By: Sue Kropscott - LMB Member and CyclingSavvy Instructor
As drivers, cyclists are required by law to follow the rules of the road. Traffic laws are based on the rules of movement, which establish right-of-way for vehicles traveling at different speeds and trajectories.
Having been developed in 1903, rules of movement are second nature to most people. They create the predictability and priorities that establish order on the roadway.
Predictability is knowing what to expect other people to do:
- Drive on the right.
- Pass on the left.
- Select a lane position that serves your destination—as when using left, through and right turn lanes.
Priorities designate how to solve the conflicts that occur when the paths of two people meet.
First-come, first-served designates the first person in position as having right-of-way. When overtaking someone, the lead person has right-of-way and the person approaching from behind has to slow down and wait to pass until it is safe to do so. It doesn’t matter which vehicles are involved—cars, motorcycles, farm equipment, horse and buggy, bicycles—all drivers are required to abide by the first-come, first-served rule.
- Yield to the right when conflicts occur, such as four-way stops.
- Yield when making a lateral move, as when changing lanes.
- Yield when entering a roadway from a driveway, parking lot or from a smaller road onto a busier one.
- Yield before crossing through traffic, as when turning left. Traffic includes all oncoming road traffic, as well as sidewalk and side path traffic.
The rules of movement work without any traffic controls—no signs, signals or lane lines are necessary. When everyone follows the same system, everyone travels safely. Crashes happen when the rules of movement are violated. Failing to follow a rule of movement increases your risk of a crash.
As a cyclist, riding defensively includes following the rules of movement. Ride predictably. Ride on the right. Do not ride facing traffic. Do not pass a line of cars on the right. You have violated the pass on the left rule and failed to yield to the motorists’ right-of-way in being first to arrive at the intersection. Get in line with the other drivers and wait your turn. (Position yourself on the left side of the lane behind the drivers, where you can see and be seen by oncoming traffic.) At intersections, move to the left, center or right of the lane to indicate your intended direction. If turn lanes are provided, use the appropriate one. Do not ride straight through an intersection in a right turn only lane.
Yield as required. Obey traffic signals and stop signs. At four way stops, yield to the right. Be sure you are in the portion of the roadway that allows you to navigate an intersection without crossing in front of moving traffic coming from behind.
To ride with comfort and confidence, learn cycling strategies based on the rules of movement. Everyone, no matter how much or how little experience they have had, can benefit from taking a traffic cycling course.
CyclingSavvy is an established, research-based program utilizing the rules of movement to provide a toolkit for cycling wherever you want to go on existing infrastructure.