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Enjoy National Bike Month Safely

This was originally posted by Tacoma’s Bicycle Law Specialists at Sadler Ladenburg

May is National Bike Month, which serves as a good reminder of all the benefits of bicycling. Bicycling is a great way to improve your health, preserve the environment, save money, or just have fun. As more and more people are riding to school, to work, or for recreation, it is important to understand bike safety and what to do in case of a collision.

Tips for safe biking:

1. Obey traffic signs and signals– Bicycles must follow the rules of the road like other vehicles.

2. Never ride against traffic– Motorists aren’t looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. State law and common sense require that bicyclists drive like other vehicles.

3. Follow lane markings
– Don’t turn left from the right lane. Don’t go straight in a lane marked “right-turn only.”

4. Don’t pass on the right
– Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.

5. Scan the road behind you
– Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.

6. Keep both hands ready to brake
– You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Allow extra distance for stopping in the rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet.

7. Wear a helmet and never ride with headphones
– Always wear a helmet. Never wear headphones or devices that may block your hearing while riding a bike.

8. Dress for the weather
– In rain wear a poncho or waterproof suit. Dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes. Wear bright colored clothing.

9. Use hand signals
– Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.

10. Ride in the middle of the lane in slower traffic
– Get in the middle of the lane at busy intersections and whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.

11. Choose the best way to turn left
– There are two choices: (1) Like an auto: signal to move into the left turn lane and then turn left. (2) Like a pedestrian: ride straight to the far side crosswalk. Walk your bike across.

12. Make eye contact with drivers
– Assume that other drivers don’t see you until you are sure that they do. Eye contact is important with any driver which might pose a threat to your safety.

13. Look out for road hazards
– Watch out for parallel-slat sewer grates, gravel, ice, sand or debris. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.

14. Use lights at night
– The law requires a white headlight (visible from at least 500 feet ahead) and a rear reflector or taillight (visible up to 300 feet from behind).

15. Keep your bike in good repair
– Adjust your bike to fit you and keep it working properly. Check brakes and tires regularly. Routine maintenance is simple and you can learn to do it yourself.

Even the most safe bicyclist can be injured by in a collision. Drivers are more distracted now than ever and there are more bikes are the road now than ever. The result is that thousands of bicyclists are injured every year. National and statewide bicycle crash statistics paint a grim picture of the dangers that bicyclists face.

Prepare yourself and be a defensive cyclist by exercising good safety precautions.

Consider these alarming numbers:

  • Approximately 48,000 bicyclists were injured and 743 were killed in motor vehicle traffic accidents in the United States in 2013.
  • Sixty-eight percent of fatal accidents involving bicyclists occurred in urban areas.
  • Alcohol was involved in more than 34 percent of fatal bicycle accidents in 2013.
  • In Washington State, 35 percent of fatal accidents occurred when bicyclists were crossing roadways, 27 percent occurred when bicyclists rode against traffic, and 10 percent occurred as bicyclists turned into the path of an approaching vehicle.

If you are injured on your bicycle there are important steps you need to take to ensure your rights are not jeopardized. Even if you do not think you are injured at the scene, it is important to follow the steps below. Many people do not realize they are injured until the adrenaline rush subsides hours later. Often what seems like a minor injury develops into a serious problem.

Here is what you need to do:

1. Call the Police. It is important that you document the collision with a police report. Make sure the office takes down your version of the events.

2. Obtain contact information
from the driver and any witnesses. Get the driver’s phone, number, address, driver’s license number, vehicle license number, and insurance information. Get contact information from all witnesses.

3. Document what happened with photos
of the scene. Take photos of the vehicle involved, your bike, the intersection or road and even a photo of the driver. If you don’t have access to a camera, ask someone else at the scene if they can help by taking photos. As soon as possible, write down a detail description of the collision.

4. Document your injuries
by seeking immediate medical attention, even if your injuries are minor. Take photos of your injuries the as soon as possible and again several times during your recovery.

5. Do not provide any statement
about the collision or your injuries to the insurance company.

6. Seek advice
from an experience personal injury attorney who handles bike collision cases. Bike collision cases are different from auto collision in many respects. Many attorneys who do not handle bike injuries cases often may over look important details.

Handling the added burden of an insurance claim can be overwhelming after a collision. Seek the advice of an attorney experienced with cycling claims.

Injuries on bicycles do not always involve being struck by a vehicle. Sometimes other bicyclist cause collisions. Sometimes dangerous road conditions (pot holes, large grates, etc) cause injuries. Sometimes vehicles causes crashes without ever striking the bike. Even in these circumstances, there often is insurance available to pay your medical expenses. Many insurance
representatives do not fully understand the requirements under their own policies with respect to bicycle injuries. An experience attorney can sort out these issues and ensure that you receive all benefits you are entitled to after an injury.

Despite the dangers of riding a bicycle, the vast majority of bike riders are never injured. Do not let fear stop you from enjoying the benefits of riding a bicycle. Chances are you will never need to use the advice in this post, but if you do you are will be prepared.

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