For the third time in four months, a cyclist has been killed on the streets of the District, highlighting the often harsh reality of what many bicyclists face daily [Metro, Aug. 4].

Across the region, transportation departments have begun to embrace the idea of "complete streets," designed for cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles. However, even complete streets are only as safe as the people who use them. Here are safety tips.

For cyclists:

* If you can't see the driver of a vehicle directly, through a window or in a side mirror, the driver cannot see you. Make eye contact, if possible. Wear high-visibility clothing, and use front and rear lights at night and in the early morning.

* Ride away from the "door zone" -- meaning, leave enough space between yourself and parked cars so that a car door can open without hitting you. If necessary, take your own lane of traffic. It's your right.

* Obey traffic rules. Inside the District's central business district, cyclists are not allowed on sidewalks. On the road, cyclists are subject to the same rights, responsibilities and rules as motor vehicles.

For drivers:

* Look behind you when opening car doors. Being hit by a car door is a common cause of cycling crashes.

* Watch for cyclists. Check side mirrors when turning. In urban areas, bikes and cars can travel at comparable speeds, so just because you passed a cyclist doesn't mean the cyclist has been left behind. Always use turn signals.

* Share the road. Our region logs more than 72,000 bike trips a day. Give cyclists the space they need. The extra time it takes to drive safely around a cyclist could save a life.


Executive Director

Washington Area Bicyclist Association