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Riding bicycles connects people with fun, freedom, exercise, recreation, and transportation. Whether on streets, paved trails, or off-road, there are many different styles of bikes and types of riding to choose from. These nine bicycling safety tips are for general riding on the trail or the streets, whether someone is just out for a spin, or commuting to work or school.
- Obey all regulatory signs and traffic lights. When people use their bikes on streets, they are subject to traffic rules and laws. If riding on a sidewalk, always give pedestrians the right of way and pay special attention for turning vehicles at curbs, driveways and street crossings. Parents are responsible for their kids obeying bike laws.
- Never ride against traffic. When a bicycle and car are moving towards each other, there is much less time to take corrective action. Ride with traffic to avoid potential accidents; this means riding on the right side of the road so faster traffic passes you on your left. Kids younger than 10 years old should stick to the sidewalks unless riding with adults.
- Be predictable! Use hand signals [shown here] to let motorists know what you intend to do. Make the signals clear and hold them 2-3 seconds before your turn, not during the turn. When riding with other cyclists on a road or a trail, use your voice or use hand signals to prevent collisions. For example, you might have your hands squeezing your brakes, so you could say “slowing” or “stopping” to warn others if they are riding behind you.
- Ride in a straight line to the right of traffic (on two-way streets) and a little more than a car-door width away from parked cars. Ride in the lane and not in and out of the shoulder. The shoulder can be dangerous with crumbling roadways, debris, or other hazards. Weaving in and out of the lane to move around parked cars can put the cyclist at great risk from oncoming motorists. Also, watch for parked cars to pull away from the curb.
- Always wear a helmet and never ride with headphones. Helmets dramatically reduce the risk of head injury in a bicycle crash, and they must be fit properly to be effective. Take the helmet fit test. While helmets are not mandated by law in Washington, they are highly recommended safety gear and required in Spokane and other cities. Headphones can block out important sounds, such as the motor of an approaching car or the beeps of a garbage truck backing up. Keep your brain protected, ears clear, and eyes active.
- Use lights and reflectors at night and when visibility is poor. When riding at night, Washington state law says bikes must have a white light on the front of the bike and a red reflector on the back. In addition, a steady or flashing red rear light is recommended.
- Pass on the left. Motorists, other cyclists, or pedestrians may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right. When passing a cyclist or other trail user, use your bell before passing or say “on your left.” Always look over your shoulder before passing or changing lanes.
- Dress for the weather. Dress in layers so you can adjust to the temperature and always wear bright clothing. Neon colors or high visibility vests are encouraged! Make sure your clothing and cargo is clear of the chain and gears. Spandex is not required!
- Keep your bike in good repair. Check brakes and tires regularly. Make sure all components are secure and that your chain is lubricated. Take your bike to your local bike shop for a tune-up or find free videos online to perform your own basic maintenance.
Source: Safety tips from SRHD’s Stickman Knows program
Helpful Cycling Resources
Spokane Regional Bike Map: https://srtc.maps.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=a9c8901a015b4aea8c5e23a927a7fc41
Check out the new Appleway Trail in Spokane Valley: https://www.spokanevalley.org/applewaytrail
Stickman Knows safety program from Spokane Regional Health District: https://srhd.org/programs-and-services/stickman-knows/bicyclists
Helmet fit test from Safe Kids: https://www.safekids.org/sites/default/files/documents/helmet_fit_test.pdf
Signaling video from League of American Bicyclists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgfiu_Mw87Q
Bike safety tips for parents from Safe Kids: https://www.safekids.org/tip/bike-safety-tips
Learn how to load bikes on STA buses: https://www.spokanetransit.com/ride-sta/bikes-on-buses
Knows the rules of the road — Washington state bicycle laws: https://wsdot.wa.gov/travel/commute-choices/bike/laws
Cycling for Seniors: https://bikemunk.com/cycling-ageing/
- Julie Happy