Do I Really Need to Share the Road with “Them”?

We have all seen more motorcycles and bicycles on our roadways recently–blame it on the sun. During the past two weeks three motorcyclists injured in crashes caused by other drivers retained our firm to represent them. Unfortunately, if history is any indication of the future, these clients are only the tip of the iceberg of injured victims.

All too often motorcyclists and bicyclists get a bad rap. They’re always referred to as the “crazy ones” who don’t obey the laws and go too fast or too carelessly. While this may be true in many instances the “bad” few make for “bad” stereotypes. As an avid cyclist myself, I know firsthand that most cyclists obey the rules of the road and try to follow the safety guidelines established for their own safety and the safety of others. The same can be said for motorcyclists. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the bicycle/motorcycle will lose every single time when involved in a crash with an automobile.

All this discussion about rules of the road and safety guidelines begs the question–what actually are the laws that motorcyclists and bicyclists must follow and how can those driving cars do their part to better protect motorcyclist and bicyclist safety?

BICYCLE LAWS:

The Washington State Department of Transportation has provided a good summary of applicable bike laws and other resources.  Below are some of the most pertinent:

Bicycle Helmets – Currently, there is no state law requiring helmet use. However, some cities and counties require helmets. Vancouver city is one example–it is mandatory for all persons to wear a bike helmet when biking in Vancouver City Limits.

Riding on the Road – When riding on a roadway, a cyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver (RCW 46.61.755). Cyclists who violate traffic laws may be ticketed (RCW 46.61.750). To bicyclists: Obey the law. To drivers: Learn to share.

Children Bicycling – Parents or guardians may not knowingly permit bicycle traffic violations by their ward (RCW 46.61.700).

Riding Side by Side – Cyclists may ride side by side, but not more than two abreast (RCW 46.61.770).

Riding at Night – For night bicycle riding, bikes MUST be equipped with a working white front light (not a reflector) visible for 500 feet and a red rear reflector. I would recommend a red rear light in addition to the required reflector (RCW 46.61.780).

Shoulder vs. Bike Lane – Cyclists may choose to ride on the path, bike lane, shoulder or travel lane as suits their safety needs (RCW 46.61.770). Again, bicyclists: Obey the law. Drivers: Share the road.

MOTORCYCLE LAWS:

Motorcyclists are subject to the same laws and rules as drivers of automobiles. It’s worth noting that motorcyclists must wear helmets and it is permissible for two motorcycles to ride side-by-side in a single lane.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

One of the greatest dangers to bicycle/motorcycle operators is a vehicle turning in front of them. These drivers simply don’t see the bicycle/motorcycle that is all too frequently there to be seen–many times they don’t even look. As common sense would dictate, the resulting collision is often catastrophic–for the cyclist/motorcyclist. Look before making your turn.

One of the most stupid and idiotic things a bicyclist can do (I suppose it would be equally crazy for a motorcyclist) is to ride on the wrong side of the road–facing oncoming traffic. This is a sure recipe to get oneself killed or injured so badly they’d wish they had been killed. Drivers who approach from a cross street intending to make a right turn, don’t always look to their right for oncoming traffic–why should they? They would not be expected to anticipate a cyclist approaching from their right.

Regardless of whether you prefer the 2-wheeled or 4-wheeled methods of transportation, obey the law. Share the road. Pay attention. Follow the rules. Be smart. Don’t be a statistic.

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