Let me start off by saying that I have broken many of these from time to time. We are not perfect and my life is a case study for that.
Now for item number one: visibility. More specifically: why do pedestrians throw their own personal safety to the wind? Washington state law requires bicyclists to have reflectors/lights that are visible from 500 feet in the front and 600 feet from the rear after dark (RCW 46.61.780). Makes sense, from both a safety and physics standpoint. The logic from physics is simple: one of the consequences of the Doppler effect and the differences between the speed of light and speed of sound is that a driver will see you long before they can hear you, if they even can hear you. When you jaywalk (illegal: see RCW 46.61.240) across a 5 lane road (for those that are familiar: 256th, just west of the 102nd in Kent) after sunset, with a BLACK hoodie on, WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU THINKING? You may have well just signed your own death certificate, putting the cause of death as “stupidly jaywalking across a busy road after dark with a black hoodie.” I don’t expect you to go out and get a headlamp just to walk down the street, just a cheap safety vest (Home Depot has numerous vests for under $10). I had a bus driver tell me that the only reason she saw me was because I was wearing one. Use common sense (usually makes sense, but seemingly uncommon in practice) and get yourself a cheap safety vest. I have one for walking to and from school in Vancouver (2 miles round trip, very little street lighting and a hill with no sidewalks or lighting) and have had drivers thank me. And use the damn sidewalks when they’re available for crying out loud.
The next item on my agenda is not mentioned in the RCW, but should be. There is a reason why car insurance companies give you a discount on your premiums if your car has daytime lights included. The lights are on, regardless of whether or not you need your headlights. Again, this comes back to visibility, the Doppler effect, and the difference between the speed of light and speed of sound. I will see you before I hear you any day. If it’s cloudy outside, or raining (which covers 365 days a year for western Washington), or just twilight (sun isn’t below the horizon, but might as well be), turn your headlights on. I can’t see you if you don’t. And even if I do, I can’t accurately judge your speed in order to make a safe turn. I’m forced to wait, sometimes missing my best gap for the turn for next 5 minutes. And if you have a headlight that’s out: FIX IT (ticket: $42 per light, minimum, ILRJ 6.2, plus $17 [RCW 46.63.110]).
Guess what? That little arm on the left side of the steering column that turns these strange lights on if you move it up or down is there for a reason: it’s a $59 (first time) fine if you don’t use. Those strange lights are your turn signals. The law requires you to use them:
(1) No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
(2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.
(3) No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give such signal.
(RCW 46.61.305, italics mine)
Please use them. I have lost track of the number of accidents and near-accidents that could have been avoided had the driver turning used their turn signals properly. I actually am more comfortable with a driver who is speeding and driving somewhat aggressively that uses his turn signals than one driving defensively that doesn’t use their turn signals. I actually know what the aggressive driver is going to do, unlike the second driver. And check both ways before turning or merging. I’ve nearly been hit dozens of times because of a failure to check.
Finally, there is the issue of speed. I’m not talking about the people going 5-10 mph over the speed limit. I’m focusing mostly on those of you who think that the speed limit is actually 5-15 mph less than it actually is (i.e. going anywhere from 20-30 mph in a 35 mph zone with no traffic). If you are not in the right lane, or pulled over to let others pass, you are breaking the law (RCW 46.61.427 and 46.61.428). This is why I love the speed limit signs in Miami, FL. They do not say “Speed Limit,” rather they say “Minimum Speed.” What most people don’t know is that municipalities in Washington (city and county) are allowed to set minimum speed limits, not just maximum speed limits. Those who go more than 10 mph over the speed limit are just as dangerous/annoying in my opinion. Speed limits are there for a reason. Follow them.