Idaho’s law (as close to the right as practicable) allows cyclists to position themselves safely out of the door zone.
Proper Lane Positioning
In fact, it is often safer for the cyclist to ‘take the lane’. This means to position your self clearly into the lane of traffic when there is not adequate safe space along the side of the roadway.
By law, motor vehicles are required to either slow behind the cyclist or to pass safely around them. The cyclist should maintain this position in the lane until there is adequate space along the side of the roadway, then pull over when safe.
While sometimes uncomfortable, the cyclist is most visible to motorists when in this position.
In fact, the City of Boise recently enacted a new ordinance that requires motorists to provide three-feet of clearance when passing a cyclist.