Seattle is the third most bike-friendly city in the United States, according to a recent study by the financial consumer website SmartAsset. The Emerald City also ranks fifth in the number of workers who ride their bikes to work.
Having fewer cars on the road is good for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and cycling provides many health benefits for those commuting to work. However, our often congested city streets present numerous hazards, especially from distracted or impaired motorists.
Top commuting tips for bicyclists
First of all, have the essentials: A well-fitting helmet, bright clothes and reflectors and front and rear lights. Next, be aware of the five most common hazards:
- Car doors: Many cyclists have been injured when a motorist opens the driver’s door without checking for oncoming bikes. Especially when traveling cramped roadways, riders should assume every door in their path will open and adjust speed or increase space when possible.
- Right turns: Many injuries occur when a car passes a rider and immediately turns into their path. The best way to avoid this is to merge left and straddle the line between the turning lane and the through lane.
- Pedestrians: When a person walks into the street in front of you, always pass behind them. A person’s instinct is to move forward away from trouble. By going behind them, you’ll avoid a potentially costly game of chicken.
- Body language: Use your entire body, not just hand signals, to let motorists know you’re turning. This is one of the few instances where exaggeration is a good thing. Also, avoid dark sunglasses when possible. Making eye contact is the best way to communicate with oncoming motorists and pedestrians.
- Sharing the road: When bike paths are not available, the safest place to be is in the middle of the traffic lane, especially when traveling on city streets with slow-moving traffic. The cars behind you are less of a threat than car doors or pedestrians.
What is Seattle doing to make streets safer for cyclists?
The city aims to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on its roadways by 2030 as part of its Vision Zero program. Part of the effort includes a safety study on hazards facing bicyclists and pedestrians.
The mayor’s office announced several steps to enhance safety, including reduced speed limits, more safety-enhanced traffic signals, engineering upgrades, a new crash review task force, as well as several other education programs and safety incentives and tactics.