Island drivers share the road with meandering deer, brave bunnies and, from about May through September, a significant number of intrepid bicyclists.
Many of our roads don’t have bike lanes, which makes for awkward and potentially dangerous maneuvering for cars and bikes. Drivers often either speed by too closely or ride slowly behind cyclists, afraid to pass. Many times, they simply cannot pass. And we’ve all encountered the oblivious bicyclists who are careening down the middle of the road.
Although accidents are rare occurrences, it’s still important to be alert and take precautions while driving or biking. In 2017, Washington was ranked as the No. 1 bicycle-friendly state by the League of American Bicyclists for the 10th year in a row. Bicycles are legally considered vehicles on the state’s roadways.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Resource Guide from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists the following common mistakes.
• 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 balance, coordination, focus and quick reactions.
• 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 not seeing them until it is too late. Factors may include speeding, inattention, and alcohol on the part of the driver and poor visibility or alcohol use 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 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.
• 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.
Thank you to our bicyclists – many of whom traveled a great distance to bask in the beauty of the San Juans – for appropriately navigating our rural roads. We hope that all drivers will do the same.