The Bike Commuter Code: Part 2

Surly LHT by the Lincoln

The Bike Commuter Code has spurred a lot of insightful conversations and comments from fellow commuters. Brian, of Tales from the Sharrows, even wrote his own post about my post which you can find here—meta blogging!

Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas. After reading all the tweets, comments and emails I have a clarification and some additions to make to the Bike Commuter Code.

First, the clarification. The code is what I have actually observed in the city in terms of how commuters deal with each other. Yes, there are some “should do’s” thrown in, but for the most part the code is just trying to capture “what is,” and general sentiments about commuting. As I said in the original post, it is not really the rules of the road, although those are definitely in play whenever we ride.

Based on people’s feedback, I have made seven Bike Commuter Code additions:

16. There seems to be no code when it comes to obeying traffic rules. Credit to Charlie for this one. Some commuters stop at stoplights and some do not. Also, just because the person in front of you ran the light, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to follow suit.

17. “Ninja bikers “– those who ride without lights at night– are no friend of the general commuting population, as Rambling Rider notes. During the more temperate spring and fall seasons, which also coincide with the new bike rider seasons, there is an increase in ninja commuters. As a result, there is also  an increase in angry tweets about these #ninjabikers. Get a headlight and a taillight and get with the program, ninja bikers.

18. Some commuters really like to practice trackstands at stoplights, as Rachel and Portajohn said. I had never noticed this, but after reading their comments, I observed someone desperately attempting a one-minute trackstand on my commute home.

Trackstands do not make a person more special or righteous, and after a point they are silly. However, as I said, some people really like to practice them. Portajohn also has a rather detailed theory about the Bike Commuter Code of Trackstand Superiority which can be found in the original Bike Commuter Code post.

19. Hand signals are helpful to other cyclists as well as cars. Credit to #bikeDC tweep @nikki_d. Not everyone uses them. Also, it is common and acceptable to stick your right arm straight out to indicate a right turn, as opposed to hoisting your left arm at a right angle. The latter is a remnant of car signaling, and bikes are not cars.

20. People in Washington, D.C., are less friendly (overtly, anyway) than in other places. Andrew says that in Australia, fellow commuters will say “g’day” if passing each other. Craziness! And Deb says that the commuters in the D.C. burbs will chat at stoplights. More craziness!

21. Commuters who encounter other “regulars” on their commute will generally acknowledge each other in some way. At least, Rootchopper says they will.

22. If you see a cyclist on the side of the road with their bike and possibly fiddling with it, it is customary to ask “Do you have everything you need?” or “Alright?” as dasgeh commented. While most commuters carry the tools and supplies they need for those inconvenient mechanicals, cyclists will help each other out when necessary.

Thank you for reading, and for your additions and thoughts on the Bike Commuter Code. Remember you are all special and righteous, and have a great weekend!


  1. I feel the left arm at a right angle indication of a right turn is still applicable in some situations.

    If I am in the street and I am turning right, I am slowing down and moving right. There should not be anyone on my right… anyone that needs to see I am turning right is to my left and therefore will see the signal better if I indicate with my left arm.

    In general, the right arm indication of a right turn works on the Penn Ave bike lanes except if you are heading east and want to turn right on 4th St. The turn lane there is between the bike travel lane and the cars. The buffer zone becomes the turn lane. If you were to right arm indicate a right turn, other cyclists may not see it because they are to your left and you could risk breaking an arm as a car zings by you.


  2. Eh, I stick to the hand signaling folks know. If it’s too dangerous too signal then it’s too dangerous to signal. The only I never see folks do is the supposed symbol noting you’re passing.

    #22 is a great addition.


  3. Had to share this because it was pretty funny, as far as timing goes, and otherwise just a cool story — perhaps a peculiarly suburban story.

    On my way home today, cruising along in the bike lane on Beulah (in Springfield/Franconia area) I saw a cyclist coming up behind me in my rearview mirror. He not only said hello as he was passing, he slowed down so that we were traveling together in the bike lane. And then:

    “I just have to tell you, you’re pretty much my inspiration for starting to bike commute…” !!!!

    So I guess he’d see me biking to/from work every morning/evening, no matter the weather or time of year, and he’d be stuck in his car, and was finally like “I can do this!” And so at the beginning of the year he started to bike commute.



    • Deb, that is awesome!! It’s about the best thing a person can say to a commuter, that being out there riding your bike inspired someone else to start doing it, too!


  4. I also try to stop and ask stranded motorists if they are ok. A cellphone or directions can be invaluable. Example: A few weeks ago, a car was overheating, driver was from out of state, and asked for the closest place to buy coolant. I told him. He shook his head, smiling, incredulous, quietly said ‘thank you for stopping’. Just nice.


    • That’s extra credit! 🙂 I have been surprised by how many motorists stop cyclists for help with directions in D.C. I try to help out if I can.


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