Bike Commuting Vermont VTrans

Traffic Laws and Bicycling

When cyclists follow traffic laws they travel in a predictable fashion, communicating their intentions to other road users. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law — state law grants all the rights and duties of vehicles to bicyclists. Always remember to:

  • Ride in the direction of traffic.
  • Obey all traffic signals including stop signs and lights.
  • Travel as far to the right in the travel lane as practicable when moving slower than traffic, except when utilizing a left-turn lane or avoiding a right-turn lane when traveling straight.
  • Always pass on the left (although overtaking other vehicles when you are either utilizing a bike lane or are in a right-turn lane is legal).
  • Utilize turn lanes when available.

Signal Before Turning/Changing Lanes:

bicycle_turns_03For left turns: extend the left arm straight out to the side.
For right turns: either extend the left arm to the side and up or extend the right arm straight out to the side.
To signal for a stop or a decrease in speed: extend theleft arm to the side and down.

Tip:Looking Behind on a bike

Cyclists often swerve when they look over their shoulders prior to changing lanes or initiating turns. To minimize this tendency, concen- trate on isolating your shoulders from your neck as you move your head to look. Try bringing your chin to the shoulder you want to look over instead of just turning your head to the side. Practice this tech- nique in an empty parking lot until you can look without swerving.

Riding in Traffic

Here are some more tips to help you ride safely and predictably:

  • Maintain as straight a line of travel as possible — avoid swerving in and out of the parking lane. Keep approximately three feet from parked cars so that an opened door will not obstruct your path. This will also make you more visible to drivers approaching from side streets or driveways.
  • Be alert when riding in traffic. Continually scan for potential hazards such as road debris, potholes, car doors that may suddenly open in your path, other road users pulling into your path from side roads or driveways, etc.
  • Cycling two abreast in Vermont is legal, though it is illegal to impede the normal flow of traffic.
  • Ride with confidence and make eye contact with other road users.
  • At stop signs and lights, do not advance to the stop line by passing cars on the right. Instead, wait in the traffic queue unless you are in a striped bike lane or utilizing a turn lane.
  • At intersections, position yourself in the rightmost lane (or portion of it) that best reflects your travel intentions (i.e. use through lanes only when traveling straight, use dedicated turn lanes only when turning).
  • When using turn lanes that serve two destinations (i.e. a left and straight or a right and straight lane), ride on the side of the lane nearest your destination.
  • It is legal (and safest) to occupy the cen- ter of a travel lane when you are travel- ing at traffic speed or when cars cannot pass you safely (see sidebar, “Taking the Lane”).
  • Sidewalk riding is more dangerous than street riding (and in some areas is illegal)
due to reduced sight distances and reaction times. If you must use the sidewalk, be extremely cautious, especially when making the transition to and from the roadway or crossing driveways, and always yield to pedestrians.
  • Be aware that although shared use paths (commonly referred to as “bike paths”) may not have auto traffic, they may have traffic that is less predictable and more dangerous than streets. Keep alert for pedestrians, skaters, pets and less-experienced cyclists. Communicate with these path users and announce your intention to pass them (on their left).