Unwritten Rules of Bicycle Commuting

This is an article I wrote for bikecommuters.com. Read it, then head over to their site and check out all the great resources they got over there. Tons of great info for newbies and oldies alike.


I've been giving this some thought and have realized that there is an unwritten code of commuting by bicycle. No one else discusses this code and I cannot find a reason why it should remain shrouded in mystery. These aren't rules to keep you safer or save you time, just things that make this whole bike commuting thing fun and worthwhile.

  1. The first rule is probably the easiest. When you pass another cyclist going the opposite direction, give a quick wave or a nod of the helmet. This small act of acknowledgement helps to build community among cyclists. It is just an easy way to say "way to go, buddy" to others out on the road.

  2. If you are passing someone going the same direction give a short acknowledgement of their presense. Base it on how much faster you are going. If you are speeding by, a simple "howdy" is fine (after a "on your left" to let the know you are coming). If you are not blazing past them you can use "great weather for a ride" or "XX more miles to go."

  3. Similarly, if you are getting passed, give them a "hello" back and let them pass you. The last thing anybody wants is to fight over positioning, especially on busy or dangerous roads.

  4. If you pull up to a stop light or sign with another cyclist, talk to them. Ask them where they are headed, what routes they like, anything. If they have a piece of gear you've never seen or have been meaning to try, ask them about that. Nobody likes to sit awkwardly at a light next to someone when you could easily be talking.

  5. Don't draft behind someone you don't know without taking a turn at the front of the line. Nobody likes a wheel sucker.

  6. Don't work real hard to pass someone if they are going to have to pass you again in a block or two. Passing can be a pain and on certain busy roads is dangerous. So don't pass unless you are traveling at a faster speed. A better option is to link up and bike pool. You can pull each other through the wind and maybe even strike up a conversation.

  7. Always, always stop or slow down when you pass another cyclist who is having equipment troubles. Ask if they need a hand or a certain tool. You never know if they lost their tire pump or their flat repair kit is with their wife (thankfully we have put together a second kit).

  8. And finally, the rule I have the most trouble with, take time to check stuff out. By that I mean, if you see something that would make a great photo, stop and take the photo (if you carry a camera with you). If you see something curious, want to check out a new shop that has opened on your route or just wonder where a road leads, take the time to go look. The amount of time it takes will be amply made up for the by the times you discover something wonderful.

Do you have any rules to add?

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