As a serious cyclist, you know to ride on the right side of the road
in the same direction as other traffic. If someone asked you why, thou would
you know how to explain your reasons? This edition of the League "Effective
Cycling Notebook" offers ammunition for those times you need convince a friend,
neighbor, child, or co-worker why this is such an important aspect of safe
FACT: Wrong-way cyclists make up only five percent of bicycle traffic,
but are involved in 21 percent of total car-bike collisions. Many people believe
that they are safer riding against traffic because they can "see what's coming" -
but only four to six percent of all car/bike collisions involve a cyclist being
struck from behind. Real safety comes instead from travelling on the road in
the same predictable manner as other road users.
Reasons to Ride on the Right:
- Motorists expect to find other traffic on the right. Wrong-way cyclists are
outside of the normal searching patterns. This is especially important at
intersections, where auto drivers may only be scanning where they expect to see
- Turning maneuvers for wrong-way cyclists are more dangerous and complicated
because a cyclist must cross paths with so many other vehicles on the road.
- Wrong-way cyclists are in head-on conflict with cyclists who are riding
correctly which can result in a net speed of impact of over 40 miles-per hour.
The speed difference between a car and wrong-way cyclist in the same lane is
much greater than for cyclists riding correctly. Any impact, therefore, will be
much more damaging. In addition, approaching motorists have less time to
respond to the presence of a wrong-way cyclist. A motorist has more time to
react to a cyclist riding with traffic, and more time to plan to give the
cyclist adequate room to share the road.
- Traffic control devices (such as stop lights, stop signs, and yield signs)
and other important regulatory signs that apply to all road users can't be seen
as easily by cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road.
- If you need additional motivation, the Vehicle Codes of all 50 states require
bicyclists to ride on the right with the flow of traffic.
There are exceptions to the strict rule of riding on the right, such as on one-way
streets and when a cyclist is changing position to prepare for an upcoming maneuver.
For more on these issues, see "Effective Cycling Notebook" on Lane Positioning; also
see "Effective Cycling Notebook" "How Far Right Is Right?" Note that even in these
cases, however, the cyclist is still riding with traffic and not against traffic.
Reprinted from "Bicycle USA", magazine of the League of American
Bicyclists, Jan/Feb 1995. Effective CyclingTM.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit
their web site, www.bikeleague.org,
or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.