Driving a bicycle means operating according to the traffic principles for drivers of vehicles — all vehicles, not just motor vehicles. In fact, the traffic laws generally require bicyclists to follow the same rules as all other drivers follow, and (with some exceptions) require them to be treated the same as other drivers. Moreover, following these principles is the best policy for bicyclists to provide an optimal mix of safety, speed, and enjoyment. The best environment for cycling transportation comes from making this principle the basis for cycling policy. Bicycle driving is safer, faster, and more fun than operating as a “rolling pedestrian.” Driving a bicycle is best on good roads, but can be discouraged by special bicycle facilities that are often thought to make bicycling safe for beginners. Improving bicycling conditions should focus on designing, maintaining, and policing roads with the needs of bicyclists in mind and refuting the popular belief that bicycling on roads is a foolishly dangerous activity. Although bicycling is of course not risk free, neither is driving a car (or walking).
Paul Schimek is a transportation planner in Boston. He was formerly bicycle program manager for the City of Boston. He holds a doctorate in urban planning from MIT and a masters in urban planning from UCLA.Please see the sidebar for other sub pages.