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PEMCO Insurance: Safely sharing the road with bicyclists

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SEATTLE - The City of Seattle recently committed to including protected bike lanes in certain new paving projects. It’s part of the city’s push to unclog streets and make them safer for everyone.

Q13 spoke to the experts at PEMCO Insurance about what protected bike lanes are and why the city’s growing network of protected bike lanes still requires plenty of caution.

"A protected bike lane is one where there is a barrier of some sort between the traffic lanes and the bike lanes," Underwriting Quality Analyst Kristine Zewe said. "So this could be a row of parked cars, landscaping, or some other feature."

Protected bike lanes are safer for both drivers and riders, but a recent study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety pointed out that the protected lanes still are not completely safe havens.

"Bicyclists are at a big concern of crashing at intersections, or anywhere a pedestrian may be crossing the lane because they tend to swerve out of the way and lose control," Zewe said. "[The study] noted that the best protected bike lanes are actually elevated, away from the road surface."

Elevated bike lanes are not always an option, so here some things to remember:

-Drivers should stay out of the green bike boxes - You can enter them when they`re empty and the light has turned green, but you can`t take a "free right on red," even when there`s no bike in the box.

- Don't pull into bike lanes for quick pickups or drop-offs.

- Don't use bike lanes to pass vehicles stopped to turn left.

-Watch for bikers when you get out of your car- There`s a great technique drivers can use called the "Dutch Reach." When you park along a curb, use your right hand to open your door so you`re forced to turn your body and look over your shoulder so that way, you`ll automatically see if a bicyclist is approaching.

"It is absolutely critical both bicyclists and drivers follow the rules of the road," Zewe said. "But bicyclists are far worse than drivers in a crash. In a PEMCO poll we found out there's a lot of frustration on both sides. 67% of bicyclists said that drivers have room for improvement and on the flip side 53% of drivers said bicyclists have room for improvement for following the rules of the road as well."

In the end, it comes down remembering that "driving is a team sport."

If we're all watching out for each other and willing to give a little for the sake of safety, everyone comes out ahead.

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