Stay Safe on the Road: See and Be Seen

13 November 2012

Source: ABC Blog

The days are getting shorter, we’ve turned the clocks back, and the first snow of the season has fallen. At this time of year, awareness and visibility on the roads are key to staying safe – whether you bike, drive, or walk. Using the unique and oftentimes very funny illustration style of BikeyFace, a local Boston bike blogger, it is our intention to promote the awareness that all modes of travel share a responsibility for safety on the roads – a responsibility to See and Be Seen.

See and Be Seen
© BikeyFace

We think this (printable!) poster does a great job of illustrating the main ways to be aware – See – and stay visible – Be Seen – on the road. We encourage you to distribute it to your friends and co-workers, and to hang copies in communal spaces like parking garages, bicycle storage rooms, and office gathering spots. We’ve built on the poster by compiling a detailed cycling resource guide based on our own experiences biking to work downtown every day.

I would also like to declare my ulterior motive for promoting See and Be Seen.   My husband and I do not own a car, so we bike to commute to our jobs, to do errands, and to bring our three-year-old daughter to daycare. This post outlines my wish list of desired behaviors that would put my mind at ease, as a bike commuting mom who would like to send her daughter to school by bike one day. We hope that our new poster and this blog post will help you stay safe on the roads this winter and year round!

People Who Bike

As bikes increasingly share the roads with motorists and pedestrians, awareness and visibility become all the more important. These tips will help:

  • Be predictable. “Be predictable and visible” is the mantra for preventing a bike accident.
  • Install lights.  A white light in front and a red light in back is the law, and highly effective at night and in stormy weather.
  • Use turn signals. Use your arms to indicate your intention to turn left or right, or if you plan to stop.
  • Stop at all stop signs and red lights.
  • Wear eye-catching clothing.  This is why I like biking in skirts!
  • Hone your Sixth Sense. Over time, cyclists develop an almost zen-like awareness of what’s going on around them. BikeyFace has a great post illustrating this.

People Who Drive

As Mayor Menino is fond of saying, the car is no longer king in Boston.  Here are some basic guidelines to help you be aware and stay visible in your vehicle. You can also try this fun awareness test video.

  • Use turn signals. Signals are imperative to communicate your intention to all road users.
  • Avoid cell phone use. Studies have found that talking on the phone while driving can have a negative effect “as profound as those associated with driving while drunk.” Texting while driving is illegal in Massachusetts.
  • Don’t stop in a bike lane. It’s illegal (unless you are parallel parking) and causes people who bike to veer around you into car traffic that may not expect them coming.
  • Check for oncoming bike traffic after parking.  The Dutch are taught from an early age to reach across their bodies to open the car door, which forces them to look back for oncoming bikes. It’s a good habit to get into! And remember: cyclists are allowed to bike outside of the bike lane.

People Who Walk

We’re all pedestrians after we’ve parked our bikes and cars – and when we’re taking the T. Be aware of your surroundings and make it easy to stay visible while you walk around town.

  • Be predictable. Follow pedestrian traffic signals. If you choose to jaywalk, make sure that there is zero approaching traffic in the form of motorists or people on bikes.
  • Avoid cell phone use. Cell phones can be as distracting on foot as behind the wheel, so why not sit at a park bench or wait until you’re not navigating precarious city streets to have a phone call?

People Who Lead

In a perfect safety world, our elected officials and city planners would enjoy multi-modal lifestyles to better understand the needs of our fellow road users. The Commonwealth has a premier example of this in our Secretary of Transportation Rich Davey, who lives car-free and routinely takes the T to work.

Under Davey, MassDOT recently announced a first-in-the-nation mode shift goal to triple the share of trips taken by bike, walking and transit by 2030. Government can play perhaps the largest role in creating safe road conditions by investing in infrastructure that supports safe interactions among people who walk, drive, and bike. Changing our streets will be well worth the time, investment, and continued advocacy.