Knowing Your Rights As A Cyclist: Sharing The Road

Cyclists do have the right to use the open roads, but don’t forget you also have some responsibility.

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Know Your Rights Cyclist Bicycle

Bicyclists can be broken down into two groups; those who ride bikes for fun, and those who ride bikes for necessity. While there are plenty of people who are in both groups, the bottom line is that there are a lot of bicyclists who are sharing the road with all types of vehicles and those bicyclists need to understand the rules of the road to stay safe.

We at Momentum Mag would like to note that even though we all share a responsibility to keep the roads safe, the bulk of that responsibility must be placed on those with the greatest capacity to inflict harm. Drivers. So while it’s important that we remind cyclists of their responsibility please do not think we are relieving drivers of theirs.

Know Your State/Provincial & Municipal Laws

The first thing any bicyclist is going to want to do is spend time becoming familiar with the laws for bicyclists in their state or province. For example, the state of New York has a helmet law as does the province of British Columbia that make helmets mandatory when using public roads, while Montana and Quebec do not have any laws mandating the use of helmets.

It is also important to understand how bicyclists are expected to act when in traffic on public roads. A bicycle in most states is considered a vehicle just like a car or motorcycle. That means that bicyclists must stop at all stop lights and stop signs and make sure they are in their proper lane to allow for the safe flow of traffic.

Being a Productive Part of Traffic

There are plenty of traffic laws and responsible driving tips that bicyclists need to keep in mind as they enter into traffic on public roads.

Bicyclists should always be on the right side of the road and riding in the same direction as traffic. It is also important that bicyclists avoid darting out into traffic for any reason. Bicyclists should also avoid weaving in and out of stopped traffic at intersections or when there is a traffic jam on the highway. Motorists often do not see bicyclists who weave through traffic and the result can be a motorist suddenly opening their door and causing serious damage to a cyclist and their bicycle.

A big part of bicycle safety as it applies to road safety is visibility. When a bicyclist is sharing the road with other types of vehicles, it is important that the bicyclist has lights and reflectors on their bicycle so other motorists can see the bicycle. The more visible you are as a bicyclist, the better your chances are of avoiding a driver hitting you.

You Do Have Rights

It is important for cyclists to remember that they do have the right to use the open roads, but only if they use those roads responsibly. Motorists tend to get angry with cyclists, but most of that anger comes from a small number of cyclists who abuse the rules of the road. To maintain your status as a responsible bicyclist, it is your responsibility to become familiar with and use the road safety laws whenever you are part of road traffic.

Many people throughout the country use their bicycles to get to work or use their bikes for full-time transportation in lieu of a car. Bicyclists should always exercise their right to be on public roads, but they should also honor their responsibility to be law-abiding motorists when interacting with all of the other vehicles around them. Remember what your rights and obligations are as a cyclist and, if you follow those, the law should be on your side.

Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.


  • Colleen

    Crashes aren’t ‘accidents’. Drop the A word.

    • Samuel Cawkell

      Sam from Momentum Mag here! Absolutely agree. The ‘A’ word has got to go.

  • Alyshia Burak

    I’m curious if the author can site research that backs up this statement: “Unexpected bicyclists suddenly darting in front of cars cause a lot of accidents every year.” This seems a bit misleading, and suggests the cyclists are riding dangerously and do not have the right of way in these cases.

    In a 2015 ICBC Cycling Safety study that examined crashes in Vancouver, in approximately 93% of cases, the cyclist appeared to have the right-of-way. Most common crashes include doorings, right turning vehicles and left turning vehicles (table 2, page 12). The report can be found here:

    My job is in bike education so I’m a strong believer that equipping cyclists with the skills and knowledge to ride safety is one key aspect to moving towards Vision Zero. I also believe it’s important we share accurate information about the realities of crashes involving cyclists and place onus on those responsible for them (as stated in the intro to this article).

  • miha

    the law regarding wearing a helmet states its mandatory only for people under the age of 14- it even says in your provided link.

  • David (daily urban commute rider)

    Regarding “darting out” and “riding predictably”… It’s often in the eye of the beholder. I ride in the traffic lane but am forced to dodge potholes, grates, manhole covers, and the car door zone. That doesn’t mean that I’m “darting”. Don’t be a scared gutter bunny hopping in and out of the visible travel lane. We can all share the road with mutual respect.

  • Peter Saumur

    The responsibility of not getting hit is an important one.

    • The responsibility NOT TO HIT is far more imperative. Cars and truck are the killers. Rarely cyclists and almost never pedestrians. The onus must be on those who kill and pollute.

      I didn’t know NY had a helmet law. Another place not to visit.

      They don’t travel to their mother country, the Netherlands, often enough. Victim blaming. Sounds like Trump on women.

  • Mark Brewster

    Re:right to the road:

    “…only if they obey the traffic laws….”

    Do auto drivers lose the right to the road by failing to do this? No.

    Neither do cyclists.

    This article reads as if written by someone with superficial knowledge of the subject.

    We can do better.

  • James Donohue

    The author’s assertions are a bit too demanding. A cyclist can only produce the power output equivalent to a 280 watt motor , continuous. (Maybe 400 watts for a trained athlete.)
    Stop-and-go driving is for cars. It is completely unreasonable to expect a cyclist to make a full stop, due to the height of the seat making it impossible to put a foot down; a bicycle has to keep moving to stay balanced.
    Fatigue and hunger also limit the cyclists strength .
    I personally do not fully believe in the necessity of Bike Lanes on every road, rather I contend that motorists can be educated, or in other words , pass a more rigorous test or you don’t get a drivers license !
    Sweeping the roads regularly can make a world of difference, as well as roadside vegetation management .
    My greatest contention is the the Bicycle Industry should be given a government grant to retrofit every bicycle with rear-view mirrors and LED lights.

  • Devin Quince

    Your last line is not always correct. The transportation system is not equitable and designed to disenfranchise vulnerable users like people walking and biking.

    • Yes, it is carcentric, petrocentric and ecocidal. This article denies the inequity inherent in the transport system and the failure to put the onus on the lethal road users.

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