biking tips

Sharing the Road

Portland is a big cycling city. In fact, the Northwest as a whole is big into fitness–kayaking, running, hiking…you name it. One of the things I’ve noticed as a life long resident of the NW is the animosity between people when it comes to sharing the road. Cyclists don’t like people in cars and they don’t like runners in their bike lanes (“Ugh, cars man, WHY?”). Drivers and runners don’t like how aggressive bikers are…The most heated discussion you’ll ever have with someone in Portland is not taxes or construction woes, it’s CYCLISTS. Which I find amusing.

I’m in a unique situation because I’m both a runner and a cyclist. I can see both sides equally because I’m on both sides. I often have to switch my thinking depending on what kind of shoes I have on–my Brooks Ravenna running shoes or my clip-in cycling shoes.

General Rules for Cyclists

  1. Stay on the correct side of the road. I cannot stress this enough. It amazes me how often I see people doing funky things and potentially causing head-on collisions because they aren’t being mindful.
  2. If you’re biking on the road, stay on the shoulder or in the bike lane as much as possible. Be mindful of parked cars, car doors opening, people walking and cars.
  3. One of the most annoying things about cyclists (usually newbies) is when they ride two or three wide. Sure it’s fun to ride side-by-side with your biking partner. But only do so when it’s safe and you aren’t blocking traffic. When riding on the Springwater Trail, for example, Michael and I sometimes ride side-by-side but only if there aren’t other people around. The trail can be narrow and it can also get very congested. It’s not safe to ride next to each other and block walkers, runners and other cyclists.
  4. The general complaint of non-cyclists about bikers is that they ride slowly in traffic. I’m not sure what the solution is here because as a driver I’m also annoyed with slow riders, and as a cyclists I understand sometimes you’re going as fast as you can. 🙂 If possible, move over so cars can pass.
  5. If you’re biking on the road, follow the traffic laws like all the cars do. That means stopping at red lights and stop signs, respecting Right-of-Way and not running through intersections.
  6. Share the road with runner and walkers. As a cyclist it’s your job to SLOW DOWN when maneuvering around people.  Last summer when I was running the Esplanade Loop a biker crashed into me because they weren’t paying attention. That hurt!
  7. When you’re passing people on a trail or road, give them notice. It’s polite and just smart to say “Passing” or “On Your Left” to someone you’re riding around. I always do this when I bike and people appreciate it. If you don’t want to say anything, get a bell for the bike.
  8. Use hand signals when riding in traffic. Drivers can’t read your mind!
  9. Be aware at all times what is going on around you. Check your peripheral vision, blind spots, and look down the road to see potential hazards. When coming to a two way stop, look both ways to make sure cars are stopping.
  10. Watch out for stopped cars trying to make a right turn.

General Rules for Runners

  1. The above rules can apply to runners as well.
  2. As a runner, follow the rules of the road as well. Don’t dart into traffic to get across the street unless it’s safe.
  3. Look behind you before you move positions, especially if you are running on a trail and you’re wearing headphones. You should always be aware as a runner who is behind you.
  4. Run against traffic. Especially if there are cyclists in the other lane with the traffic. It’s also safer because you can see what’s going on.
  5. Be visible, especially running in the morning or evening.
  6. Watch out for stopped cars trying to make a right turn.
  7. Remember that cyclists are often clipped into their bike and it might be harder for them to stop suddenly!
  8. Bike lanes are for cyclists! Be respectful of that.
  9. If you’re running with a group of people, don’t take up the whole road. Side-by-side when it’s safe, but not four wide.

And a final note about people walking their dogs on trails like the Springwater: PLEASE do not let your dogs off leash, or have them on a long leash. I cannot tell you how many times I almost crashed on a bike because the dogs scampered in the way and the owner wasn’t paying attention where the leash was going. Just this weekend two ladies were walking side by side with four dogs on leashes. They took up the entire trail and I had to shout that I was coming. They moved over to the side but what if I was coming around a corner and didn’t see them in time? That would be a big mess!

I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to just get along and share the road. There’s plenty of road for everyone and if we’re all respectful it can be pleasant for everyone!

QUESTION: Do you have any other tips for sharing the road with everyone? Do you share the road?