Communicate while biking in traffic

Communicate while biking in Traffic

In May of 2013, WNYC started a Bike Advice project where ordinary New Yorker’s could record and upload biking tips based on their own experiences. Here’s a piece I recorded on breaking through the bubble of anonymity that can make riding in traffic so intimidating . . .

I’m Lance Jacobs, League Cycling Instructor, and founder of

My Bike Advice is to Communicate with Traffic, One Driver at a Time.

City traffic can be intimidating, especially when viewed as a faceless monolithic mass. But if you start to think of your traffic interactions as brief interpersonal exchanges, your relationship with cars – make that – your relationship with DRIVERS will become – More HUMAN.

A cornerstone principle taught in League traffic skills classes is to “Be Communicative”. Formal traffic communications, such as signaling turns, are essential skills that we need to practice. But there are other, more personal messages that we can send to drivers. Reassuring messages such as “I know you’re there”, or, messages of cooperation such as “It’s safe to pass me now” establish a direct dialog between you and a particular driver.

No longer an abstraction; “a bike”, and “a car”, you’re now both people engaged in a mutually beneficial conversation. These interactions leave both parties feeling that they are being acknowledged and their needs respected.

Communicate with motorists using eye contact, hand gestures, a nod of the head, a wave of thanks.Enlist the cooperation of the motorist behind you as you work your way around obstacles. The truck driver who’s just acknowledged my request and waved me into his lane is my big brother, my best friend in the world.

So scale it down! Manage your communication one driver at a time. Your reward will be a less hostile biking environment with calmer wider passes, safer following distance, and less honking. Except for the occasional toot-toot of appreciation.


Had a good experience with VB? Your honest feedback is so important - please comment! - See you out there, Lance