Layers of bicycle safety

Adapted by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition from “How to Not Get Hit by Cars," the Florida Bicycle Association, and

Layer 1: Control Your Bicycle (Don’t fall or collide with other bicyclists)
If you can skillfully control your bike by starting, stopping, and turning properly, you will not fall down all by yourself or run into others.
Do this and you cut out about half of your injury risk.
To ride in groups, a cyclist must have good bike handling skills.

Layer 2: Follow the Rules (Don’t cause car-bicycle crashes)
Follow traffic laws, obey signs and signals, use headlights and taillights at night, and use the correct lanes for turns and through movements, and you won’t cause a collision with a motorist. About half of cyclist/motorist crashes are caused by cyclists who violate the basic rules of the road. Combine Layers 1 (control your bike) and 2 (follow the rules) and you will cut about 75% of your crash risk.

Layer 3: Lane Positioning (Discourage other drivers’ mistakes)
Know when to take full use of the lane and when it is safe to share the lane. A wide curb lane of 14 feet can be shared safely (that’s almost two car widths). Adjusting your position in a lane is the best way to make yourself conspicuous, to tell drivers what you are doing, and to discourage them from making unsafe movements. Many effective lane positioning principles have been forgotten by the modern cycling community, so they may be contrary to what you’ve been taught! Combine Layers 1 (control your bike), 2 (follow the rules), and 3 (lane positioning) and you cut out about 99% of all potential crashes.

Layer 4: Hazard Avoidance (Avoid the other drivers’ mistakes)
There are evasive maneuvers you should know that can help you avoid major motorist mistakes or dodge obstacles. Knowing how to stop and turn quickly helps you avoid motorist mistakes that aren’t discouraged by lane positioning. These skills are not instinctive and must be taught.

Layer 5: Passive Safety (Protection when all else fails)
Helmets and gloves protect your most vulnerable body parts as a last resort in case of the failure of Layers 1-4. Just remember they do not help you avoid crashes in the first place. In case of a crash you will be glad you never leave home without your helmet!


The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition offers affordable bicycle classes called Confident City Cycling that teach the Smart Cycling Solutions, rules of the road, safety tips, and avoidance maneuvers.

Classes include both a presentation and on-bike training, along with a video and extremely useful practice ride with instructor feedback, and take place on Saturdays across metro Atlanta in the Spring and Fall.

We also offer “True Beginners” classes for adults learning to ride for the first time, and “Bike Youth” classes for children ages 7-13 (contact ABC at 404-881-1112 or to schedule a kids class for your group).