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Road Services - Bicycle safety tips

Courtesy of the Northwest Bicycle Federation & the Washington State Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs

Obey traffic laws

Traffic violations cause the majority of bicycle/motor vehicle accidents. Following traffic laws makes bicycles predictable to other drivers.

  1. Yield when entering the roadway.
  2. Stop or yield when required by a sign or light.
  3. Always ride in the direction of traffic.
  4. Use proper lighting at night.
  5. Never ride while intoxicated.
  6. Signal your intentions to other drivers.

Wear a helmet

The law requires bicyclists to wear helmets throughout incorporated and unincorporated King County (Board of Health Code, Title 9). Head injuries cause the majority of bicycle accident deaths. Your head is worth the protection.

Use good lighting at night

Reflectors are not enough. A white front light and red rear reflectors are required. In addition, use a red rear light or flashing beacon, especially on dark rural roads where drivers need plenty of warning. Bright clothes increase visibility both day and night, but are not enough by themselves for night riding.

Keep bicycles mechanically safe and loads secure.

Be in control of your bicycle. If a bicycle is too big, hard to handle or if loads shift, an accident can result.

When bicycling on sidewalks, trails or paths:

  1. Keep speeds down.
  2. Yield to pedestrians.
  3. Yield to traffic before entering or crossing a roadway.

Adults should not ride on a sidewalk unless there is a specific reason (such as crossing a narrow bridge). Note: many communities have specific local laws concerning bicycling on sidewalks and paths; check with city officials for information.

Train and supervise children

Learning to ride takes many new skills. Adult supervision prevents accidents. Bicyclists of any age should not ride in traffic until they feel skilled with their equipment and traffic rules.

Take special care on rough or slippery surfaces

  1. When approaching a slippery surface (loose gravel, wet metal surfaces, or wet painted surfaces) go slow and avoid sudden stops or turns.
  2. Ride slow over rough surfaces (potholes, rocks and cracks) and stand up to absorb the shock in your legs and arms. Cross railroad tracks and cracks in the roadway at a right angle to avoid catching the front wheel.
  3. "Turtles," ceramic mounds used to mark some lane separations, and parallel drain grates that can catch a wheel are special hazards to avoid.

Don't lock your wheels when stopping

Use both brakes during a hard stop. Keep your weight low and back on the saddle. If the rear wheel starts to skid, reduce the force on both brakes. Practice this.

Ride safely when in a group

Each rider must stop and signal when required. Keep groups small (about 6 riders maximum).When the group stops to rest keep all riders off of the roadway.

Don't ride too close to parked cars

Opening car doors can cause an accident. Leave about 3 feet of "shy" distance.

For more information, contact:

Planning Unit
King County Road Services Division
201 South Jackson Street
M/S KSC-TR-0317
Seattle WA 98104-3856

Also see

Information from the Road Services Division's website is available to people with disabilities in alternate formats upon request by calling 206-477-3839 or 711 for the TTY relay service.

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