Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Seattle Bike Codes - An Intro to Your Rights & Responsibilities

Knowing your rights & responsibilities can be a big barrier when thinking about starting to bike. I sort of hopped in, not knowing. When people glared at me while riding the sidewalk on busy streets, I felt bad (little did I know that I have every right to be there). For those of you new to cycling or cycling in Seattle, here is a quick run down of the code.

For Cyclists:
  1. When biking on the road, you have all of the same rules & responsibilities as the driver of a car.
  2. You must avoid colliding with any pedestrian or other biker & should use a bell when necessary.
  3. Biking slower than the average speed of traffic requires you to ride closest to the right side of the right lane. This excludes safely passing another rider or executing a turn.
  4. In a one way, two (or more)-laned road, cyclists may ride closest to the left side of the left lane.
  5. You have the right to ride on a shoulder of the road or other bike lanes specified.
  6. You may ride two abreast, no more.
  7. You have to use hand signals (left, right, or stop)
  8. You may not hang on to a moving vehicle.
  9. You can not haul any package or bundle that prevents you from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars (no going no-handed).
  10. When dark you must have a white light on the front & a red reflector on your back. You may also use a red light on your rear in addition.
  11. Those brakes have got to work!
  12. You can't carry a passenger unless your 18+ & that small child is attached to their person.
  13. When along a crosswalk, you have all the rights & rules as a pedestrian. You shouldn't cut into a crosswalk if cars are present or passing through.
  14. You can ride on the sidewalk! You should ride in a manner & of a speed that is proper to the conditions (pedestrian traffic, grade, condition of surface).
  15. When on the sidewalk or public path you must yield the right-of-way to an pedestrian & signal (bell or "on your left" it) when overtaking (passing) any pedestrian.
  16. Wear a helmet (it's a $100+ ticket now)
Drivers Must:
  1. Not enter, leave or open the door of a motor vehicle adjacent to moving traffic unless safe to do so. Drivers are responsible to make sure that there are no bikers traveling past.
  2. Drive at a speed, avoiding collision with cyclists or pedestrians.
  3. Not drive in a bicycle lane, unless executing a turn. In which case they must yield to you, the biker.
Further resources through Bike Smart Seattle and review codes at SDOT.

My philosophy with biking in Seattle is this - stay safe, don't apologize for biking, pay attention, and run red lights if you've looked both ways, checked for pedestrians, etc. Two other things that have really helped me to stay safe are:
  1. Riding out from parallel cars & taking my place in the lane (this prevents doors from opening on you and forces cars passing you to slow down & move quite a bit out)
  2. Riding on sidewalks when traffic is heavy or fast
This just may be my favorite article on the subject, Bicycles Don't Matter. No Really. They Don't. by Dan Bertolet at Hugeasscity. Read other biking related articles here.

Image via sparkling allison.

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