Bike School Part 3: Road Safety and Path Etiquette

Think you’re ready to roll? Not so fast.

Even if you’ve made the commitment to spend more time on the trails and have carefully picked out your ride, you’re not quite ready to hit the road. There are some common sense rules and legal limits on how to use and enjoy the Quad Cities’ incredible bike trail system.

To share their love of cycling, Sports Medicine Surgeon, Dr. Andrew Bries, ORA Orthopedics, and Rock Valley Physical Therapist, Anna Perry, welcome you to “Bike School,” a four-part series designed to inspire everyone to take up cycling.


Q: What are some bike handling tips that make riding safer and comfortable?

Dr. Bries demonstrates the proper way to get on and off a bike in order to avoid injury.

Many people assume to get on a bike you must step over the top of it. This can be really difficult even with a “ladies’ bike.” 

Instead, put your hands on the brakes, lean the bike towards you and swing your leg behind. This actually takes less motion in your hip then stepping over.


Q: Is there a “safe” way to shift gears?

Dr. Bries:
Shifting is important because it allows you to keep your spinning cadence consistent for challenging terrain or hills during the ride, or when it’s necessary to adjust speed in traffic, for example.

However, incorrect shifting can put too much pressure on the knee joints.  To keep pressure off joints, pedal quickly working up to 90 RPM before shifting. This allows the rider to shift when going up a hill and safely reach its summit.

The key is to avoid “mashing” when trying to get a good workout in. “Mashing” is using significantly harder gears” putting potentially damaging strain on your knees. For more cardio on a workout ride, ride faster intervals instead.


Q: How should bikes “behave in traffic” to prevent accidents?

Cyclists should behave like a vehicle when riding in traffic.  You ride in the direction of traffic and single file. Use mirrors and be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Wear bright clothing and have a red light tail light to make sure you can be easily seen. Riding on the shoulder may seem like a good idea, but there is often road debris which can puncture your tires.  Be alert and courteous with other road users.  Cars passing you are supposed to give you a “safe and reasonable passing distance” but what that actually looks like is debatable.

An inconsiderate driver opens her car door without checking for oncoming bike traffic.

Also make sure and watch for parked cars in case drivers and passengers suddenly open doors in your lane.


Q: What are the basics of bike path or trail etiquette?

Remember the rules of the road whether you’re on a public street or bike trail.

Dr. Bries:
Be aware that what cyclists like to call “bike paths” are, in practice, multi-use paths for the entire community including parents pushing strollers, joggers, rollerbladers, dog walkers, as well as the occasional flocks of Canada Geese and ducks! We all must share the road, so to speak, so be aware of those in front and behind you. 

Be sure to ride on the right and pass on the left. Make sure to always announce yourself with either a bike bell or by saying, “On your left!” to warn those ahead you are passing.

Maintain a safe speed and distance as you pass a group slower cyclists or pedestrians.   Please maintain safe speeds appropriate for the location of your riding.  We have all experienced frightening moments when a cyclist passes so quickly and silently from behind, because we have no idea they were there.

Certainly for non-cyclists as well, mutual courtesy allows for peaceful use of our trails where we are all safe.


Quad City Cycling Links

The Quad Cities is home to some of the most beautiful paths, bike trails, and bike-friendly cities in the Midwest. If you are interested to learn more about cycling, we recommend you explore the following sites and enjoy the ride!

Clubs and Online Resources 

Popular local rides and events


Go to Part 4: Ride-Along Alternatives for Kids