Just because it is legal, that doesn’t mean it is smart. A few overarching principles are to follow the law, be predictable, be visible, and ride defensively. Cars don’t know what you’ll do unless you tell them, so be consistent and signal your intentions. Visibility is critical especially at night. Equip your bike with lights and reflectors, and wear bright reflective clothing. Always be on the lookout for other drivers. Many don’t look for bicyclists. Remember that you can be seriously injured even at slow speeds. Although there may be a few differences of opinion, the following resources generally contain excellent advice for any bicyclist.
The American League of Bicyclists has also created several great short videos with useful information about how to ride your bike safely.
Following the law is generally a good start to riding safely. Laws differ from state to state, but this video gives some good advice for laws that are mostly common to all states. Visit our page aboutUtah law to learn more about the laws specific to Utah.
Where should you ride?
Another short video by the American League of Bicyclists gives excellent advice on where you should ride.
In addition to where you should ride on the road, it is also important to choose which roads to ride on. Although it is legal to ride on any road, some roads are safer than others. MountainLand.org/trails is a great place to start to learn where bike paths and trails may exist. Below are a few definitions of different kinds of ways that roads are shared with bicyclists.
- Bike Paths are paved trails for bicyclists only.
- Shared Use Paths such as the Provo River Trail allow many non-motorized transportation such as bicyclists, runners, etc. Bicyclists always yield to pedestrians.
- Bicycle Boulevards such as the one planned for 200 East from 600 South to 800 North is a road optimized for bicyclists. Cars are allowed only for local traffic, not for through traffic.
- Shared lanes are regular car lanes marked with sharrows such as the ones painted on Campus Drive. This indicates that the bicyclist does not have to ride as far to the right as practicable and may ride anywhere within the lane. Cars may not pass bicyclists in the same lane.
- Buffered Bike Lanes are bicycle lanes on the roadway with a buffer space between the bicyclists and traffic and/or between the bicyclists and parked cars.
- Bike lanes are marked lanes on the roadway for bicyclists and not cars (except where dotted for cars to cross). (Note: Cars may NOT cross the solid white lines to use the bicycle lane to pass other cars and turn right. They may turn across a bicycle lane, but not from a bicycle lane.) The law allows bicyclists to leave the bicycle lane (using hand signals) in certain situations such as avoiding road hazards or to turn left from the left lane. As always, you must follow the direction of traffic, even in bicycle lanes.
- A shoulder is not a bicycle lane. Bicyclists should ride as far to the right as is practicable which may or may not be in the shoulder. Review the laws and use your best judgement in deciding where to ride on these streets.
- Bicycle routes are marked by signs indicating the preferred bicycle route. They are designed to help bicyclists choose safe roads regardless of whether there is any kind of bicycle lane or trail. Some bicycle routes do not have bike lanes, but are still preferred over other roads.
- Unless specifically indicated by sign or city ordinance, bicycles are allowed on any roadway or sidewalk while following all the laws. Use your best judgement to choose the road or sidewalk based on the road and sidewalk conditions, your experience, and your speed. For example 900 East has wide sidewalks designed to accommodate bicyclists, but you may still choose the road or sidewalk.
As explained in the video, riding on the video is often not a good idea, but at other times it may be the best option. Remember that it is against the BYU rules to ride on campus sidewalks between class periods or in congested areas. Also, there are places in downtown Provo where city ordinance prohibits bicycles on the sidewalk.
Just like cars, bicyclists must signal before changing direction. Learn how to safely signal, so cars can know where to expect you to go.
Utah law allows both kinds of right turn signals – the right arm extended to the right, or the left arm raised. Also, Utah law gives bicyclists an exception where they are not required to signal right or left from right turn only or left turn only lanes; however, it is always safer to signal anyway. Cars won’t know where you are going since many bicyclists go straight from the right turn lane which is illegal except for places like the unusual shared right turn lane/bicycle lane on University Parkway and 900 East.
Intersections are the most common place for accidents of any kind including for bicyclists. Learning what to do at intersections can be a huge help.
Some states allow bicyclists to only yield at stop signs, but Utah law still requires bicyclists to stop completely. After stopping at a red light, bicyclists in Utah may proceed under certain conditions including waiting 90 seconds, determining the light will not turn, and determining that it is safe to proceed through the intersection.
Although bicyclists wearing a helmet is not required by law in Utah, for most bicyclist fatalities, but bicyclist was not wearing a helmet. Learn how to properly fit and wear a helmet.
Tip: Take your helmet inside with you so it doesn’t get dusty, wet, or snowed on. It also lets everyone know you support bicycling and bicycle safety.
Click here to read about bicycle helmets designed by BYU students to be more fasionable.
It’s good to check a few things before your ride both for safety and comfort. A common problem is tire pressures. Keeping your tires properly inflated makes your ride much easier and can help prevent pinch flats.
Wear bright reflective clothing, especially when you ride at night. Even if your bike is equipped with lights and reflectors every bit helps. It is often easier to see reflectors on you than on your bike. Some suggestions for students is to attach iron-on or sew-on reflective materials or reflective buttons to your backpack or bag.
Also watch this UK infomercial. Most drivers just aren’t paying attention.
What to do in an Accident
If you ride safely, hopefully you won’t get in an accident. If you do get in an accident, it is good to know what to do. Always call the police. It is the law. Adrenaline, shock, or emotions limit your ability to make the best decisions. A police report just makes everything easier. It is very common for stories to change after the accident either by unintentional human psychology or by intentionally changing the story. No matter how sorry they sound (an may truly be at the time), kindly get a police report anyway, explaining that your are required by law to report the incident. Insurance companies will also want the police report. Repairs might cost much more than you think (possibly more than your bike) so just assume you’ll be dealing with insurance until you really know the total bill. Also remember you won’t know all your injuries immediately after the accident. Adrenaline and shock might temporarily dampen the pain, and it takes some time for swelling to come in full effect. If you say you are fine, they might feel like you are changing your story when you find that you are injured after the adrenaline has worn off. Know the law so when insurance assigns fault, you will have some idea of whether it is fair or not. If you do see the need to sue, there are lawyers who specialize in bicycle accidents such as Utah’s Bicycle Lawyers.