How to Stay Safe When Bicycling Hills in Seattle

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.

Woman Riding a Bicycle Up a HillIt can be a joy to ride your bicycle on the hills around Seattle, but a tumble or crash can ruin the experience. Here are the top ten safety tips for bicycling in the hills around Seattle:

  1. Ride single file through the hills rather than two or three across. Riding on hills is more dangerous than on flat stretches because drivers may not be able to see you from afar. They may crest a hill or turn a curve in the road and then, suddenly, there you are. It is easier for the car to swerve around and avoid one bike that is on the right side of the lane than two or three riding across the lane.
  2. Make sure your tire pressure is at the optimal level for your bike, your tires, and the terrain. If the pressure is too high or too low, it will adversely affect the traction of your tires.
  3. Ride in control when descending a hill. Slow down and make sure your brakes are in good repair. Although speed can be thrilling, even professional Tour de France riders have had severe bike accidents while riding downhill. Do not ride your bike at a faster speed than you can fully control.
  4. For maximum control of your bike, relax your body. When your body is stiff, it is hard to control your bike. In this situation, rather than tensing your body, which will make the control problem even worse, let loose and you will regain bike control. Keep your shoulders and your handlebar grip loose.
  5. Be alert for loose gravel, debris, potholes, or cracks in the pavement when riding in the hills in Seattle. You will have less traction when riding downhill, which will make these conditions even more dangerous.
  6. Handle curves in the road like a pro. Lower your speed before you enter the curve. Do not make the mistake of waiting until you are in the midst of the turn to brake because you have less traction and control when you are applying the brakes. At the beginning of the curve, lean the bike into the turn while pushing your outside pedal down. Straighten the bike and increase your speed as you are coming out of the turn.
  7. Use the doubling rule for how far down the road you should focus your attention. For example, keep your focus 70 feet ahead if you are going 35 miles an hour. The doubling rule minimizes how much you have to use your brakes by letting you anticipate what is in your path.
  8. Wear sunglasses. As you ride up and down hills, you may go suddenly from shade to bright sunlight.
  9. If you shift into a lower gear, it will take less work for you to climb up the hills. Get as far to the right as you safely can, ideally on the shoulder of the road, when riding uphill to avoid angering drivers behind you. If you block traffic in the lane while you are slowly grinding your way up a steep hill, the drivers you delay may lose patience. In situations like this, drivers sometimes pass bicyclists when they should not and sideswipe or strike the bike.
  10.  Avoid riding on the hills in the dark or when the roads are wet or slick. Each of these factors increases your risk of an accident. If you have to ride in the dark, use lights, flashers, and reflectors.

Always Follow These Basic Bicycling Safety Tips

Whether you are riding your bike in the hills in Seattle or elsewhere, you should practice these good habits:

  • Wear your helmet. There are many reasons to wear a helmet, including preventing or minimizing head injuries
  • Ride with traffic on the right side of the street.
  • Wear biking gloves to improve your grip on the handlebars and to protect your hands in case you wipe out on the road.
  • Do not tailgate cars or other bikes. Always keep at least two bike lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Obey all bicycle laws, as well as traffic signs and electronic signals. Bike riders must follow the laws, just like drivers of motor vehicles.
  • Do not bike while distracted. There is no good reason to use your cell phone or other mobile device or gadget while riding your bike.
  • Do not wear ear buds or headphones while riding your bicycle. You need to hear potential hazards on the roadway so you can take evasive action.
  • Use standard hand signals to notify other riders and vehicles when you are going to stop, turn, or change lanes.
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing to make it easier for drivers and other bicyclists to see you. Seattle’s cloudy weather makes bike riders hard to spot.
  • Call out to let other bike riders know when you are going to pass them. Be courteous to bicyclists who pass you.

If you have suffered an injury in a bike accident, call the friendly team at Max Meyers Law. We are ready for your call at 425-242-5595.

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