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Bike Accident Advice: Getting Through Slow Traffic On Your Bike


One of the greatest things about riding your bike is getting to speed along your way past cars that are stuck crawling through traffic.

Unfortunately, cyclists aren’t always immune to getting stuck in congestion on the roads, particularly in big cities where things can pile up. In an attempt to keep moving, cyclists who are caught in traffic might be tempted to find unconventional ways to get around the stopped cars; however, bike accident advice shows that this can be dangerous and sometimes illegal.

If you encounter slow or stopped traffic on your bike, what should you do? Here are some tips to stay safe and on the right side of the law.

Be cautious about passing on the right or weaving through traffic

In some states, passing on the right — even on your bike — is actually illegal if you are riding in the lanes of traffic. (Of course, if you are in a bike lane on the right-hand side of the road, you are free to keep on riding!)

Even if it’s not illegal in your state, passing cars on the right or weaving through lanes of stopped cars can be a very dangerous move. Cars that are stopped in traffic aren’t necessarily completely stopped; a car can still make an unexpected turn or open a door, and hit you. Especially if you are going fast or coming up on a car unexpectedly, you are at risk for a major accident.

Pass slow vehicles on the left

If traffic is moving but you are caught behind a slow-moving vehicle, you can pass on the left just like you would in a car. The same rules apply as in your car: give adequate space when you pass on the left, and use the lane of oncoming traffic if necessary unless there is a double yellow line.

Always be sure to allow yourself adequate time and space before passing a vehicle on a road in this way. Check over your shoulder to make sure there isn’t a fast-moving car coming up behind you that may also attempt to pass this vehicle. If there is, let that car pass first and then you can pass. Better to ride a little slower than potentially get caught.

Keep obeying traffic signals

It can be a drag to wait at a red light that just won’t change, but unfortunately, rolling through a red light on your bike is against the law, and it’s dangerous too.

Even if the street looks clear to you, cars can come out of nowhere and you can get caught in an intersection with a car that has a green light coming the other way. You can also get hit by a car from your lane of traffic making a last minute right-hand turn at the corner; this is a common place for cyclists to get hit because the car must turn through the right shoulder (where bikes normally are) on their way.

A good piece of avoiding a bike accident advice and one option you have as a cyclist is to (if not prohibited by local ordinance) get onto the sidewalk and use the pedestrian signal to trigger a green on your side, or simply walk through the crosswalk when the pedestrian signal. It might not get you going fast, but it can help get you going again.

Be seen and communicate with drivers

Crashes happen when unexpected things happen. In traffic, drivers are frustrated and looking to get going as soon as possible. Having a cyclist fly an inch past their window can sometimes take a driver from annoyed to irate.

You don’t want to catch any drivers by surprise, and you don’t want to get clipped by a driver making an unexpected merge or turn (which happens especially in traffic).

The best thing you can do when moving through busy city streets is to try to make yourself visible to drivers. As you approach a car to pass, ring your bell or wave your arm to get the driver’s attention. Even better, try to catch the driver’s eye so you are sure that they see you, and signal that you are coming up.

If you are riding in a bike lane on a busy street (as opposed to passing cars on the left in lanes of traffic), you should still be cautious and communicative, especially when approaching intersections. Make sure that any cars that could be turning right see and/or hear you coming, and watch out for them to make a turn that could cross your path.

If you are respectful of space and do your best to be visible and predictable when riding among lots of cars, you will help prevent crashes that happen when frustrated drivers make snap decisions in traffic.

Do You Need Bike Accident Advice?

If you are in need of bike accident advice, reach out to the bicycle attorneys at Bay Area Bicycle Law for a free consultation!