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Police to enforce bicycle laws more heavily to increase safety

The Bellingham Herald: Police to enforce bicycle laws more heavily to increase safety

HANNAH BOSTWICK - THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - With the onset of worsening weather conditions and fewer hours of daylight, a new education and enforcement effort is under way to help bicyclists and cars better share the road.

The Bellingham Police Department is teaming up with the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to educate people about bicycle safety and fine cyclists who ignore the laws, said Bellingham Police Sgt. David Richards.

The program, which has been in the works for more than four years, is designed to educate bicyclists on the rules of the road, and in turn, increase the amount of respect drivers have for bicyclists, Richards said.

Under the new program, police officers are encouraged to treat bicyclists equal to drivers when it comes to stopping and ticketing people for traffic violations, Richards said. Officers will specifically be looking for lighting violations, which include improperly equipped bicycles, and traffic violations, such as failing to obey stop signs and stop lights.

By law, bicyclists must equip the front of their bicycle with a white light visible from 500 feet away and the back with a red reflector visible from 100 feet away.

If a bicyclist is found without the proper lights, a warning will be issued, giving the cyclist 15 to 30 days to purchase the correct equipment and show a police officer the problem has been fixed. If the problem is not taken care of during that time, the bicyclist will receive a $103 fine, Richards said.

"Our goal is to develop better bicycling behaviors from riders and gain more compassion and respect from drivers," Richards said.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission provides a free brochure on its Web site, wstc.wa.gov, that outlines safety tips for bicyclists as well as the laws bicyclists must follow.

SAFETY TIPS

For cyclists:

• When holding up more than five cars, pull over to the side of the road and let them pass.
• Use hand signals.
• Wear light-colored clothing.

For drivers:

• When passing a bicyclist, leave at least 3 feet of space between bike’s handlebar and your passenger door.
• Keep an eye out for bicyclists.
• Be patient when looking to pass.