You may think you know the Rules of the Road, but who among us hasn't been yelled at by someone with a different understanding of these Rules?
Which is more common for bicyclists to hear, "Get off the road!" or "Get off the sidewalk!"? Both are probably wrong. That's why Washington Bike Law provides FREE Spoke Cards with the Key Rules of the Road for Bicycling. Just ask us for one.
Wouldn't you like to be right? Better still, wouldn't you want to feel safer on the road knowing that more people understood the Rules of the Road? Washington Bike Law wants to help.
Truth be told, people who yell at bicyclists for perceived legal violations are unlikely to be persuaded by a card stuck in your bike's spokes. But Washington Bike Law's Spoke Cards also have citations to the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) and the Revised Code of Washington (RCW).
How can you convince a yeller that what you says is the law really is the law? Encourage them to Google it. How many yellers had their phones in their hands anyway?
The hard part is communicating with a guy in a hermetically sealed box who just lowered his electric window to yell at you. "Excuse me sir," you might begin, "I understand that you believe that I've done something illegal, but I..." Perhaps his window raises, or he just speeds off.
Occasionally, though, people in cars do talk to people on bikes after these run-ins, and it is possible for everyone to feel better afterwards.
One strategy is to not approach the yellers with your legal rights, but instead with your physical vulnerability. "Hey," you might say, "that was scary for me when you drove so close."
Educating people to be safe drivers around pedestrians and people on bikes begins with drivers understanding how bicyclists and people on foot are more vulnerable than people inside a car who are protected by bumpers, seatbelts and airbags.
Many drivers don't know what aggressive (or oblivious) driving feels like on a bike. Even a honk of the horn from friends driving by can be startling.
A point that's often missed by the Bike Skeptics is that bicycling is not only healthy, it's also very safe. It's the interaction with motor vehicles that results in most injuries and deaths. So the problem isn't bicycling, it's these interactions.
Many bicyclists are hyper-vigilant because of real safety concerns. Unfortunately, this hyper-vigilance often results in yelling or "finger gestures" by bicyclists who feel endangered by drivers.
Instead of yelling (or yelling back), try "turning the other cheek" and pulling out your Spoke Card. Take this break to calm down and then ride on. Perhaps you'll meet the dangerous driver at the next intersection, with the law in your hand.
Sometimes the safest strategy is to ignore volatile people armed with motor vehicles. But many dangerous drivers are simply oblivious- these drivers are your education target.
If they didn't know they almost caused a crash, they may genuinely feel bad when you just say how scared you were. From there you might even be able to explain the law (and provide legal citations). Be nice and you might even make someone a better driver.
Washington Bike Law's Spoke Cards are especially useful if you've been in a bicycle versus motor vehicle collision and a police officer incorrectly thinks the crash was your fault. Washington Bike Law is working to educate Police Officers on the Rules of the Road for Bicyclists. Too many people who are supposed to be enforcing our laws don't fully understand them.
Unfortunately, many injured bicyclists never get a chance to talk with police at the scene because they are taken away by ambulance and the driver is the only one who can say what happened. Drivers almost always say, "the bicyclist came out of nowhere." Some investigating officers write injured bicyclists tickets without ever even talking to them.
This following scenario is certainly a stretch, but it is not beyond the realm of possibilities: You could be in car crash and are taken away by ambulance. A cop examines your bike for impact damage and sees your Washington Bike Law Spoke Card. "Hey," thinks this cop, "maybe this crash wasn't caused by an inattentive bicyclist running into a car door", I seem to recall a law about not opening a door until it is safe..."
The back of the Spoke Card provides the following Summary of Key Bike Laws:
Do Not Door: Vehicle doors shall not be opened "unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic". SMC 11.58.050 and RCW 46.61.620
Bikes May Pass on the Right "under conditions permitting such movement in safety." SMC 11.44.080
Crosswalks (Marked or Not): Cars "shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning." RCW 46.61.235
Bike Lanes: "The operator of a motor vehicle shall not drive in a bicycle lane except to execute a turning maneuver, yielding to all persons riding bicycles thereon." SMC 11.53.190
Sidewalks: Bicyclists can ride on sidewalks but must yield to pedestrians and "give an audible signal before overtaking and passing". SMC 11.44.120
We hope that you are never doored... but if you are, there is a slight possibility that a Washington Bike Law Spoke Card could prevent a police officer from adding insult to injury. And, regardless of what you are told on the road, the law may very well be on your side.
Our Waterproof Spoke Cards are free for the asking.
by, Bob Anderton