Don’t Bike Like A Dickweed: 10 Rules for New Cyclists

View from DIRTT
Photo by Steve Vance

Here’s the thing. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was new to riding a bicycle once. I bought my first bicycle as an adult four years ago, and if you think I wasn’t embarrassingly inept for the first year, you’re completely tripping. There is no way to become a serious cyclist who knows what they’re doing without spending a long time learning by trial and error. We’re biased, since we bleed chainlube if you prick us, but we think every human with the physical ability to pedal a bicycle should at least try riding in the city they love.

Even the most ardent supporters of community cycling have a hard time coping with the influx of novices every spring and summer, though. Suddenly the empty lanes we owned all winter are full of creaking, out-of-repair bicycles that are passing us on the right with like two inches of space between our knees despite the fact there’s a red light coming in two seconds, and we want to fucking strangle everyone.

The new Chicago bikeshare program, Divvy, means lots of ordinary citizens are experimenting with cycling, and we love it. But a few minutes on the road will show you that most users of the program could use a crash course in bike etiquette.

We’re not saying anyone should be ashamed of being new to cycling. We’re not saying anyone should be too nervous of making a mistake to even try. We’re not trying to make the bar to entry even higher. We’re saying that, if new cyclists take a few simple considerations to heart, we probably won’t even know they’re new to cycling when see them out there sweating it out on Milwaukee. We’ll just think they’re one of us.

Cycling in a dress and heels
Photo by Steve Vance

Moving Violations

Ignoring the rules listed here can be seriously dangerous. They make commuting on a crowded street more inconvenient for everyone. You might think they make your trip safer, or easier, or faster, but in the long run you’re putting yourself at risk and delaying/endangering other cyclists for your own selfishness. This is the kind of stuff that will make other cyclists seethe.

Now, do hard and fast rules exist in cycling? No. The same red light that it’s just idiotic not to run at three in the morning is equally idiotic to run during rush hour. There’s a difference between riding along a deserted sidewalk instead of taking a very sketchy bridge, and weaving through pedestrians on the sidewalk for miles. The same route that a bike messenger takes everyday without incident might seem like a certain deathtrap to someone without the same skill level and disregard for personal safety. I’m not saying “never pass a cyclist on the right even if you’re about to be hit by a car and that’s the only path available to you.” I’m saying “if you pass a cyclist on the right instead of waiting two seconds, looking over your shoulder, saying ‘on your left’ and passing on the left, please be aware that they’re beaming psychic death rays at the back of your fool head.”

1. Pass on the left, with a audible verbal warning.

Passing on the right is unexpected, puts you closer to the danger of parked cars, and is just incredibly rude. Cyclists are looking for you coming up over their left shoulder. They’re not looking for you on the right. And it’s fucked up to shove them closer to car traffic because you’re too much of a wimp to wait for an opening to pass properly.

If you’re passing a bike within the same lane, you need to say “on your left.” If you’re close enough to reach out and tap someone on the shoulder, you need to say “on your left.” I cannot emphasize this enough.

Hate saying it? Then only pass people when it’s safe to take the lane and pass someone with a few feet of space. You don’t just get to breeze past people because you’re too shy to say three words to a stranger. Or just practice! I used to hatehatehate saying “on your left,” and now I breezily say “coming up on your left, hon” or “I’m going to pass on your left, thanks dear.”

Fun fact: when you say “on your left,” tons of people say “thank you” back. Absolutely zero of them say “Whatever, Safety Ranger, what a nerd.”

2. Only two people can pass within a bike lane at the same time.

Listen, I get how frustrating the peloton of douchebaggery up and down Milwaukee gets. But if the person in front of you is passing the person in front of them, you need to wait a minute until everyone is single file before you try passing them.

Once I was passing a very slow creaky person on Milwaukee during rush hour after work. Someone, who had probably already been accelerating to pass me, decided that he was going to continue passing both of us at the same time, without saying “boo” to alert me of his presence. There is NOT room for a parked car, three cyclists, and a moving car on one half of Milwaukee Avenue. Somebody’s path strayed an inch, our bars clipped, we both went down, and homeboy got sent to the hospital unconcious, strapped to a stretcher. Cyclist-on-cyclist collisions are serious fucking business; look at how many people get injured during road races and on the track. I’m talking “broken skull” and “missing teeth” injuries, not sprained wrists and road rash.

3. Don’t ride two abreast.

This also means that you and your homeboy can’t ride next to each other chatting away, because then nobody can pass you. It’s actually illegal in Illinois.

Now, is it fine to ride two abreast when you’re cruising down a residential sidestreet to a party and there’s no other vehicles around? Yes. But if you’re pulling this shit on a busy commuter street, I promise scores of people are cursing you and wishing you would die in a fire.

I also see people riding two abreast when they try to pass a stranger but they’re not actually fast enough. It’s ok to ride behind someone, you know.

4. Use hand signals.


It’s pretty easy, kids. If you find it difficult to take your hand off your bars, I suggest practicing on a trail after you’ve been riding for an hour or so and you have your balance down.

5. Don’t shoal.

When you reach a red light, you should wait behind the cyclist who is already there. If you don’t, you’re shoaling. As Bike Snob NYC explains it: “No rider, no matter how slow or diminutive, will ever come to a stop behind another rider at a red light. Instead, it is standard practice to pass that rider and stop in front of him, even if this involves doing so in the middle of the crosswalk or in the actual intersection, well ahead of the traffic signal. ‘Shoaling’ is an incredibly rude practice, and it’s tantamount to cutting in front of someone at an ATM, supermarket checkout, or urinal line.”

Dummies, for the love of god, cut this shit out right the fuck now. If people are out there in front of you, obviously faster than you, what do you hope to accomplish by cutting ahead of them at a light? THEY’RE FASTER THAN YOU. You’re just going to get passed again. And if you ARE faster than them, there’s plenty of time to safely pass them after the light has changed.

6. Don’t ride against traffic.

Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as other traffic. Riding in the opposite direction of traffic is both dangerous and against the law. You and a car have much less reaction time to respond to each other when you’re actively hurtling toward each other. It’s also mindboggling disrespectful to the cyclist who is riding the correct way and has to go around you. How come it’s never the person who is riding the wrong way who takes the lane and moves into traffic? Because they are horrible people who only care about themselves.

7. Don’t try to beat the red at six way stops.

That thing where you ride in the crosswalks in a brilliant gambit to defeat the six way stop’s red light? Or that thing where you pedal halfway across and then sit on your bike in the middle of a huge, dangerous intersection in order to have a 15 foot head start on whoever was obeying the law and waiting behind the crosswalk? It’s pointless. And dangerous. And annoying. Stop it.

8. Learn to trackstand-REALLY trackstand-or put a fucking foot down.

If you’re stopped at a red light, you should be behind the crosswalk line, with your butt off your saddle and hovering over the top tube, one foot on a pedal and one foot on the ground. Exceptions are made if you can trackstand. But can you really trackstand?

If you’re slowly inching forward until you’re four feet into the intersection? You can’t trackstand. If you’re riding your bike in little circles in the crosswalk? Oh my god, is that even saving you any effort? JUST PUT A FOOT DOWN.

I was once riding my bike and I ran into a boy I think is really cute and was maybe trying to holler at. When we got to a stop, he started riding his bike in dorky little circles instead of sitting on his top tube and talking with me. I thought, “Welp, we’re never having sex.”.

9. Take out the headphones.

If you’re into sensory deprivation and danger, get Mistress Apollonia to wrap you in saran wrap with a tube to breath out of. Don’t hinder your ability to hear warnings and approaching dangers when you’re on a bike in the middle of traffic.

10. It’s not a Cat 6 race.

If you’re going a comfortable speed and safely passing other cyclists (see rule number one), well, good for you, Jensie. But if you’re dripping sweat and shoaling and killing yourself just because you can’t stand to look at another riders’s butt, you need to calm right the fuck down. It’s not a race, and there’s no shame in being behind someone who’s going the same speed or a little faster than you.

I consider myself pretty fast for a commuter. And I loathe being in big clusterfuck groups of cyclists, and will speed up (or deliberately catch a red light!) to separate myself from them. But I don’t automatically pass everyone I see without judging whether I can maintain the speed necessary to stay out of their way. I consider how likely it is that we catch a red light in the next few blocks; there’s no effort more futile than mashing like hell to get past someone and then having them catch up to you at the light looking refreshed and relaxed. And when I find myself getting competitive and aggro, I remind myself I’m just going to work, not trying to be first in line at a Free Ice Cream and Makeout Party.

If you need to compete against other cyclists and prove you’re faster? There’s a little thing called track racing, and road racing, and cyclocross, and alleycats…..

doing tricks on Divvy at Bike to Work Day Rally
Photo by Steve Vance

Ok, so maybe you’re not doing wheelies on your Divvy bike yet. And maybe the giant u-lock clanging off your handlebars and your pristine Chrome bag still signal to everyone that you’re a newbie. Don’t despair. Just focus on being a respectful member of the road, and everything else will only get easier.


  • Gary July 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    This is a bad attempt at whatever it was you were trying to accomplish.

    Usually, I like cupcakes.

    • Van August 10, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      Yeah, fuck you, Gary, this was incredibly informative! I just started biking in Boston, and was committing 9 out of 10 of these offenses, but now, I won’t. Go troll something that actually sucks, you internet loser.

    • LHT April 24, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      methinks Gary’s a little butthurt from having been called out on so many moving violations…

    • Lee May 8, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      This is a most fabulous, entertaining, and accurate set of advice. Get with it, Gary.

    • JS December 9, 2015 at 12:28 am

      I come from the future with an important message.

      Fuck you gary.

    • Pete March 10, 2016 at 9:26 pm

      Eat a dick Gary

    • Destin May 9, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      I usually ride with headphones in. Currently have no brakes. Laws do not apply. Try it, it’s a lot of fun- if you know what you’re doing

    • Destin May 9, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      I have been hit one time while biking. It wasnt just because I was drunk out of my mind either. Some idiot with no insurance didn’t see me while turning right at an intersection. Thank god that was the one day I chose to wear a helmet. 😉

      • Art March 5, 2017 at 12:15 am

        Looks like you tried to pass on the right which is what LC has advised all the riders not to do.

    • Joe November 11, 2016 at 4:49 am

      Good article, especially the ” on your left”.

    • Michael November 13, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      Fuck off Gary! Thanks for the informative article… Trying not to act like an ass-clown with my new bike.

  • Ash July 17, 2013 at 1:31 am

    No fuck you Gary, this was a great article which I can only hope every cyclist in my town would read you shoaling circle riding cat 6 motherfucker.

    Jokes aside these are extremely important lessons in etiquette and safety that could realistically make the difference between being alive or dead, or at least potentially severely physically or verbally bruised.

    Can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to yell at because they are headed straight towards me in a bike lane going against traffic and

  • Ash July 17, 2013 at 1:34 am

    Oops pressed reply. … And I’ve had to swerve into traffic to avoid them, or mount a sidewall. Also people who shoal… Oh the rage.

    Anyway that’s all thanks for writing this Mate

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  • Anne July 17, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Lorena is spot on here. A bit of courtesy and common sense goes a LONG way towards making the streets a lot safer and more hassle free for all of us. In a lot of the problem situations that Lorena describes and too many of us encounter, common sense is missing ingredient that would have prevented the problem in the first place.

    Bottom line: if you’re doing something in traffic that you wouldn’t want another person to do to you, you just might want to rethink that move. Just my $0.02…

  • Lisa July 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Can we please shout this article from the rooftops at all of the cyclists out there, newbie or not? Thank you!

  • Eli July 17, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as other traffic. Riding in the opposite direction of traffic is both dangerous and against the law.

    Contraflow bike lanes exist. They exist within the Chicago city limits. To say categorically that riding opposite car traffic is dangerous or illegal is simply wrong.

    • Lorena Cupcake July 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Hon, that quote came from an official publication by the City of Chicago. Click the link. The Dearborn bike lanes are their own animal.

    • kaz July 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      I literally had to deal with two people riding the wrong way in my bike lane within 2 blocks of each other going home from work yesterday. At first I thought it might be confusion over the Dearborn cycle track, as this was on Dearborn several blocks north of where it turns two-way, but as someone who has ridden north on Dearborn from Grand to North Ave almost every work day for 3+ years, this happened regularly long before the cycle track was a gleam in Gabe Klein’s eye.

      There was once a discussion on Everyblock (RIP) about biking with kids and I remember one woman who rode with her kids in a trailer and CHOSE to always go the wrong way on one way streets because she erroneously thought it was safer. No amount of discussion could convince her otherwise.

      Riding the wrong way is dangerous for a lot of reasons, not least of which is drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists are not expecting traffic to come from the wrong direction. The Dearborn cycle track is different because it is clearly marked as two-way and as people get used to it, they understand and expect two-way traffic. And considering it’s the only two-way track in Chicago, it’s a strange nit to pick.

    • Eli July 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      To clarify, I wasn’t thinking of the Dearborn bike lane at all (which I’ve never been on, since I am rarely in the Loop). I was referring to unprotected, regular, painted bike lanes on streets that are one-way for cars, where the bike lane runs against the flow of (car) traffic. The one I am most familiar with is on Ardmore. (The street signs say “One Way Except For Bikes.”) I imagine there are others.

      No argument from me that riding the wrong way in the bike lane (that is, against other bike traffic) is bad. But I don’t see the problem with bike lanes that run in the opposite direction to the flow of car traffic. I think it would be great if there were more of these on one-way streets that are wide enough.

    • kaz July 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Oh yeah, I used to live off Ardmore so I know the one you’re talking about, Eli. And it’s gotten better with the new striping and higher cyclist numbers, but there are conflicts with cars coming out of the alleys and such not looking for traffic coming in that direction. And it is the only contra-flow lane I’ve encountered in my 4 years of biking in Chicago. Not saying I’ve covered the whole city, but I think that one is specific to it being the end point of the LFP and needing to get people safely to better cycling streets (and Sheridan is not one of them) to continue north.

      I’m wary of the contra-flow (as opposed to two-way) bike lanes — would it encourage more “salmoning” on other bike lanes? I don’t know the answer, but given our grid system I think the circumstances that warrant it are rare. Just move one block over and put the bike lane on the street in the same direction as car traffic.

      Thanks for clarifying what you meant!

  • JM July 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    This should be renamed 10 suggestions for all cyclists, seeing as how almost no one follows these.

    But at least now I have a name for the douchebag practice of people cutting in front of me every time at a light

  • Justin July 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    First off, lolz to “Safety Ranger.”

    This is not a way to politely address the problems associated with cycling, though I’m sure this is the approach necessary for some people on the road.

    Just a note, riding two abreast will be permitted, with rules, once the cyclist/driver fines that passed the City Council vote are implemented. Also, contraflow lanes exist, but those are clearly marked and not simply something you implement with guerrilla tactics.

    I despise shoaling, running red lights and headphones the most. Mostly because I’ll end up passing you anyway. All you end up doing is making the environment less safe for both of us somewhere down the road. I use a speaker on my bike and it’s nowhere near loud enough to block out surrounding sounds and it’s a more enjoyable experience riding.

    I’m improving my use of hand signals, though I’m not about to create an unstable situation for me at the hands of using signals.

  • Jonathan July 17, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    Good tips, except for the one. That method of signaling is antiquated and unnecessarily confusing.

    • Dave Stanford July 23, 2013 at 11:43 am

      The turning graphic above matches the signals shown in the Illinois Bike rules of the road. Both right turn signals are correct.

    • dkot July 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      My personal philosophy — BIG AND OBVIOUS are the key words. I point really obviously and multiple times where I want to go (assuming it’s safe to take a hand off the bars) and look drivers in the eye if I can.

    • Kagi August 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      The illustration Lorena has provided above is better than what you’ve linked here, for one reason: these instructions tell you to “point” in the direction you plan to move.

      The problem with that is that you should _not_ point with your finger — your hand should be flat. I learned this the hard way:

      After a near miss, I had the opportunity to ask a driver why the f@¢k he turned into the same driveway at the same time I was clearly signaling that I was turning into it. He told me that he though my pointing finger meant that I was telling _him_ to go ahead and turn, not signaling my own intention. I’ve never had that problem with a flat-hand signal.

      That said, unless you just really need to keep your right hand on the brake, straight-right-arm beats bent-left-arm.

  • Maya Kuper July 20, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Thanks, Cupcake. I learned something: I had no idea that “shoaling” was bad. I do it to get out of the crush of people and cars. It never occurred to me that it was rude, and I’ve been riding bikes in Chicago for longer than you.

    • kaz July 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      I think “shoaling” is okay if and only if you’re faster than all the people you’re cutting in front of. Once in a while I’ll shoal a particularly slow rider to avoid getting stuck behind him or have to pass in traffic. But at least on the streets I bike, the bike traffic isn’t so thick that I can’t just get around the person the minute the light turns green anyway.

      Some cities have bike boxes that give bikes a space in front of cars to wait for lights to turn green. I wish Chicago did more of this, because I agree that getting in front of cars is really nice and is probably a huge reason a lot of people shoal.

  • Samantha Lare July 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    Great commentary on newbie bike rules. With that said, I’ve encountered a MAJOR bike issue that wasn’t addressed that only recently has become prevalent, which is biking on the sidewalk. I have seen far too many people (that are older than 15) biking on the sidewalk. Recently I was hit by someone riding on the sidewalk when they were on a side street and biked into the sidewalk on a major road. This is a huge issue that truly should not be one.

    Thanks for discussing “on the right.” I’ve almost been hit before and when coming to a red light with the person that passed me and asking if they could please notify me instead of almost hitting me they just tell me to bike faster. A sense of respect and common courtesy is necessary for sharing the road and I hate that I find it as a rare occurrence on Milwaukee

  • Samantha Lare July 22, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I’m sorry. I just now noticed the notation on sidewalk biking in this article. Have any of you guys noticed cops ticketing “sidewalk cyclists?” It’s becoming a severe problem.

    • Josh August 6, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      In my 15+ years in Chicago (I no longer live there, but probably will again in a couple years) I never once saw a sidewalk cyclist get a ticket, or even scolded by police that I can recall. However I can recall numerous instances of nearly being run down by bikers on sidewalks. When I ride my bike on a sidewalk, it’s for safety reasons, and then if there are any pedestrians in the area at all (or blind corners) I ride super slow.

  • Ryan July 25, 2013 at 5:58 am

    I invented the fake track stand.
    Stop biting my style, dickweeds.

  • Lindsey July 26, 2013 at 6:33 am

    LOVE this article, thank you! And loved and related to the “Welp, we’re never having sex.” Definitely sharing this.

    Just wish you’d mentioned helmets and lights!

    • AK commuter August 9, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Fixie kids hate both of those.

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  • OhKorea August 4, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Where I live, I would put up with ALL of these if folks would just learn to use two hands while biking. It’s the one-hand-on-the-bike, the other-hand-on-a-cellphone/cigarette/friend/umbrella thing that really bothers me. Perspective…

  • biketunes August 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I sincerely cannot wait for these rules to become common knowledge. They all seem so obvious what is wrong with dummies? The only one I take issue with is that listening to music some how makes you less alert. I love love love having a soundtrack to my bike rides. So long as you’re not blasting those jams you can still hear the sound of engines revving as they approach, on your lefting and honks and shouts of people calling me asshole for daring to ride a bike in this city.

  • Adam_S August 7, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    This is a great article, but man, I’m gonna shoal the hell outta people if it’s clear as day that I’m going to pass them when the light turns green. Otherwise, I need to deal w a bunch of slow ass morons riding city cruiser bikes, and cars, when I could have just avoided the whole thing by being ‘that guy.’

    But wow, everything else, you nailed it.

    • pbr3000 September 30, 2014 at 12:35 am

      What you just said is basically what drivers think about bikers.

  • older chick August 8, 2013 at 1:08 am

    Whatever happened to bells. My hearing isn’t as good as it once was. Even on quiet bike trails. I can barely hear “On the left “, but I can ALWAYS hear a good old, dime store bike bell!

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  • Zoltar Gorgon August 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Do you really have to fucking say “fucking” so fucking much?

    • Lorena Cupcake August 8, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Fuck yes.

  • Bradley Flamm August 8, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Great article. Sure, one could quibble with details here and there, but the basic message — calm down, be cool to other people and they’ll be cool to you — is absolutely right on. Thanks!

  • Kelly August 8, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    The few points I read before I gave up were correct. Too bad you’re going to lose the people who need to read this, and a lot of us who might agree with you, because your language is so crude. Most people don’t like it when you cuss at them.

    • civil cyclist August 9, 2013 at 5:23 pm


    • Lorena Cupcake August 13, 2013 at 12:25 am

      There are many, many websites for cyclists out there, all writing with a different audience in mind. I swear as much as I do for a reason. I think reading a somewhat vicious screed was cathartic for me to write and others to read, and I think that it helped shame people who pull these moves constantly thinking “no one notices, everyone else does it” into rethinking the advisability of these stunts.

      There’s a million basic guides to etiquette and safety out there. How did this one get widely shared enough that you found it, read it, and commented on it? Probably the fact I make a lot of sex jokes and drop the f-bomb constantly didn’t hurt. I still think it’s good content, regardless. Tiny Fix is not for everyone, and I’m sorry if you were offended by my language, but that’s just the kind of site it is.

  • Jason August 8, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Great article, but one factual correction. #3 is incorrect/incomplete from a legal standpoint. It is not illegal to ride two abreast in Illinois. That has been legal for many years now. From the Illinois Compiled Statutes:

    Sec. 11-1505.1. Persons riding bicycles or motorized pedal cycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than 2 abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for their exclusive use. Persons riding 2 abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane subject to the provisions of Section 11-1505.

    Until just recently Chicago did prohibit riding two abreast but that also changed this year. From the Chicago Municipal Criminal Code:

    Riding in single file required -Exceptions.
    Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall ride other than single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or except when riding two abreast does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Persons riding two abreast shall ride within a single lane subject to section 9-52-040 of this Code.

    Your interpretation of the spirt of the law still holds true, and I would say that is even the case when the “normal and reasonable movement of traffic” being impeded is bicycle traffic, that it is still the case. But strictly speaking, riding two abreast down a street if you’re not causing a problem for anyone is not only cool, it’s legal.

  • Jason August 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    That also means you can ride two abreast on say, Chicago, if there’s another lane available for cars to easily pass you in. That might be an issue if it’s rush hr and both lanes are being used at maximum capacity, but at an off peak hour, requiring the occasional car or two to change lanes to pass slower moving vehicles on the left is not abnormal and unreasonable. Especially if the choice is between riding two abreast and taking the lane, or riding single file and getting squeezed between the door zone and cars trying to pass too closely rather than changing lanes.

  • Psy August 9, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Awesomely written. I’m tempted to print this out and just start handing it to people I see breaking all of these rules everyday.

    I also had no idea that the term shoaling existed, so thanks for teaching me something new!

  • Barb Chamberlain (@barbchamberlain) August 9, 2013 at 5:50 am

    The no-warning ninja passage is probably my top issue. Since I’m built for comfort, not for speed, I get to observe the passing behavior of other riders quite often.

    Every so often I try saying “On my left” when some ninja passes me without saying a word or dinging a bell. I figure that way at least ONE of us said it and my passive-aggressive comment might sink in half a block ahead.

    In place of that I actually screamed once (just a little–sort of a strangled “Aggggh!!”) when a guy zoomed past me so closely that his flat handlebar actually tapped my glove. I was changing lane position to go around a stopped bus that had taken the bike lane, a move he should have seen coming if he’d been paying attention.

    I have a bell and think that gets through the earbuds better than the human voice; I sometimes do both. On that note, headphone lovers, you have to leave one earbud out. You assume you’re hearing more than you are.

    Part of my commute is along the heavily traveled Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle. I’ve hypothesized that when I say “On my left” a rider behind me who hears that is more likely to do the same when subsequently overtaking me, but it’s tough to do data collection while I’m riding to test my “manners by osmosis” theory. I do think people on the trail are more likely to say something than people passing in a bike lane on a street, for some reason.

    I always say “thank you” to people who let me know they’re passing. Rewarding the good behavior increases the likelihood it’s repeated.

  • bob August 9, 2013 at 5:51 am

    i live and ride in portland or. we have the largest commuting bike population in the country. i raced bikes for 30+ years in/around chicago(always loved the pizza hut ride) and still can out ride most half my age(they would be 30). this is a really well written and relevant article on how to safely ride in our cities today. i, like all seasoned riders, get frustrated riding with “so called amateurs” BUT we don’t have a choice and we AREN’T training for the TOUR, so chill. just know, if you are as fast and fit as you think you are then it will be obvious as you ride everyone off your rear wheel.

  • Barb Chamberlain (@barbchamberlain) August 9, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Oh, by the way, now that I found you thanks to a tweet by @VeloVogue I’ll add you to, a curated list I created and maintain. I’ve been building it for nearly 3 years now and tweet posts out from @womenbikeblogs to help readers find you.

    • Lorena Cupcake August 13, 2013 at 12:26 am

      Thanks so much Barb! I’ve seen your posts on Twitter before.

  • Von R Buzard August 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Good read, spread the word

  • Roger August 9, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    One disagreement, I always stop, as long as there is not pedestrian traffic, in the crosswalk at an intersection. The reason being I have been nearly right hooked way too many times by motorists who don’t realize, or worse, don’t care that I am in the bike lane to their right when they want to take a right turn. By putting myself where I do they can see me and I have yet to have someone right hook me from this position. It isn’t about beating a light or anything like that, it is about my personal safety. From the other position I have had as many as four cars turn right without ever granting me my right of way and I have had too pass me as I am starting and then turn right just forcing me to either do a panic stop or turn right with them to avoid a collision.

  • Stew August 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I hate to say it but these rules were written by a sissy who needs to get a life. Anyone bothered by someone not following these silly rules needs to read the REAL RULES of cycling. Especially number 5: Living by that rule will make everyone happier, including you.

    • MLD August 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      That is possibly the worst list of bicycling “rules” ever ridden. Anybody who cares about 90% of that cosmetic crap rather than the simple stuff outlined here needs to “HTFU.” Guess they forgot about their own #43 when they wrote the rest.

      • Minnie mouse January 29, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        Lol “bicycling”

    • S August 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Damn you Stew, you made me check my QR angles.

    • k August 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

      God, I love it when cyclists swear allegiance to “The Rules”, because I then know who to avoid when talking about common-sense cycling things. I know the spirit behind them is somewhat tongue-in-cheek at times, but jesus, you fuckers could also just have the guts to come right out and say I AM NOT A PRO CYCLIST BUT I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT YOU TO THINK I AM.

      There are “The Rules”, and then there is everyday, keeping-it-safe cycling by everyday people who are doing everyday things with their bikes.

  • Jess August 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Definitely glad you wrote this piece! But a few comments: Firstly, don’t judge a bike’s speed merely by what it looks like. While I have no interest in riding a fixie in a city where I’ll need to perpetually slow down and start up, I am definitely faster than a lot of them on my road-leaning hybrid, and do get places faster because I can cater my gears to red lights. Also, my bike looks archaic at a glance and the frame shows it’s aging, but that’s intentional. Less likely to be stolen that way. It’s in fine running condition.

    Secondly, can we talk about patriarchy on the road please??? Just because I am a woman does NOT mean you, a dude, will automatically be quicker than me. Can’t explain how many times I’ve had some dude shoal me and then I have I take the unnecessary risk to pass them.

    Additionally, that’s part of my reason for wearing headphones. I swear, people are even more likely to sexually harass you and catcall when you are on a bike because there’s not much you can do about it. But it still has the effect of making me feel incredibly unsafe/angry/agitated, and ultimately being in a comprimised state of mind is riskier than having headphones on low.

    • HoBi January 2, 2015 at 3:27 am

      Yes. Yesyesyes. And don’t even think about saying “on your left!” I’m deaf as a mf.

  • civil cyclist August 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    All ten of these points are def worth making, but the way you make them isn’t very productive. It’s condescending at best, and at worst it confirms to new cyclists (a group you were in just four years ago) that skinny tires are for assholes. If you want to be an ambassador for bike commuting, job one is to avoid alienating the people you’re trying to reach. But it’s pretty clear that the only folks reading and sharing this are bike nerds, anyway.

    The bigger the city, the less time you have for patience, I guess. This attitude is nowhere to be found in Eugene, Oregon, but it’s becoming more of a problem in Portland.

  • triple0 August 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Headphones are actually not bad for biking. this Australian experiement showed that “A bike rider with ear-bud earphones playing music at a reasonable volume hears much more outside noise than a car driver, even when that driver has no music playing.”

    • Shemon Monshe March 24, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      Terrible argument. I have three mirrors in my car, your eyes not your ears will keep you and others alive that is if you use them right. You don’t have that luxury on a bike, no mirrors, so you better be able to hear what’s coming from behind, especially scooters, they are your worst ennemies as a cyclist, they have no respect for you and will use your lanes at full speed.

  • Rudeboy August 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Thank you for NOT mentioning helmets.

  • flergenplatz August 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    I really think all this can be boiled down to two rules #1 “chill the fuck out” and #2 “be considerate.” It’s funny because in many cases my rule #1 contradicts your rules.

    “On your left” can come off as rude, or braggy in that aggro rule #10 sort of way. Bikes make noise, so I myself am rarely surprised by passers, and find “on your left” irritating.

    In general, tone of voice is really important since we have to use verbal signals. I’ve seen bikers use technically correct phrasing, but really rude in tone, especially towards pedestrians. I would only be if I had to alert someone quickly.

    Shoaling: I think it hinges on how much space there is at the stop, and how far apart you were when riding up. If it’s a narrow space, that’s egregious. I would notice if someone directly behind me, as we stopped, passed me to stop in front of me. But if someone riding fast, and a block behind, comes to a stop ahead of me, I would never register that as rude.

    Also, it sounds like you’re dealing with a line of commuters on milwaukee, and I can see that too. But I swear I’ve been shoaled a million times and never noticed it. Rule #1.

    “Use hand signals.” Sure. I’ve biked here for three years every day. I’ve seen less than ten hand signals thrown total. I wonder whether the commenters who are all “amen” about that are just throwing signals in their mind when they are biking. I’m pretty sure this is true.

  • Janinedm August 10, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Yes to all this. Except I’ll point out that a small percentage of us drip sweat even when we’re not trying hard and we are sensitive about it. And in New York on some of the avenues, the pedestrians like to walk in the bike lane, so only passing on the left goes out the window. It becomes pass as pass can with a lot of verbal warning on either side. NYC pedestrians give zero f—s.

    • Lorena Cupcake August 13, 2013 at 12:31 am

      I’m sorry hon, def didn’t mean it like that! For me, “sweating” is almost a synonym for “riding the hell out of your bike,” and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going all that fast. Me and my Tiny Fix sisters can vouch, we are definitely some very sweaty people and we think it is liquid proof of our badassery.

  • Beth August 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Can you add to this that if you are constantly ringing the bell that comes attached to your Divy, that’s basically like honking the whole time you are driving?

  • Hugh August 11, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I live in Columbus. I retired my road bike because my route to work is badly in need of a repaving job. I bought a slow bike with a suspension. My morning commute is more comfortable but it makes me one of the slowest bike riders in the city. I don’t try to race past anyone. Instead, I accept that I am the slowest bike around and make it easy for people to pass me.

  • Week in Review 8.11.2013 August 12, 2013 at 11:01 am

    […] Tiny Fix Bike Gang – 10 Rules for New Cyclists [NSFW lang] […]

  • foresmac August 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you. I thought I was the only person out there losing their shit over shoalers, red light runners, crosswalk “short-cutters”, et al.

    As pissed as I am at those who constantly compromise my safety, it also drives me nuts that dozens of other cyclists see this shit and say nothing.

    So thank you from the bottom of my cold, dead cycling heart.

  • Sometimes August 22, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I get the whole passing on the left. I get it. But sometimes there’s a bike lane on a oneway street and for some reason, the bike lane is on the left side of the road, meaning traffic is whizzing by you on your right. (In Chicago, this would be the bike lane on Jackson St.) Being a n00b I passed someone on the right side because I didn’t feel like squeezing in by the curb and parked cars. If the lane was on the right side of the road, I would have passed on the left. I was then corrected by the cyclist and I felt really bad, but I feel like passing on the left would have forced that person into traffic. Was I still wrong? What was the correct thing to do?

    • kaz August 23, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      In this case, passing on the right is the correct thing to do. I encounter this on Dearborn north of the two-way cycle track where there is a northbound bike lane on the left side of the street, and I do pass on the right there. The key is if you’re the one passing, you’re the one that tangles with traffic because you can choose to time your pass; and you should give the person a heads up if you’re anywhere close to them. Sometimes I don’t say “on your left” or “on your right” if I’ve moved so far out as to take the entire car lane and I’m nowhere near the cyclist I’m passing.

      It’s possible the cyclist who corrected you was just startled because you were too close or didn’t warn them, but it’s also possible they were in the wrong. I once passed a cyclist on the left in a normal bike lane situation, said “on your left” and he screamed back “you should be on the right!!!!!!” which, just, no.

  • oneblankspace August 23, 2013 at 12:45 am

    And watch out for pedestrians.

  • learn_how_to_ride_your_damn_bike August 23, 2013 at 5:23 am

    The bike lane comments are irrelvant. The last place I want to be is in a cycling ghetto staring at newbie buttocks.

    I pass on the right all the time in a vehicle lane. Its called cycling for transportation. Maybe you should try it sometime.

    Cyclists sometimes make little snickery noises when I track sit in the vehicle lane. Get overyourselves…this is not fucking Copenhagen!

    I shoal motorists every fucking day. I rarely shoal cyclists because the last place I want to be is in a bike lane watching a newbie attempt to ride a bike.

    I’ve been riding every fucking day for 33 years and I have never needed an audible warning to see where the fuck I am going.

    Killing myself, dripping with sweat, and irritating cagers is fun. Instead of posting pointless catty rants on the internet maybe you should learn how to ride your bike.

    • Lorena Cupcake August 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Yeah, you lost any credibility you had when you said “cagers.” If you never use bike lanes anyway, why are you so upset with people who do use bike lanes establishing basic etiquette?

  • Mohammad August 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    The author of this article reminded me of Deb Dexter’s sister. Deb cannot come with one sentence without the F word LOL. Very informative article. Thank Lorena!

  • Jimmy August 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    1. If you are on the sidewalk, you should be off your bike and WALKING it. Its called a sideWALK, not a sideRIDE.

    2. Bicyclists that weave in and out of traffic (messengers) deserve to get hit. Period.

    3. Bicyclists that do not come to a full stop at red lights or stop signs deserve to get hit. Period.

    4. You’re not a competitor in the Tour De France. Stop pretending to be one.

    • Lorena Cupcake August 31, 2013 at 2:55 am

      We don’t think anyone deserves to get hit…..

  • Jeff Schneider September 29, 2013 at 3:52 am

    This is the best intro to city biking I’ve ever seen.

  • Guy Who Shoals April 21, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Calm the fuck down…. that is all.

  • Jordan April 25, 2014 at 12:33 am

    You lost me at “with a audible verbal warning.”

  • Son, Try Sun Dried Tomatoes June 2, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    […] but it’s also when you annoyingly cut in front of someone waiting at a red light. Check out this Tiny Fix blog post and read more about shoaling and how to have proper etiquette on your […]

  • Randum July 17, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    This is fantastic and should be distributed to commuting cyclists before hitting the streets!

  • Maria October 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm

    Great post! The fake trackstand is a serious pet peeve of mine too.

  • T13 October 21, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Rule #11:

    Stop using the word “fixie”. automatically makes you a goddamn fucktard.


  • HoBi January 2, 2015 at 3:33 am

    Can I just add that if you are passing someone on the left, say “on your left” or whatever, and that person doesn’t respond, can you please NOT yell, look back and sneer, or fuck with them in any way? Some people are deaf.

  • Dark Penguin January 15, 2015 at 5:44 am

    You left out a couple of items:

    (1) Although riding on the sidewalk is actually permitted in many places, it’s still a dick move unless you’re age 6 or below and are just learning to ride without training wheels. Don’t be a dick.

    (2) But if for one reason or another you do have to ride on the sidewalk, ride with the direction of traffic (right side of the street in most places, left side for UK, Australia, etc.)

    (3) And do NOT ride after dark without a light. Can’t afford a light? Too bad, take the bus.

  • Glenn April 9, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    I was riding this morning and passed another cyclist on the left and audibly stated such. He told me I was f***ing rude and didn’t need to say anything. I told him he needed to learn the rules and that I was being f***ing safe!

  • Matt September 4, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Im a very new biker (only about 4 weeks) I like to listen to music while riding and I felt like using headphones would be extra dangerous (and might fall out of my ears often when I’m going fast). Instead I use a Bluetooth speaker that I keep in my backpack. I keep it at a decent volume that you wouldn’t be able to hear outside of like a 6 foot radius. I get alot of dirty looks though as if I’m disturbing the peace, and I sometimes think its just people being offended by my newfangled hippity-hop and they can’t handle hearing it for a mere 5 seconds. Am I an asshole for using a speaker (keep in mind it’s not blasting) or are people just overreacting?

  • Stephan Flinchum April 29, 2016 at 10:46 pm

    Looks like it’s been awhile since someone commented. First off, this was really informative. Even if some of it seems to be common sense, you need to be reminded.

    Second, FUCK YOU GARY

  • Vikrant May 26, 2016 at 12:49 am

    I use Zackees gloves for giving right and left turn signals, while riding on my bike. Even during the day time, Zackees gloves illuminate quite well. Just touch your left thumb with the left index finger and the light will glow on left glove and vice versa. The lighting system is inbuilt in both the gloves and it works with a coin cell battery fitted into each glove. These gloves are definitely worth using to give signals on road. Know more about these gloves here >

  • Gwen June 29, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    This easily could be applied to the W&OD Trail in Northern Virginia. I’m a female cyclist and I average anywhere from 13-15 mph on any given ride. But these men (yes, it’s usually men) on bikes figure they can zip up right behind me, pass on my left with NO signal. I get really pissed because it’s scary and unnerving having someone out of the blue pass without warning. But these cyclists think they are channeling Greg LeMond or something, and feel they have to flaunt their ego by passing the “girl.” Sometimes I yell out “Passing on my left, great signal!” as they pass, to chastise them but that never works. It really puts me in a bad mood for a few minutes. I tell myself I have every right to be out here, and they are no “better” than I. Also another pet peeve? Parents and their brats (yes brats) that take up so much of the lane you nearly collide with them and then they just shrug it off and say a half *ssed “sorry.”


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