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Bike Questions and Answers

Remember, safety first and foremost—be safe and be seen, be predictable and be prepared. We prepared answers to questions we receive most often, but it doesn’t cover everything. So, check out our list of helpful links, which provide more information, sign up for one of our free Bike Safety Classes (they are hosted monthly) and reference our bike safety links for more information on bike safety, rules of the road and how we can help you be a safe, happy, and prepared rider. If you don’t find the information you need, we are here to help. Use our bike comment form to give us feedback or suggestions or send us an email. We want to hear from you!

On this page:

What are the most important things I should know about riding a bike?

Be safe. Safety First! Always obey the rules of the road. Obey all traffic signals, signs, and laws. Get in the mindset of “driving” your bike—not just “riding” your bike. This will help you be a more focused and legally compliant bike rider. Wear a helmet for every ride, even short trips.

Be predictable. Ride so drivers, other cyclists, and pedestrians can see you and predict your movements.

Be alert. Ride defensively and expect the unexpected. Focus on riding and what is around you at all times. Always check behind you; do a quick check before you change lanes.

Be equipped. Always maintain a safe bike, have a front bike light that works and a rear reflector, wear bright colored or reflective clothing so you are visible at all times, and carry tools to fix a flat.

Be courteous. Yield to pedestrians and use hand signals to indicate to motorists your direction of travel.

How can I tell if my helmet is old and I need a new one?

Helmets should be inspected before a ride. Look for cracks or dents in the foam or the foam degrading or crumbling—these are sure signs that it is time for a new helmet. Helmets should last approximately three years, but if you ever crash or drop your helmet, it is strongly recommended you replace it. Check the buckles to ensure a safe fit, and make sure the helmet is properly fitted, covering the forehead and not tilted back. Any local bike shop can check the fit to make sure it is correct or the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has a good online reference that covers fitting a helmet.

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My bike has been in storage—is it safe to ride?

Take your bike to your local bike shop for a quick safety check. They can determine if it is safe to ride or needs any additional maintenance. Ask them for an estimate first before the work is done. They can call you if they discover something major in the inspection process. The cost of a basic tune-up is approximately $50 to $75. Don’t assume just because you haven’t ridden your bike that it is still tuned-up. Grease and chain lubrication can dry over time, and cables can loosen up if bumped or moved around.

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What rules should I follow when riding my bike?

Bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road as outlined by the California Vehicle Code, California DMV Bicycle Safety website. An additional reference is our Bike Safety Flyer.

You may be cited for running stop signs, riding at an unsafe speed for conditions, riding on the wrong side of the road or on sidewalks, wearing headphones over both ears while riding, not having legal brakes and lights, etc. Cyclists are required by state law to use front white lights, rear red reflectors, and pedal and side reflectors at night. Additional lights, especially rear red flashers, extra reflectors, and light colored clothing are a good idea. We also recommend that you not talk on a cell phone or text while riding.

While riding your bicycle, obey all traffic laws and wear a bicycle helmet for every ride, even short trips. Helmets can greatly reduce the risk of head injuries and death. In addition, defensive cycling is a key to bicycle safety. According to the California Vehicle Code, every person riding a bicycle on a street or highway has all the rights and responsibilities of the driver of a vehicle.

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Can I get a bike citation for not stopping at stops signs and how much is it?

Stanford’s Department of Public Safety does issue bike citations for non-compliance. The estimated citation for not stopping at stop signs is approximately $200+. You can be cited for not stopping at stop signs, not having a front bike light, having both ears covered while riding (e.g., iPod in both ears) and not having your bike registered, among other violations. If cited, you have a one-time option in an 18-month period to attend the free bike safety class/bike citation diversion class in lieu of paying the fine. You can register online for the bike safety class.

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Can I take a class to learn how to ride?

Our free bike safety classes offer helpful tips and interactive video on how to safely navigate streets and follow the rules of the road. If you need more coaching or lessons on how to actually ride, send us an email and we can provide instructors who can help.

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Do you offer classes on bike safety?

Stanford’s free bike safety classes are offered monthly at the Public Safety Police Compound. We co-host these classes with Stanford’s Department of Public Safety. Register online.

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What if I crash on my bike; what do I do?

If it’s an emergency, call 911. For minor injuries, visit your doctor or, if you are a Stanford student, go to Vaden Health Center. Any time you crash at Stanford, you should report the crash to Stanford’s Department of Public Safety. Exchange information with the other parties involved. Remember to tell a colleague or friend that you crashed in case injuries surface later. Remember to wear a helmet for every ride, even short trips.

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Is there a place to pump up my tires on the Stanford Campus?

There are 7 bicycle safety repair stands now on the Stanford Campus. The stands have multiple tools to make minor repairs and a bike pump to inflate tires. The stands are available 24/7, and are free to use.

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What are the essentials I need to commute or get around the campus?

Even though the distance you travel will vary, the motto “Be Prepared” is essential. Refer to our Get Ready to Roll page for more suggested gear to be safe and comfortable, including helmets, lights, locks, clothing, and tools.

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How can I arrange to have clean clothes at work?

One way is to bring in a supply of clothing when you don’t ride your bike (when you drive, carpool, or take the train and clothing can be more easily carried). You can store items in a clothing locker. Note, we do have clothing lockers available to rent ($48 annually) to commuters—send an email to request one or to request information. Other workout facilities on the campus also rent lockers, such as the Ford Center, Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation (ACSR), and Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center (AOERC).

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Do I need special clothing to ride to work?

If you are only riding a short distance, less than a mile commuting or to get around the campus, you can comfortably ride in your work clothes with the following notes: Use a pant-leg band to prevent your pants from catching in the chain. Refrain from riding in heels or a skirt/dress with loose or long fabric, as the fabric can get caught in the spokes and stop the bike immediately, posing a hazard. Also, be aware of loose straps from a backpack that may dangle into the chain.

When riding longer distances, you may work up a sweat and might be more comfortable in bike shorts or bike pants and a jersey that will wick the moisture away to keep you dry. Make sure you wear proper footwear, flat soled shoes, and no open-toe sandals that leave your feet exposed.

Remember: Wear a bike helmet for every ride!

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How can I contact Stanford’s bike program to give feedback?

If you have comments and suggestions about biking at Stanford, we would love to hear from you! Use our bike comment form to submit feedback, questions, and suggestions. If you have a question that needs an answer right away, please send an email directly to or call 650.723.9362 for a faster response.

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