Bicycling Basics

Your Guide to Safe Cycling in Missoula

In the state of Montana, bicycles are legally classified as vehicles. That means you have the same rights as a car, but it also means you must follow the same rules as a car. Follow these tips to ensure you're riding safely, predictably, and legally.

Obey all traffic signs and signals. Stopping means that all your forward momentum has ceased. Be sure to do so at all stop signs and red lights. Wait until the light turns green or the walk sign appears before crossing a signalized intersection. Remember - you can get a traffic ticket, just like a motorist.

Ride with the flow of traffic. Riding against the flow is called “bike-salmoning,” and is one of the most common ways bicyclists get injured. Never go down a one-way street the wrong way, or travel the wrong way in the bike lane.

Take the lane. As a cyclist, you have a right to the full lane. Ride in the center of the lane and stay out of the “door zone” next to parked cars. You are not blocking traffic; you are traffic. Cars should change lanes to pass you, and are legally allowed to cross the double yellow line to do so.

Use hand signals to turn or stop. This makes you more visible and predictable to other road users.

Hand signals to indicate turns on a bicycle

Yield to pedestrians. People traveling on foot always have the right of way. When approaching a pedestrian or another cyclist from behind, let them know of your presence - use a bell, or say “coming up on your left.” Slow down and give pedestrians a wide berth when passing.

On campus, the speed limit for bikes is no more than double the walking speed. If sidewalks are too crowded, dismount and walk.

Ride only on paved surfacesRiding on the grass creates ruts and mud pits, and diminishes the beauty of campus. 

Always lock up your bike! Theft is a problem in Missoula. Always use the best bicycle lock you can afford.

Lock your bike only to bike racks. Bikes damage trees, and can block access to buildings for those with disabilities.

Use lights when riding at night or early in the morning. At minimum you must have a front light and a rear reflector. Get FREE bike lights at the ASUM Transportation Office (UC 105), or downtown at City Hall.

Missoula Bike Map

The Missoula Bike Map is your definitive guide to all bike lanes, trails, paths, shared lanes, and cycletracks in Missoula. You can pick up a hard copy in the ASUM Transportation Office (UC 105), or you can download a PDF of the map.

How to Load Your Bike on the Bus

All Mountain Line buses have a bike rack on the front of the bus that can carry up to three bikes at a time. The racks are easy to use and only take a few seconds. Check out their how-to guide. Don't forget, Mountain Line buses are fare-free, just like UDASH, so you can seamlessly hop from one mode of transportation to the other.

person loading bicycle onto a Mountain Line bus

Helmet Fitting Guidelines

Wearing a helmet is a personal choice, but it could save your life. Be smart. 

If you need a helmet, St. Pat’s Hospital hosts helmet sales once a month, and all helmets are sold at wholesale cost - $8 for a bike helmet, $10 for a multi-sport helmet. Call 406-329-5660 to find out when the next sale will be.

If you do choose to wear a helmet, there are some basic helmet fitting guidelines you should know:

four step picture displaying the helmet fitting techniques described below

1. If you put two fingers on your eyebrow, the top of your index finger should be touching the bottom of your helmet - in other words, your helmet should be centered squarely on your forehead. If your helmet is so far back on your head that your hairline is showing, you're not protected. If your helmet will not fit down over your head far enough so that it sits in the middle of your forehead, it is too small for you, and you need to upgrade to a larger size.

2. Most helmets come with plastic clips called "sliders" that can slide up or down on the side straps. Those side straps should make a "V" or a triangle around your ear, as seen in the image above. The slider clip should hang just below your ear, like an earring.

3. With the chin strap buckled, you should be able to fit two fingers under your chin, and be able to open your mouth without choking yourself. 

4. Good helmets these days come with an adjustable crank at the back of your helmet, that you can tighten or loosen with one hand. Make sure that it is as tight and snug against your head as possible without being uncomfortable.

When your helmet is properly fitted, you should be able to shake your head vigorously from side to side and up and down without the helmet sliding around. If you've followed all the steps and it still moves around, your helmet is too big. The best option is to buy a properly fitting helmet.