Etiquette for passing?

This is kind of a NOOB question, but is there etiquette for passing someone while riding? I’m not so much talking about commuting, but just general riding.

I pretty much make my presence known, say “hi” and zip around on the left. Is this considered rude at all?

To be clear, I only ever pass if I am sure that I can maintain a faster pace than the person being passed.


You are doing better than a lot of people who seems to consider themselves expert riders, but don’t seem to give a thought to the concerns of others on the road/path. Whether it’s a bell or saying ‘Hi’ or "on your left’, some sort of alert is the right way to do it. I hate being surprised by someone suddenly coming up on me without warning.

I tend to use my bell to alert people walking, since the speed differential is high. I usually say something like ‘coming up on your left’ when overtaking another person on a bike since the speeds are closer.

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Yes, I always go with the old, ‘on your left’ when passing cyclists in confined spaces or people walking on shared pathways. If it’s a wide open area and I can pass with a wide berth, I usually don’t say anything.

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With all the bollards/wands hemming you in in the over-constructed bike lanes, it’s difficult to pass at all…
Need to check the outside car lane for clearance and then go for it. I am particularly thinking of the the Burnside Bridge and of my particular struggle as the one passing. Super annoying to be stuck behind someone going 7 MPH. What’s dinging a bell at them going to achieve? It’s just going to make them wobble even more and there’s no where for them to move over to anyway.
You wouldn’t want a car to honk every time it passed , would you?

Great question. I’m a huge believer that passing etiquette matters. I have a good bell on all my bikes and use it very liberally. I like it much more than saying “on your left”. Even when I do use my voice, I like to say “howdy”. I don’t know why, that’s just what I do :grin:. In the end, all that matters is that you slow down and pass with plenty of space.

Also, keep in mind there are some places and times it’s just not cool to pass so you’ll have to wait.

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I appreciate your awareness in thinking and asking about it. I think of it more of a safety issue than a “politesse-velo” sorta thing. I have the core belief that scared people do weird, unpredictable stuff. And nothing quite says “Gotcha!” like blowing past some poor bugger with 6 inches clearance in stealth mode! I usually say “I’m coming by on your left” when I’m about half a bike length back. I say the same thing to walkers, people with dogs, children on kickbikes (frankly, I should just get off and walk around them . . . they scare me with their free-radical nature.) I’ve seen a number of guys blown up on the side of some rail trail or bridge with a kid hunkered down nearby in tears. And I’m always 100% positive it’s because they were being dicks and not thinking about the other poor souls just trying to make their way in the world like the rest of us. Makes me cranky. 1) Dont scare people 2) don’t do erratic sh*t 3) it’s ok to slow down for 20 yards (you did have that beer & pizza last night after all.) :slightly_smiling_face:

Based on how people have passed me, many of them have different ideas of passing etiquette. If I have plenty of room, I just go around without making any noise. Usually my bell either goes unheard/unnoticed or it scares the crap out of people. Sometimes I try flicking a shift lever a few times first. I’ll probably just say “excuse me” if I’m on a trail on Powell Butte or a similar place. I’ve never been into saying “on your left” but I don’t mind if others do it for me. I’ve heard people yell out a greeting of some kind, which is also totally fine with me. I tend to ride on paths and in wider bike lanes as if another rider will pass me at any time without making a peep.

I guess the biggest thing is try to be safe and courteous.

I have heard from multiple folks strolling on the Springwater (back in the day) that a sudden yell of “On your left!” which to them comes out of nowhere when they are not expecting it makes them instinctively move to their left. We may have certain catchy music to thank for that, I’m not sure.

I’m a very slow rider, and get the occasional time-trialist blow by me on the right. Always freaks me out, but that’s modern life for you. I appreciate that you even asked the question. Thank you for making an effort!

Yep, I had a jogger once jump to the left when I said “on your left” and it was a bad time for both of us. Ever since then, I just make basically any loud noise (usually a clicky freehub, if my bike has it, or a “coming through” if it doesn’t), and then watch to see what the person I’m overtaking does.

It’s basically like a car horn, you shouldn’t be using it unless there is immediate danger. Riding up behind someone and ringing a bell/yelling can be just as startling/distracting. If you can safely pass, you should do just that.

Great topic. As a cyclist and a pedestrian, I’ve been scared witless by people who announce their presence when they’re right on top of me. It literally makes me jump. That’s not predictable or safe for anybody.

So it’s really thoughtful to use the bell or the “on your left,” but people need to do it well ahead of time. That’s what I try to do.

Making things more complicated are people wearing headphones. What to do in that situation?!

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I second Jonathan’s comments about a bell.

I’m a big fan of the bell for several reasons. I good bell can indicate how far back you are and give an idea of how fast you are going. I like to ring it way back and then again when I’m nearer. A bell also has a better chance of getting through people’s headphones than your voice. A bell has a happy tone that can’t be confused for rudeness like say when you’ve said, “On your left” dozens of times already and may come across rude to people even when you don’t mean it.

Announcing your presence is quite important. I once very narrowly missed what could have been a serious accident when a jogger decided to u-turn right into me as I was passing him. Apparently, the bell wasn’t loud enough to get through his headphones. Also, pedestrians may do silly things as you pass them that could result in their or your injury. It’s best that they know you are there. Regular joggers along my route, flash a “thanks” sign with their hand when they hear my bell. It’s a nice confirmation that they know I’m there. Likewise passing another cyclist. I personally don’t like being passed without notice and appreciate knowing another cyclist is passing.


Agreed with amadeusb4

Me too, and with LastCall3AM. Several seconds lead time lets me check my mirror or over my shoulder, and isn’t startling like when it’s right behind me.

Notice of passage is customary. It OUGHT be the law. “On Your Left” is sufficient at a safe distance. Never, never ever pass on the right. Period.