Tips for safe biking this summer

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By Katelyn Doggett

When the weather starts to clear up and the sun comes out, more people begin to dust off their bikes. Before hopping on and pedaling off, make sure you’re cycling safely.

Not only is it important for cars to watch out for bicyclists, but bicyclists also need to adhere to proper safety measures in order to avoid injury, said Bikesport Bellingham owner Andy Walker.

Walker wants both bicyclists and motorists to be safe, so he offered some bike safety tips.

A major problem Walker often sees is that bicyclists disregard the rules of the road.

“Bicyclists need to recognize that when they are on city streets they are bound by law to follow the rules of the road,” Walker said. “Following road rules would solve a lot of the problems.”

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), when riding on the roadway, a bicyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver. This includes obeying yield signs, stop signs and traffic signals, not riding against traffic and following lane markings, Walker said.

Walker’s next tip is for bicyclists to be predictable with their actions. He said it’s important to not make any erratic changes while riding a bike. Cars need to know what a bicyclist is about to do in order to react correspondingly, he said.

He recommends cyclists not position themselves beside vehicles when stopped at traffic lights or signs, but instead maintain position in traffic so cars can clearly see them.

Walker’s last tip is to make yourself visible when biking. He recommends using a combination of lights and brightly colored clothing so cars are able to spot you from a distance. While this is crucial at night, it is always important that vehicles on the road are aware of a bicyclist’s presence. When possible, Walker said he likes to make eye contact with drivers because it establishes a relationship that acknowledges he is there.

Motorists also need to know how to properly interact with bicycles, Walker said. For instance, cars should leave room when passing and following a cyclist.

“A misconception is that bicyclists need to stay on the right side of the white line,” Walker said. “But sometimes something may be obstructing the path and the cyclist will need to avoid it.”

When both bicyclists and motorists are aware of and courteous to one another, it provides the most safety for everyone involved, Walker said.

WSDOT recommends bicyclists use hand signals to tell motorists and pedestrians what they are about to do, keep both hands ready to brake, scan the road behind the bike’s path and always wear a helmet even though it is not required in all cities.

For more bicycle laws and safety tips visit the WSDOT website at wsdot.wa.gov/bike.

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