Rules of the Road

The Gallatin Valley’s apparent cycling boom could be attributed to the Lance Armstrong frenzy or high gas prices, but most likely it is a combination of factors. In any case, Outside Bozeman readers are excited to see it happen. Unfortunately, with increased popularity comes a potential increase in cyclist/motorist clashes, stemming predominantly from misinformation and ignorance on the part of both groups. Here are a few guidelines on riding responsibly and staying alive in southwest Montana.

A bicycle is a vehicle. As such, cyclists must follow traffic rules, which include obeying stop signs and lights, signaling intent to turn, and yielding to pedestrians.

Cyclists should ride on the right side of the road except, among other reasons (see link below), when overcoming other riders, avoiding hazards, or preparing to make a left turn.

To make a left turn, signal before merging to the left side of the lane (if you can do so safely). If traffic conditions preclude merging left, ride straight through the intersection, stop, turn 90 degrees left, and cross the intersection in this new direction.

Do not ride on sidewalks—it’s illegal and perpetuates the misconception that cyclists belong there. To travel on sidewalks, get off your bike and walk. Incidentally, walking your bike is an effective way to get across tricky intersections, and the only way to enjoy pedestrian benefits.

Riding defensively is essential for cyclists. As a general guideline, assume motorists will not see you unless you make eye contact with them, and ride accordingly.

If you experience rude and dangerous motorist behavior, keep your cool, get a license plate number, and report the incident to the police. It is impossible to reason with the small minority of motorists who go out of their way to antagonize cyclists.

As a general rule, cyclists in a group should ride in a single file. See the link below for exceptions to this rule.

When riding in a pace line, riders moving up the pace line should do so on the left side, effectively sheltering riders moving back from other traffic.

Finally, ride your bike off! Ride for competition, for fun, for fitness, to work, or to the grocery store. Visibility breeds familiarity and understanding. Disgruntled motorists will be forced to accept cyclists and all motorists will become more comfortable with them. Help motorists recognize cyclists as legitimate road users by riding responsibly and predictably.

For more info on the rules of the road see “Bicycling the Big Sky” on
For recreational cycling opportunities see
For racing info and opportunities see

Alex Lussier is a member of the GAS/Heritage Homes Cycling Team (winning team of the 2006 Montana Road Bike Racing Series