A crash course on bicycle safety

May is National Bike Month. Since 1956, the League of American Bicyclists has devoted the month of May to showcasing the benefits of biking and to encourage more people to do it.

“It is green, good exercise, and a great way to get fresh air,” said San Juan County Sheriff Ron Krebs. “I want to remind everyone that our number one concern is with the safety of those using our roadways. Every year we have thousands of people visiting the islands as well as those who live here who bike and run the island roads.”

In 2015, Washington was ranked the number one bicycle friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists for the eighth year in a row. Bicycles are legally considered vehicles on the state’s roadways.

In an online survey by San Juan County Parks and Fair Department in March 2016, 54 percent of respondents said creating safe bike routes on county roads is a high priority.

Although accidents are rare occurrences, it’s still important to be alert and take precautions while driving or biking. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Resource Guide from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists the following common mistakes.

“Cyclists have just as much right to be on the roadways as the cars do. Yet each year we have reports of aggressive drivers when it comes to cyclists,” said Kerbs. “So please slow down and be aware of those on the roadways with you.”

Bicyclist errors

• Riding out into the street from a driveway, alley or from between parked cars without stopping or looking for traffic. Drivers do not expect bicyclists to enter the road in the middle of a block.

• The driver has the right-of-way and expects entering traffic to yield. Always look left-right-left before entering a road.

• Turning or swerving suddenly into the path of a motorist. Ride in straight, predictable lines; use a mirror or look over your shoulder for traffic; and use hand signals before changing lane position.

• Riding through a stop sign without stopping. Follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Be prepared to stop quickly.

• Riding against the flow of traffic. Drivers do not expect traffic to come from the wrong direction.

• Riding while impaired, which affects the balance, coordination, focus and quick reactions. • • • • Remember that a bicycle is a vehicle. If you plan to drink, get a safe ride home.

Driver mistakes

• Turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or at an intersection or driveway. Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed.

• Failing to search surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles. These crashes can occur in parking lots, at stop signs, when backing up, or when parking on the street. Before accelerating your vehicle, look around for all road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

• Overtaking a bicyclist but doesn’t see them until it is too late. Factors may include speeding, inattention, and alcohol on the part of the driver and poor visibility or alcohol on the part of the bicyclist. Always do visual scans of the roadway for other traffic, especially at night.

• Passing a bicycle too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle — when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.

FamilyDoctor.org suggests cyclists do the following to help avoid a collision with vehicles:

• Wear sports sunglasses, which can stop dust and bugs from getting into your eyes.

• Wear bright, reflective clothing to make it easier for drivers to see you.

• Wear padded gloves to protect your hands from developing blisters or being injured by debris.

• Wear padded shorts and use a comfortable seat to reduce buttock pain.

• Avoid riding at night, and use appropriate lights if you ride during times of the day when visibility is poor or in weather conditions that reduce visibility.

• Always stay alert and look out for anything in your way.

• For night bicycle riding, Washington state requires a bike to have a white front light, not a reflector, that is visible for 500 feet, and a red rear reflector. A red rear light may be used in addition to the rear reflector.

For more information visit the following websites: http://wabikes.org/; http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Bike/default.htm; https://www.visitsanjuans.com/what-to-do/all-san-juan-islands/bicycle-rentals; http://www.sanjuanco.com/286/Trails-Bicycle-Paths, http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike; http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/bicycles; https://www.myassettag.com/bike/.