What NOT to Do at a Stop Light

We’ve all seen it. (And let’s be honest, we’ve all done it!) Waiting at a stop light, the light turns green and the group takes off while we’re left waiting, trying to get our food back in our pockets or our bottles back in the cages. This article is for new riders who may not have had that experience yet and for the more experienced among us that still occasionally forget. It’s one part safety and one part practical advice. So without further ado, here is what NOT to do at a stop light:

  • Don’t roll through a red light. Not only is it illegal, but it’s a great way to turn yourself into a hood ornament. If it’s yellow, you should already be thinking RED.
  • Don’t be anywhere to the left of the centerline of the road. The only time you have any reason to cross the centerline is if you’re in the middle of executing a left turn. (Or your legs are feeling great and you’re passing cars in legal passing zones!)
  • Don’t pass and stop in front of stopped cars. It only puts you in the way when the light turns green. Keep your place in line and everything will flow smoothly.
  • Don’t mass up to the line and unnecessarily spill into turn lanes. Again, it just slows traffic that could otherwise keep moving.
  • Don’t have your bike pointed any direction other than forward.
  • Don’t unclip from both pedals. You’ll want to be ready to move right away.
  • Don’t start eating or drinking when the light is about to turn green. If you do, you’ve now got one foot and one or both hands off the bike.
  • Don’t start checking messages on your phone. This is the same idea as not eating and drinking. Hopefully by now this one is self-explanatory!
  • Don’t find yourself in too big a gear when the light turns green. Think ahead and shift to a smaller gear that will be easier to pedal the first few strokes.
  • Don’t spend a quarter-mile looking down trying to get your feet into your pedals. Practice with your pedal system so that you can quickly and confidently engage your cleat and start moving. If all else fails, learn to just put a foot on the pedal and start pedaling, then work on seating the cleat once you're safely in the group

Keeping these ideas in mind as you ride, especially with a group, will help to keep you flowing smoothly with traffic. More importantly, you can avoid the extended chase and sometimes long ride home when you’re caught unawares and the group rides away before you get back on. Good riding!