Skip to main content

Oregon State Flag An official website of the State of Oregon » Homepage

Section 4 - Defensive Riding Strategies

Bicycling safely and responsibly means you can have more fun, feel more comfortable and get where you need to go. Even when you follow all the rules, things can go wrong and crashes can happen, with or without other vehicles involved. You can continue to 
maximize your safety by using defensive riding strategies. Being familiar with your riding environment, bicycle equipment and 
traffic safety rules can help increase your comfort when riding. If you are new to bicycling, practice riding while looking ahead, to 
the sides and over your shoulder (this is needed to check for traffic before turning). Practice in an area away from cars.

Keep an eye on the road ahead.
Avoid running over potholes, gravel, broken glass, drainage grates, puddles you can’t see through, large tree branches or other unsafe road conditions. If the object must be avoided and you are unable to quickly stop ahead of it, first look over your shoulder to scan where there may be cars or other people bicycling and walking before moving away from your path. If necessary, use a hand signal before moving over. Report unsafe road conditions to local authorities as soon as possible.

Image - Scan the road ahead of you diagram.
Scan the road around you.

Avoid distractions and using devices that could impact your ability to notice critical cues on the road, listen for vehicles, or maintain 
control of your bicycle. Distracted driving laws apply when you’re riding a bicycle.

Never ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driving under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) laws apply when you’re riding a bicycle.

Ride cautiously and expect something might happen ahead. 
People driving and using their phones, or waiting at stop signs, driveways and parking spaces may suddenly pull out in front of you 
because they aren’t looking, are distracted and make errors. Also look out for cars that may turn right, and cars across the street that 
may turn left in front of you.

Be prepared to stop suddenly or to take other evasive action.
A great strategy is to simply have a finger or two sitting on your brakes at all times in case you need them.

Image - Don't weave in and out of cars diagram.
Don’t weave in and out of parked cars.

Ride far enough away from parked cars that you don’t risk being hit by an opening car door. Ride in a straight line and don’t weave in and out of parked cars – you may disappear from motorists’ sight and get squeezed when you need to merge back into traffic. In  general, remember that people driving cars cannot know when you might weave in or out. When you ride in a straight line, you are  more predictable and motorists can drive around you safely.

Image - Avoid open car doors diagram.
Avoid open car doors.

Cross railroad tracks carefully. 
Watch for uneven pavement and grooves that could catch a wheel. Keep control of your bicycle. One way is to rise up from your bike seat and bend your arms and legs so your body acts like a shock absorber. If the tracks cross the road at a sharp angle, change your course so you cross them at closer to a right angle. Avoid swerving suddenly; this can cause you to fall or to veer into traffic.

Image - Crossing railroad tracks diagram.
Crossing railroad tracks.

Enter the roadway cautiously, always yield to oncoming traffic. 
It is dangerous to alternate between the sidewalk and road, by hopping the curb or using driveway cuts. If you ride on the sidewalk, people driving cars may not see you, and may not have time to react and give you space if you suddenly enter the road. 

At intersections, stay on the road. Don’t ride in the crosswalk and suddenly swerve into the road again. A driver may lose sight of you, turn the corner and hit you.

Image - Darting out onto the road diagram.
Darting out onto the road can put you in the path of a moving car.

​​​​​Table of Contents​