In a recent report published by Governors Highway Safety Association, data shows “bicyclist fatalities had been declining steadily, hitting an all-time low of 621 in 2010. Since then, however, the trend line has been moving in the wrong direction; in 2015, 818 bicyclists were killed on U.S. roadways, a 12.2% increase over the previous year and the largest uptick in two decades. Bicyclists have consistently accounted for at least 2 percent of all roadway fatalities.”
Adults are now more likely to be killed in bicycle-vehicle accidents than children which is likely due to an increase in bicycle commuting. According to a report released by Alliance for Biking & Walking in 2016, the increase in adults biking to work has risen from 0.7% to 1.2% in large cities. Bike share programs are also contributing to the increase in cycling, with 2016 data showing more than 28 million cycling trips within the programs.
Millenials (born between 1979 – 1995) are showing an increased tendency to commute by bike and “more likely than the previous two generations to choose a less car-centric lifestyle, to prefer living in a city and to identify city neighborhoods as their ‘ideal neighborhood’ type, trends associated with lower levels of car dependence,” according to Pew Research Center (Transit Center & Dutze et al., as cited in ABW, 2016).
Do bicycles have to obey the same laws as vehicles?
In Washington state, bicycles are considered “vehicles” and must follow all of the same rules of the road. The Washington State Department of Transportation also says bicycles are to be treated as equal users of the road by all other vehicles.
We’ve published some of the more common Washington laws you may want to be aware of when cycling, below:
- Be aware of the helmet law in the city or county you are cycling in. Washington state does not mandate helmet use, but some cities and counties do. You can check the localities requiring helmets, here.
- If you violate traffic laws, you can be ticketed just the same as a driver of a motor vehicle.
- Some roadways or highways may be closed to bicycle traffic. There may also be special ordinances adopted by local governments that ban cycling on sidewalks or within business districts.
- Cyclists may not ride more than two side by side.
- A white front light is required when cycling at night as well as a red rear reflector. The white light must be visible for 500 feet.
For more Washington State bicycle laws, click here.
Remember that one of the most common themes in bicycle fatalities is a motorist who fails to see the bicyclist, making it imperative that both pay attention to their surroundings at all times.