By Fred Rabb
A recent article published by Axios found that “there were 2.8 fatal bicycle crashes on average for every million Seattle-area residents between 2017-2021 — a 15% increase over the previous five years, per data from the League of American Bicyclists via the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” This fatal increase is mainly due to a surge in bicycle use prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s response — implementing bike lanes for rider safety.
As National Road Victim Month concludes, it’s important to highlight the five ways a motorist can avoid causing injury to a law-abiding bicyclist.
FIVE WAYS MOTORISTS CAN AVOID HITTING A BICYCLIST
CYCLISTS ARE CONSIDERED VEHICLES WHILE ON THE ROAD
Every person riding a bicycle on the roadway is granted all the rights and is subject to all the duties applicable to a driver. RCW 46.61.755; 46.04.670. Many drivers mistakenly believe that cyclists can only ride on designated bike lanes, however, they may choose to ride in a bike lane, a bike path, the shoulder of a road, or travel in a road lane as it suits their safety needs. RCW 46.61.770. On some scenic roads, bicyclists ride side by side. This is done so drivers can better see the cyclists and is legally permissible as long as no more than two cyclists are riding abreast. RCW 46.61.770.
GIVE BICYCLIST SPACE
Bicyclists often share the roads with drivers but lack the visibility of a vehicle because they have a much narrower profile. Often vehicles will encroach on a bicyclist, which can lead to rear-end collisions. Washington law states that drivers must not follow a bicyclist too closely. RCW 46.61.145.
PASS WITH CARE
When vehicles want to overtake a bicyclist on the road with two lanes of traffic going in the same direction, a driver must move completely into the left lane until they pass the bicyclist. RCW 46.61.110. When a vehicle wants to pass a bicyclist on a road with one lane for traffic moving in each direction, a driver must reduce speed to a safe speed for passing relative to the bicyclist, pass at a safe distance, and pass with at least three feet of between a bicyclist. RCW 46.61.100.
APPROACH INTERSECTIONS WITH CARE
When approaching an intersection, it is crucial for drivers to maintain a proper lookout, not only for vehicles but also for cyclists, who are considered vehicles while using the roads. When two vehicles enter an intersection from different directions at approximately the same time, the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. RCW 46.61.180
USE CAUTION WHEN TURNING RIGHT
Right turns at intersections lead to a common situation where cyclists get hit. This situation happens when a car makes a right turn in front of a bike lane and collides with a bicyclist who has the legal right to move forward through the intersection. Often drivers don’t see the cyclists because they are in their blind spot, or they see a cyclist coming but believe they can make the turn before the bike enters the intersection. Always check your blind spots and make sure there are no bicyclists entering the intersection before making a right turn.