Bicycle Safety and Maintenance – Lesson 1

Topic Progress:

“The horse is prepared against the day of battle:  But safety is in the Lord.”  God is telling you to prepare yourself and your bike to be safe and that your safety is in His hands and we know that He will protect us!  Proverbs 21:31


Biking is a great way to have fun, travel, exercise, and to save energy.  Knowing the correct way to handle a bike in traffic will make your bike riding safer and more enjoyable.

Most people learn to ride a bike before they are 10 years old.  The first job is to learn how to balance a bike, but you have many more things to learn before you can safely bike on a public roadway.

Most streets are open to bikes, with no special permit needed.  But bikers must know and obey the rules of the road. All bike riders are responsible for obeying the rules, and as Christians, we want to know and obey the law in all areas.

It is important to learn and follow traffic laws.  These same laws will apply to you in later years when you drive a car.  Bikers share the road with motor vehicles, motor cycles, trucks and even pedestrians.   If everyone drives and walks according to the rules, there will be a more orderly flow of traffic and less chances of accidents.  If you don’t follow the rules, you may confuse other bikers, drivers and walkers.  They will have no way to know when and where you are going on your bike.


Bike drivers must follow the same rules as car drivers.

  1. , railroad crossing signals and other traffic signs.
  2. Always ride in the same direction as traffic. Riding against traffic will confuse drivers and make it difficult to be seen at intersections.
  3. Stop when leaving an alley or driveway or when crossing a sidewalk.
  4. Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks.


In addition to general traffic laws, there are special rules to follow that will make biking safer.

  1. Always ride close to the right side of the street. Stay within 3 feet of the curb or road edge.  You may ride on either the left or right curb on one way streets, but the right curb is safest.
  2. Use care when passing a parked car.  Watch for a driver who may be about to leave the parked car.
  3. Warn a pedestrian or another biker when passing them.  Sound your bell or horn or call out “passing on your left (or right)”.  A bike is very quiet. Don’t frighten someone when you approach them from the rear.
  4. Signal all turns with correct hand signals.  Left turn – LEFT arm straight out. Right turn -LEFT arm straight out, elbow bent with hand pointing up.  Check traffic behind and around you before turning.  A rear view mirror is a very handy accessory for riding in traffic or touring.
  5. Always give a hand signal when slowing down or stopping.  LEFT arm straight out – elbow bent with hand pointing down.  When riding in a group, you should always warn the other riders before stopping (or slowing down).  Besides signaling, all out “I’m stopping!  I’m stopping!” to prevent another biker from crashing into you.
  6. You have two choices in making a left turn on a two-way street. 
    1. You can turn as a car would, by checking behind and around you for traffic, giving a hand signal, and moving into position just to the right of the center line. Signal again before turning, obey any stop sign or stop and go light, and yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
    1. If traffic is heavy, the safer way to make a left turn is stay close to the right curb.  Stop for the stop sign or signal, if there is one.  When it is safe, move straight across to the far right curb, and STOP again.  Obey any traffic light or sign on this corner and when the road is clear, proceed across the intersection, completing the left turn in the same way you would as if you were walking.  In fact, you may feel safer in heavy traffic to just “walk” your bike through a left turn.  In either case, always be alert for turning cars.
  7. Ride single file at all times, especially in traffic.
  8. Never ride two people on a bike or carry anything that is so heavy that it will affect your steering, balance or breaking.
  9. Hitching a tow from another vehicle is dangerous and illegal.


Defensive driving is not just for cars – it’s for bikers, too.  Try to spot such hazards as pot holes or broken glass in advance.  Slotted sewer grates can be a real danger that can grip your front wheel and cause a bad “header”!  Look and think ahead.  That way, you will have time to check behind you for traffic before swerving to miss a hazard.

Railroad crossings can be a real danger.  You must not only obey the crossing signal, but the tracks themselves are a real danger.  Wet tracks are very slippery and could cause a bad fall.  Tracks can also cause a “snake bite” flat tire by pinching your tire against the rim.  Tracks that cross the road on an angle greatly multiply these dangers.  Either cross railroad tracks squarely or, better yet, dismount and walk your bike across railroad tracks.

When riding beside parked cars, leave some distance between you and the car if possible.  Stay alert for suddenly opening car doors.

Be in full control of your bike.  Weaving in and out of traffic makes it difficult for other drivers to see you and to allow enough room to pass you.  Practice so you can ride in a straight line when turning your head to check for traffic behind you.  A rear view mirror is inexpensive and it is very helpful in traffic.

It is necessary to keep your speed under control when riding down hills in order to safely see around curves and to stop for traffic signs or to avoid hazards.

Never carry a load on your back when biking; it will affect your balance and may cause an accident.  Use a bike rack or a basket for all packages.  Be sure that any load is fastened securely.  Don’t have any loose ropes that may tangle in your wheels and cause a fall.

It is not a good idea to ride in the rain.  If it is lightening – park your bike and get shelter in a building, and not under a tree!  Rain lowers visibility – yours and cars, too.  Wet conditions greatly reduce your ability to stop; in fact, rim brakes may not work at all when wet. Besides all this, it just isn’t much fun!

If you MUST ride after dark, be as visible as possible. In addition to a REQUIRED headlight and rear reflector, wear light colored clothing.  Reflective pedals, wheel reflectors and reflective arm or leg bands are also helpful.  Night riding should only be done with adult supervision and with extreme caution!

Choose your route carefully.  In some cases, bike lanes, bike routes and bike paths may be available for your use. Your city or county may have maps of recommended bike routes in your area.

You should not cross the center line when riding in the road.  On roads near cities the center line is a solid yellow line or dotted yellow line.  On rural roads near farms the roads may not a yellow center line.  It is best to ride near the right side of the road.


Riding in a group can be great fun, but it requires some extra caution.  Be aware of the bikers around you and avoid any sudden swerve that might cause a crash.  It is a good idea to keep at least a bike length away from the rider in front of you.

Call out warnings to your friends about any hazards ahead or behind you.  Such warnings are “Car Up!”, “Car Back!”, or “Loose Gravel!” can make a group ride safer.  Also call out “Stopping!” or “Passing on your left!” when necessary.

When approaching an intersection, EACH BIKER MUST CHECK FOR TRAFFIC instead of following the rider in front of him. The road may be clear for the first biker to cross, but it might not be safe for YOU!


A bell or horn is a handy safety accessory to have.  It may even be required on bikes in your city.  Ringing out a warning or tooting when passing a fellow biker is not only safer but fun, too.

A headlight and a rear reflector are also required safety gear for night riding.  Any reflector that moves, such as pedal or wheel reflectors are very noticeable in car headlights.  If your bike has reflectors, DON’T take them off!  If it doesn’t have any reflectors – get some!  Keep your reflectors clean and in place, they may save you from a bad accident when riding home after dark or on a cloudy day.

A rear view mirror is also a great safety device and a lot of fun, too.  It’s neat to catch a friend sneaking up behind you or to see a car approaching and not have to turn your head.  A mirror can attach to your handle bars, your glasses (if you wear glasses) or, better yet, to your bike helmet!

All the bikers on the Lutheran Pioneer National Bike Trip wear helmets.  Do you know why?  Wearing a helmet is the single most important thing you can do to be safe in case of a fall or a crash.  Think what happens to an egg when you drop it. The same thing can happen to your head when you fall.  A new bike helmet makes you think safety, ride safely and be safe!

Glasses or sun glasses are a good personal safety equipment to have to protect your eyes from small particles or bugs.

A safe bike is in good mechanical shape.  The brakes work well, the tires are full of air and the wheels are true (don’t wobble).  All nuts and bolts are tight and it has all needed reflectors.  A safe bike driver knows the rules AND obeys them.  He is also alert and aware of others using the road.

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