Riding Responsibly

By: Graham Dewart, Bicycle Friendly Campus Intern

The cycling culture at Indiana University is one of a kind. The school is a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly University and is home to the largest intramural bike race in the United States. The wide range of cyclists at IU strengthens the alternative transportation movement and adds diversity to the streets. Unfortunately, irresponsible behaviors while riding hinder the work of bicycle advocates and create tensions between drivers and cyclists. In order to create a safer and more bike friendly community in Bloomington, racers and commuters must form an alliance to ride responsibly.


On any given day, you will see bicyclists in the street. Many of these riders will follow the rules of the road. Many will not. We’ve all seen it. They blow through the red lights and they disregard the stop signs. They ride down the one-way streets and they fail to signal properly when turning. I don’t want to generalize, but these are typically the “racer” types of riders. They are often the strong and fearless and they are used to high speeds. While they might narrowly miss a car when weaving through traffic, their actions cause a ripple effect on the cycling community as a whole.

The time is now for dangerous riders to act on advocacy. Irresponsible riding behavior must end. Bicycle racers and bike advocates must join forces and collaborate to create a friendlier cycling environment in our town. All cyclists, whether Little 500 riders or commuters, will benefit from civil streets and a safer riding environment. Whatever kind of riding you do, we are all in this together. When you ride responsibly, you reduce the tensions between cars and cyclists. When you stop at the red lights, you make it easier for advocates to argue for more bike lanes. When you follow the rules of the road, the streets become safer for you and me.

If you disobey this alliance, shame on you. When you disregard the law, you make the city streets more hostile for cyclists. Every rider needs to acknowledge that we have a duty to one another whenever we mount our bikes. Whether you’re a racer, a commuter, a delivery worker, or an enthusiast, from the perspective of a driver, we are all cyclists. So next time you head out for a ride, please ride responsibly.

(Tyler Anderson/National Post)
(Tyler Anderson/National Post)

Here are 10 tips to follow as a rider:

1. Be courteous and share the road. Being courteous gains respect and helps make the roads safer for all cyclists.

2. The law allows you to ride two abreast, but it may not be the courteous or safe option. If you hear a vehicle approaching from behind, ride single file. Don’t ride three abreast.

3. If you’re blocking a whole line of cars and there’s a place to safely pull off be courteous and stop.

4. Don’t wander all over the road. Try to ride predictably and as far right as safely as you can. This does not mean to ride in an area that is littered with road debris or places you at risk.

5. Stop at stop signs and signals. By law, cyclists must obey all traffic control devices.

6. Signal your intentions if you can safely do so. If you are turning, point in the direction you plan on going. If you are slowing, put your hand out behind you.

7. If you’re in a group, take leadership, set a good example and do your best to make everyone ride courteously.

8. Pay attention! While it is the responsibility of drivers to avoid hitting you, ride defensively to minimize risk!

9. Remember the 5% rule. 5% of drivers are jerks. Don’t let that 5% get to you. Take a deep breath and move on.

10. Be friendly. If someone is courteous to you and does the right thing, wave and smile. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for doing the right thing.


5 thoughts on “Riding Responsibly

  1. This blog entry was written from a really honest and helpful perspective. Many of my friends and coworkers at IU bike to their classes and jobs, and I often hear them complain about reckless drivers who honk and yell and nearly run them off the roads. I’m sure there are some cases (the 5% of jerks) in which the driver is being selfish and rude, but I never really thought about what my friends might be doing to warrant such strong reactions. Next time I hear a biking horror story, I’ll be sure to ask them how they were riding.

    Also, these tips are very helpful for people like me who tend to walk to get around because we’re intimidated by biking around so many cars. I wonder if it would benefit Bloomington’s cycling culture if bikers were required to take a class or pass a test similar to driving examinations in order to bike on the streets. A biking license might sound silly and unnecessary, but it could motivate people to learn how to bike safely.

  2. I have been observing bikers as a pedestrian and driver for the past two years, but being a biker has let me see Bloomington from a whole new perspective. I agree with you that the best way to correct the issues see with irresponsible riding is through positive advocacy As a new biker in Bloomington, I found this entry extremely informative, especially the tips that you have provided.

  3. Thanks for the tips! I do have a couple questions. First, I read in a brochure at the Bicycle Garage that you should ride 3′ from the curb and 4′ from the middle line – is this true? Secondly, is it illegal to ride on the sidewalk?

    1. Yes it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk. I think there is an age exception, maybe 10 years old or so

  4. I have to disagree with riding two abreast not being safe. This is absolutely the safest, so that motorists are aware that there is not enough space to pass. When you are alone in the lane or too far to the right, motorists mistake their car for being smaller and pass with just a foot or so of space between you.

    Riding two abreast, or riding in the middle of the lane if you are alone, is WITHOUT A DOUBT the safest way.

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