Last weekend I took my fancy new bike down to my favorite cycling path for a little getting to know you jaunt. I love this path because it’s actually separated from the road, so you don’t have to worry about a car passing too close (unless that car happens to be careening off the road and crashing, in which case, well, it was fun while it lasted). It was a great ride, but a busy one- it’s been super warm in San Diego so it seems everyone is out getting their sweat on. I saw some crazy bad etiquette breaches out on the path- from super experienced cyclists and beginners down to runners and rollerbladers. So while it’s mostly common sense, I thought I’d use the occasion to touch up on how to not look like an idiot out on the bike path- beginner or not.
Much like driving, slow people should stay to the right of the path. Runners should stay farther to the right. Really, unless you’re passing, just stay to the right.
Don’t Pass Until the Way is Clear
Again, just like driving, if you need to pass someone don’t pass until the way is clear. If there is a cyclist or group of cyclists approaching from the opposite direction, wait until they go by to make your pass. Don’t try to make the pass and hug the line- you don’t know how experienced the other cyclist is, and they might inadvertently crash into you or crash trying to dodge you.
Call your Left
If you are passing someone, be sure to let the person you’re passing know by clearly and loudly saying “On your left” as you begin your pass. This keeps you from surprising them into the bushes, and hopefully, if they’re courteous, they won’t speed up to block you. If someone is passing you, don’t try to race them. Hold your pace or slow slightly and let them pass.
Stop on the Shoulder
This might seem like a no-brainer, but don’t stop in the middle of the path. You’d be surprised by how many people forget and just stop, causing a dangerous situation. Check behind you to be sure the way is clear, pull to the right, and then stop.
It can be intimidating to ride the same path as more experienced riders, but following these simple etiquette rules will help you meld right in. If you find others not being quite as courteous, brush it off and ride defensively- keep your own safety as top priority. And when needed, an occasional reminder- a “heads up” or slightly more pointed “on your left” towards your fellow riders doesn’t hurt either. Remember- you have as much right to be on the road as they do!
Have a question about hitting the path? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask! If I don’t know the answer, I will find out. I’m happy to look like an idiot so that you don’t have to.