How to ride a bike in a city without getting arrested

July 01, 2014

by Rachel Walker


Image: Flickr


Leave it to Alec Baldwin (pictured above) to publicize the issue of bike riding etiquette and safety in an urban environment after his May arrest for riding against traffic on a busy Manhattan street. Wait—you don’t know who Alec Baldwin is? The star of “30 Rock” and the infamous New York celebrity who famously took to Twitter announcing he could no longer live in New York? Don’t worry. The police who arrested him didn’t recognize Baldwin, either. To be fair, the actor’s notoriety is less about his acting career and more about things like being kicked off an airplane for belligerent behavior or making disparaging slurs. But we’re not here to judge the guy who played Jack Donaghy or discuss his thespian skills. We’re here to talk about bikes and the right way to ride them, particularly when sharing the road with thousands of cars. Thanks, Alec, for starting the conversation.

DO ride with traffic. Sure, you might think drivers will have a better chance of seeing you if you’re riding at them, but the truth is it’s a dangerous distraction.

DON’T ride on the sidewalk. They are for pedestrians, baby strollers, dogs on leashes, cargo, signs, fire hydrants and more, all of which travel at a much slower pace than a cyclist.


Image: Flickr


DO ride bike share. Many major cities, both in the U.S. and internationally, now have public bike sharing systems. We love it because it eliminates the pesky problem of buying and storing your own bike in a city. It’s convenient and affordable.

DON’T leave your bike unattended or unlocked.

DO follow traffic laws. Stop at red lights and stop signs. Use hand signals to show when you’re turning.

DON’T engage with drivers who don’t like you. Sadly some drivers think bike riders are a menace and might yell, Baldwin-style, at you. Ignore them.

DO take your kids. Go over bicycling safety with them and ride single file. Start off on less crowded streets. Demonstrate that riding through a city can be a terrific mode of transportation.

DON’T ride too close to horse-and-buggies-for-hire. Sure, these horses and their drivers have been in the city forever and are not surprised by anything. But generally it’s best to give animals a wide berth, especially when on a bike.

DO make eye contact with drivers and even smile. Let them know you’re out there on the road so they’re more likely to drive safely in your vicinity.

DON’T be a jerk. Yes, Baldwin got arrested because he was riding his bike against traffic, but that offense is unlikely to land you in cuffs unless, like Baldwin, you become “belligerent and argumentative with the officers.” 


Cars, bikes and buses all sharing the road together in San Francisco.

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