(The final installment of a three part series to review the rules of the road for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists)
Cycling in Seattle often means grinding up steep hills, riding through splendid ridge crest neighborhoods, navigating winding ravines, crossing our working waterways, and traversing industrial and commercial areas. Biking in Seattle is a real treat, but before you don your spandex bike shorts and multi-colored jerseys, it’s critically important to understand the rules of the road. Most people are aware that cyclists must obey the same traffic laws as motor vehicles but we all need a refresher from time to time on the laws that are not commonly known or misunderstood.
The most important rule all cyclists should know is that helmets are required by law. This is really a no-brainer. Be sure to protect your noggin before you put your foot on the pedal. Another no-brainer: brakes are required! Every bike on the street should have working brakes that will enable the operator to the wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
Unless both hands are needed to control or operate the bicycle, cyclists should provide hand signals whenever turning or stopping. A complete description of these hand signals can be found here. Speaking of hands on the handlebars, it should be noted that cyclists should maintain at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. You should not attempt to carry large packages and ride at the same time. Leave the juggling while riding for the parade.
While cyclists must obey the same rules of the road as drivers, it is legal for bikers to ride on the sidewalk. Bikers that choose to ride on the sidewalk must travel at a reasonably safe speed and always yield to pedestrians. Cyclists should ring a bell or use their voice before overtaking or passing a pedestrian. The same rule applies to crosswalks too. Bikers can legally cross the roadway in a crosswalk so long as they yield to pedestrians. Drivers are required to stop for both pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks. And, as we’ve pointed out numerous times in this series, every intersection contains a crosswalk whether marked or unmarked.
If you plan on riding while it’s dark, your bicycle should be equipped with a lamp on the front that emits a white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front. A red reflector should be mounted below the seat and should be visible for up to 600 feet to the rear. A red light may be used in addition to the red reflector.
When traveling on a roadway with bike lanes, cyclists may choose to ride in the street or within the bike lane according to their comfort level and safety needs. Cyclists should always pass on the left when overtaking a slower vehicle or cyclist. Bicyclists (and drivers) should not pass on the right. Also keep in mind that cyclists should not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.