Bicyclists in the state of Washington must abide by traffic laws, just like any car according to the state law or the Revised Code of Washington. The only difference is bikers aren’t driving two tons of metal and are privy to dangerous situations.
On July 17, a biker in was struck by a vehicle on state Route 169. He died from a landscaping truck hitting him, according Washington State Patrol. It has not been confirmed if he was wearing a helmet or not.
According to Sgt. Jason Houck from the King County Sheriff’s Office, he isn’t aware of any other fatalities from biking accidents in the past few years, but said there have been accidents in the area resulting in serious injury.
The King County website said there is an average of three bicyclists who die on the road each year due to a vehicle accident.
“People are driving with their cell phones and a bike isn’t very big, so you don’t see it very well in front of you,” Houck said.
Houck said it is the responsibility of the driver and the bicyclist to share the roads in a safe manner. That doesn’t always happen though.
For bikers to be safe, they must stop at all stop signs and lights, even if there aren’t any cars around, he said. He said they should also move to the side if possible to let cars that are going faster go around them.
“If you’re going 12 (mph) and the cars are going 55, 60, let cars go around you,” Houck said.
Houck also said he rides his bike all of the time and has had some issues with drivers.
He said people will sometimes yell, or even throw things at him because he is, “in their way.”
Some might think it would just be easier and safer for bikers to ride on the shoulder, but according to Houck, that is not always the safest choice.
“Riding on the shoulder can be more dangerous than riding on the road at times,” he said. “Shoulders are usually full of broken glass, rocks and drains that are dangerous for bikes to run over.”
Houck said to clean the shoulders and bike lanes it would cost a quite a bit of money. He also said adding more bike lanes in general would be very expensive. This is what drives bikers to ride on the roads more often than not.
He said, “It (bike lanes) would be better and easier. You would see less bikers in the roadway.”
Houck said he thinks the new distracted driving law that took effect in Washington won’t “hurt,” but he also doesn’t think it’s going to help a great deal as far as bike safety goes.
“You can make all these laws that tell people not to do things, but it should be common sense,” he said. “I don’t think it will have a dramatic increase on safety.”
He said maybe once people start getting tickets here and there, they might decide to stop using their phones while driving, but it is up to people to change their ways.
In King County, starting in 2003, it became a law for bikers to wear helmets while they ride their bike, according to the King County website.
If seen without a helmet, a biker can get a ticket with a fine.
The website also said several studies estimated that bike helmets provide a 63-88 percent reduction in risk of severe brain injury for all ages.
“I don’t know why people choose not to wear them,” Houck said. “Thirty bucks in comparison to permanent brain injury or even death, I would hope they choose the 30 bucks.”
Bicyclist and drivers, both, need to start paying attention. Houck said it is up to them to be courteous of each other and obey the rules of the road.
For more information on bike safety in King County, you can visit their website at: http://www.kingcounty.gov/ and then go to the public health section.