Thursday, May 12, 2022

Bike Everywhere Month Rolls in May

By Barb Chamberlain

It’s that time of year: More people start getting out using pedal power during National Bike Month in May and beyond. This also makes it a great time to celebrate Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation of Bike Month in Washington and to share a few reminders about traffic safety.

As the proclamation notes, the bicycle is a healthy, convenient, affordable, enjoyable and environmentally sound form of transportation. Bicycles also serve as essential transportation for many who do not or cannot drive, allowing them to access jobs, education, essential goods and services, transit, and community life.

If challenges or friendly competition are what turn your cranks, you can thank the advocacy groups that organize and promote the statewide #BikeEverywhere Challenge, one of the local/regional challenges, and the National Bike Challenge that are rolling now. You can find #BikeThere and #BikeEverywhere hashtags all over your favorite social media feeds.

And now for those tips that apply year round, not just in May.

A neighborhood greenway sign in Spokane reminds all of Washington state law.

Ride and Drive SMART

Many people who ride a bike in Washington also drive. The same skills will serve you well whether you’re operating on two wheels, three (if you happen to have an adult three-wheeler), or four.

When you ride or drive SMART you:

STAY alert and check your speed. Watch for other people walking, biking, driving, or getting on/off transit. The faster you go, the harder it is to see others in time to stop.

On the bike: Pay attention to the road surface and potential hazards.

Drivers: As the operator of the larger, heavier and faster vehicle you make decisions that have the biggest effect on the outcome for everyone. That one second you hold back to be sure it’s safe to pass or turn can make all the difference. Slow down for kids on bikes; they may not be able to ride as predictably.

MAINTAIN space. When you leave room in front of you, you’re giving yourself time to avoid other riders, drivers, pedestrians and hazards in the road.

On the bike: Ride outside the door zone. If you’re riding in a place where it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk, yield to pedestrians and roll at a walking pace.

Drivers, remember the Safe Passing Law. Move over an entire lane if possible; leave at least three feet of space between you and the bicyclist (or wait to pass) if there isn’t room in the other lane.

ACT predictably and safely. Don’t make abrupt lane changes or turns without making sure it’s safe for everyone and you know what other traffic is on the road.

On the bike: Position yourself to be visible — if there’s no bike lane this means riding in the vehicle travel lane, usually in the right-hand tire track. Ride in a straight line. Use bike lanes and trails when they are safe for your use. Make sure your helmet fits properly and is secured on your head. Have a working headlight and rear reflector or tail light.

Drivers: Don’t honk your horn. Use eye contact and courteous driving to communicate that you see the bicyclist. Use the “Dutch Reach” to open your door when getting out of a parked car on a street. Reach across your body with your right hand for the door handle. This causes you to rotate your body a bit, which serves as a reminder to look behind you and ensure the lane is clear of all traffic before opening. This handy tip that’s included in the Washington driver’s manual will help prevent you from an illegal door maneuver.

Gov. Inslee this year proclaimed May to be Bike Everywhere Month.

RESPECT the rules of the road. Obey traffic laws, signs, signals and pavement markings. Signal lane changes, turns and stops. Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and riders.

On the bike: Call out or ring a bell before passing someone walking or biking. Ride in the same direction as motor vehicles when you’re in the lane or on the shoulder.

Drivers: Look and look again before turning. Don’t overtake a rider and then turn in front of them (a “right hook”), or fail to look for them in oncoming traffic and hit them as you turn left (the “left cross”).

THINK ahead. Scan ahead to give yourself time to see and adjust to a change in traffic flow or someone who’s making a turn or changing lanes.

On the bike: Allow time to adjust your line of travel so you can ride around that pothole or broken glass or cross those railroad tracks at a right angle.

Bicycle traffic signals over separated bike lanes support safer traffic operations.

Drivers: When passing make sure you know what path the bicyclist is taking. Are they planning a turn? Before deciding to pass make sure there is no traffic coming in the opposite direction—the Ann Weatherill Safe Passing Law of 2005 prohibits passing when cyclists, pedestrians, or farm equipment are in view and approaching from opposite direction. Check your mirrors and look before moving back into the lane just as you do when overtaking another motor vehicle; the bicyclist may be traveling faster than you realize.

Enjoy the journey and ride SMART!