For Cyclists in DC and Out: 9 Rules for the Road


Most people who know me know that I ride my bicycle (or a Capital Bikeshare bicycle) a lot. I bike to work about three times a week and always use bicycles when traversing the District. As I’ve been riding in the city for almost two years, I’ve learned some lessons for riding in the city that I wanted to share. The list is not exhaustive, but provides a good set of rules for riding, in the city, or in general.

  1. Be Smart and Understand reality: You vs. others – Remember that most battles between cyclists and other things end in the cyclist losing. Think about it:

    Cyclist vs. car/truck/any vehicle: Car wins
    Cyclist vs. pavement: Pavement wins
    Cyclist vs. open car door: Car door wins (so stay away from parallel parked cars)
    Cyclist vs. pot hole: Pot hole wins (and your bike is ruined)
    Cyclist vs. [insert thing]: [insert thing] wins

  2. Use audible signals – Audible signals can help keep you (and other people) alive. Believe it or not, drivers in cars can hear you if you yell, as can pedestrians on bike trails. Letting people know what you are doing, how you’re passing, or where you’re going helps make everyone safer.
  3. Wear reflective clothing – This should be a no-brainer. If you’re wearing all black and it’s 11 p.m., make sure either you or your bike are lit up, if not both. If you disagree with this, reconsider your sanity.
  4. Use bike trails…not roads – No bike trail is perfectly paved and wide enough as we’d like, but just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean you should disregard it completely. Bike trails are for cyclists, so be sure to use them. They make the road safer for everyone.
  5. Don’t unnecessarily weave in and out of traffic – Although rare, we’ve all seen these types of cyclists. They fly down the road, cross into oncoming traffic lanes, weave back into their lane, cross into the bike lane, back into their lane and fly through an intersection without care. If a car comes, they just weave…rarely stopping. If you still think this is the right way to ride a bike, reread this post and reconsider your level of sanity.
  6. Use bike lanes – Bike lanes have sprung up across the country in droves. As more cyclists hit the road, so do more bike lanes. They are there for cyclists’ safety and for the courtesy of other drivers. They make the road safer for everyone, including cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Use them. When riding in a bike lane next to traffic, be sure to watch the tires of the car driving next to you. If you see the tires move closer to the bike lane line, you’ll know the car is moving toward you and you’ll have enough warning to slow down.
  7. Use hand signals – Hand signals tell people where you’re going. We all get frustrated while driving when another vehicle changes lanes, exits, or turns without using a signal. The same rule applies for cyclists. No one likes a cyclist who changes lanes, exits the road, or turns onto another street with out signaling. Show other drivers your intentions and give hand signals.
  8. Wear a damn helmet – Watching people fly on a bicycle at 20 mph while not wearing a helmet makes me ill. The last thing I want to see are your brains on the pavement.
  9. Don’t be an asshole – If you obey none of the other rules, obey this one, and it’s very simple. Nobody likes an asshole, whether the asshole is on a bicycle or not. This is a rule for bicycling as well as life.


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