Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bike incident on West Belfair Valley Road raises question

The in basket: Janet Garcia phoned me to describe something she saw on West Belfair Valley Road in Gorst one Sunday morning early in June.

She saw a group of five or six bicyclists riding ahead of her as she walked her dog on the shoulder. All but one rode near the edge line, but one was near the center line as a pickup truck approached from behind.

That cyclist held his ground and required the pickup truck driver to pull into the oncoming lane to pass. There was no oncoming car traffic. She wondered if that was legal behavior for the biker.

The out basket: Quite legal, though not the most considerate thing to do.

State law gives bicyclists “all the rights and responsibilities” accorded to motor vehicles, plus the right to ride on the shoulder or sidewalk, so that group of riders had every right to have filled the lane in which they were traveling.

It sounds like the one rider who stayed near the centerline is one of those bike riders who insist on making full use of that right, to make a point, I presume.

Farm equipment is OK and roadways….If…

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston e-mailed me to say that agriculture is a growing industry in Kitsap County and “we’re seeing more agricultural equipment using both county and state roads.

State regulations say “agricultural equipment on the highways IS allowed but our local law enforcement doesn’t seem to understand that,” Jerry said. “I have been stopped on Miller Bay Road by a deputy sheriff while traveling from Premier Rentals to my farm (about 3/4 of a mile) and informed I needed to ‘trailer’ the tractor\loader.

“I explained I was using the equipment for agricultural purposes to clean drainage ditches,” Jerry said, “and he was welcome to write the citation because I knew is it was allowed.

“I politely suggested he check with his supervisor before writing the ticket, as it would save both of us court time. After 20 minutes of roadside wait time, he declined to write the ticket, and told me to ‘Drive careful and have a nice day.’

“I know Kitsap is not a large farming\agricultural community and law enforcement is not used to seeing Ag equipment on the roadways,” he said, “but it is LEGAL in Washington state. How can the renewed Ag enterprises get the word out to them, both the Sheriff and WSP, they are going to see more Ag equipment on Kitsap roads?”

The out basket: I asked both agencies to comment and got this from State Trooper Russ Winger.

“Your reader’s claim that farm vehicles are allowed on roadways is true, however there are quite a few specific requirements. Your readers assertion may seem rather simplistic when the following is considered.

He cited lengthy portions of state RCWs 46.37.160, 46.16A.080 and 46.16A.420 that I will try to paraphrase to save space. You can look up the exact wording online at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/.

Those laws require farm vehicles designed to travel at less than 25 mph to have hazard warning lights, head lamps, a red lamp and at least two red reflectors, all visible quite a ways down the road, and in many cases a slow moving vehicle emblem mounted on the rear.

There also may be licensing requirements, Russ said, plus a farm exempt decal that shows that the farm vehicle is exempt from registration requirements and allows the farm vehicle to be operated within a radius of 15 miles of the farm where it is principally kept. 

“Now, this considered,” Russ said, “if your reader rented the tractor/loader at a rental facility it stands to reason that it might not have been legal to drive on public highways unless meeting  the above requirements. I am not 100 percent sure but I am doubting that rental facilities comply with these requirements on equipment that is rented out for a mix of uses and probably transported over 15 miles on a regular basis. You would have to ask them.

“To say only that farm equipment IS allowed and that ‘our local law enforcement doesn’t seem to understand that,’ seems a bit simplistic when you look into the matter,” Russ said.

Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says he concurs with Russ and said, “I will bring this matter to the attention of our training unit, in order to disseminate pertinent facts about this issue to patrol deputies.”

 

 

 

Mystery X on highway is for aerial mapping

The in basket: One day a few months ago, I was leaving Bremerton on Highway 304 one afternoon when I saw a fellow next to an unmarked white pickup truck using a blowtorch to secure a large thermoplastic X to the shoulder of the highway.

By the time I decided I should ask him what the X is for, I had to drive all the way to Gorst to get turned around and he was gone by the time I got back.

The X is right next to a domed access to something underground, with an antenna on it. This week I decided to renew my efforts to find out what the X is for.

The out basket: I should be able to see similar Xs all over the county, said Bremerton engineers Ned Lever and Gunnar Fridriksson. They are part of an aerial mapping project led by King County.  The photos will be used for all manner of governmental project designing.

It’s just a coincidence the Highway 304 X is right next to an access into a city of Bremerton sewer pump station, the domed structure I saw, Ned said.

Diane Mark, Kitsap County’s person working on the aerial mapping project, sent me the following from King County’s  project manager for the work.

“The project is being coordinated locally by Kitsap County GIS, and includes participation by the cities of Bremerton, Bainbridge Island, and Poulsbo. Other participating agencies include North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Bainbridge Island Fire Department, Bainbridge (parks), Bainbridge Island Land Trust, the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes, West Sound Utility District and Kitsap Public Utility District.

“The project includes acquisition of imagery at three resolution levels across a broad area that encompasses all of King and Kitsap counties and large portions of other adjacent counties.”

Short South Kitsap road needs striping, reader argues

The in basket: Chris Olmstead of South Kitsap asks, “Is there any law that says a road needs painted lines?  Harris Road has zero pained lines since it was paved nearly two years ago.

Harris Road is a straight shot between Lund Avenue and Salmonberry Road.
“The lack of a middle line creates a hazard when drivers drive in the middle of the road,” Chris said. “At night, the lack of lines makes seeing the corner at Harris and Lund (difficult). Some of the side of the road have been driven on.”

The out basket: Chris is mostly right, although there is about 20 yards of well-worn centerline stripe on Harris near Salmonberry Road.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County’s traffic engineer, says, “The only mandates we have for striping are on paved urban arterials and collectors with traffic volumes of 6,000 cars per day.  The (federal) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices states that urban arterials and collectors with 4,000 vehicles per day and rural arterials and collectors with 3,000 vehicles or more per day should be striped.  The ‘should’ statement doesn’t make it mandatory to stripe these roads, but we do stripe them.  We can also stripe roads for other reasons such as road alignment, collision history or parking conflicts.  For the most part, we don’t stripe 30 mph or less posted speed limit, local access roads.

“Harris Road is classified a local access road with a posted speed limit of 25 mph,” Jeff said. “Traffic volumes on the road are only about 1,000 vehicles per day.

 

 

Mismatched speed limits past two county parks are questioned

The in basket: Two readers have asked about what appear to be misplaced 25 mile per hour speed limit signs in front of two Kitsap County parks, where speed limits are reduced in the summer.

The usual thing is for any sign lowering the speed limit in one direction will be posted directly across from the sign raising it in the other direction.

Jeff Griswell says that is the case on Holly Road east of Wildcat Lake Park. But “on the west side (closer to Camp Union) of the speed zone, the 25 mph sign (heading east) is not directly across from the 40 mph sign (heading west).” It’s across  from the sign warning of a reduced speed zone coming up.

Greg Buher notes the same thing at Long Lake County Park on Long Lake Road.

“Why is the 25 mph zone over twice as long in the southbound lane than it is in the northbound lane?” Greg asks. “For the life of me, I can’t figure this out! I travel this section daily and have observed southbound vehicles speed up at some vague or imaginary point after complying with the 25mph zone for a little while.

“Often, when traveling south, I end up with a car behind me who is ignoring the ‘extra length’ part of the zone,” he said. “There is only one driveway from where the northbound zone starts and the southbound zone ends, so I can’t see the need for this extra length.”  It’s been that way for a few summers, he said.

The out basket: Jeff Shea, traffic engineer for Kitsap County, says,”Both of these are related to the sharp curves in the road that follow the speed zone. We don’t want to mislead drivers by placing a speed limit sign between an advisory speed warning sign and the curve it is placed for.

“We generally place the regular speed limit sign right after the curve. The criteria for the speed advisories have changed in the new (federal manual), so we will be reviewing these two locations to see if the advisories are still needed.  If not, we will move the regular speed limit signs closer to the speed limit change.”

Blinking Port Orchard crosswalk gets a new life

The in basket: Pedestrian traffic can be fairly heavy in downtown Port Orchard on Farmer’s Market Saturdays, as it was on June 23, when my wife and I were among those walking around.

I was surprised to see that not only were all the flashing lights that call attention to the crosswalk on Bay Street at Frederick Street lighting, but they were noticeably brighter. You could see them flashing in the daylight from a block away.

I had kind of figured that that crosswalk was being allowed to go dark as the lights burned out. In January 2009,  shortly after the state repaved downtown Port Orchard, Jim Michelinie of Port Orchard described it thusly. “I drive through that intersection at least twice a day, usually in the dark this time of year. The signals are triggered when a pedestrian approaches the crosswalk and flashing lights imbedded in the pavement warn drivers.

“Unfortunately, since the paving project was mostly completed, the signals have become schizophrenic. The lights flash when no pedestrians are present or even near. At other times I’m surprised by pedestrians in the crosswalk when there are no warning lights. Am I the only one who’s noticed the problem?”

I asked City Public Works Director Mark Dorsey if the lighted crosswalk  had gotten a new life.

The out basket: Yes, Mark said, the city had Kitsap County, which maintains Port Orchard’s street electronics under an interlocal agreement, replace the original signals with LED lamps, hence the increased brightness.

It was done a couple of months ago, he said, and the money came from a reserve fund associated with that agreement.

I suspect a lot of pedestrians don’t know what triggers the blinking lights. Many may not even have known they are blinking because they shine outward and not into the crosswalk.   When a person passes between the  pair of white pylons that bracket the ends of the crosswalk, it starts the lights blinking long enough for the person to cross.

If a person enters the crosswalk but walks outside the pylons, he or she doesn’t get the added protection of the blinking lights. Conversely, anything or anyone passing through the pylons but not crossing the street sets off the lights.

Fast lane changes in morning shipyard traffic can be illegal

The in basket: Tom Marcucci e-mailed to ask “Who should be notified of reckless driving on Highway 3 where it splits off to go down South Charleston Boulevard (into Bremerton) or north toward Poulsbo?

“I drive this stretch around 6:15 a.m. every morning headed to Silverdale,” Tom said, “and watch folks headed towards the shipyard hang in the left-hand lane between Gorst and this split point, then at the last second shove their way across three lanes right at the split point to get over to South Charleston Boulevard. It’s very dangerous and busy at that time of day… especially in the winter when it’s dark and wet.

“I can see why it would be difficult to put a traffic enforcement car at this spot,” he said, “…but something needs to be done. At 06:15 that stretch can be VERY hazardous driving!”

The out basket: The State Patrol is the agency with direct responsibility there, so I asked my State Patrol source, Trooper Russ Winger, if the actions Tom describes constitute a moving violation. He says they do.

“The law says you must signal intent to change lanes 100 feet prior to movement, changing only one lane at a time and only when safe to do so. You cannot make a sweeping lane change from the inside lane to the exit lane and comply with the law.

“This is even more dangerous in heavy traffic as you cut other drivers off with the illegal and unsafe lane changes.

“I have and will gladly stop and cite a driver making this movement.

“Failure to plan ahead is not an excuse – for me anyway- when a driver does this type of thing.”

This also would be good to know in Gorst for drivers coming off northbound Highway 3 onto Highway 16 and trying to get over three lanes to go to Port Orchard.

Forced Sixth Street right turn being ignored

The in basket: Three readers say the recent change to require vehicles in the right lane of southbound Warren Avenue in Bremerton to turn right onto Sixth Street is being widely ignored by drivers used to that being a through lane.

Suzi Hubert wrote, “I have moved to the left-hand lane as instructed and find that those folks in the right lane go straight ahead to Burwell and I have a heck of a time getting over to make my right-hand turn on Burwell.

“It is most annoying and I am afraid that one of these days I’ll end up going to the ferry instead. Help!!”

Phil Kight asked “Is the city planning on leaving it as a right-turn-only lane, or will it revert back to its formal state when 11th Street is completed? It seems that just about everyone that I’ve seen using that lane ignores the right-turn-only (restriction).”

And an e-mailer going by BJ, wrote, “Why did they make the outside lane on Warren Avenue a right-turn-only at Sixth Street as part of the 11th Street detour? Knowing that we are going to turn right on Burwell, we (used to) travel in the outside lane once we get on Wheaton Way. Now we have to move into the center lane just before Sixth Street and cross our fingers we can get back into the outside lane in the short distance between Sixth and Burwell.

“VERY few people are paying attention to the Right-Turn- Only signs and markings on the road!  Why not leave it like it was with just a detour sign for those that don’t know the area?”

The out basket: When I drove there Thursday morning, a succession of seven cars made the right turn while the light was red. When it turned green, the driver of a large black pickup did indeed proceed straight and caused me some difficulty in getting over into the right lane at Burwell.

I’m not sure how that’s any worse than it was before the city began requiring right turns from that lane. There always were two lanes of traffic mostly wanting to go west on Burwell and competing for the right lane after Sixth. What’s changed, I suspect, is drivers who used to avoid that in the past by using the right lane exclusively no longer can, legally.

Gunnar Fredriksson of the city of Bremerton traffic engineer says, “Yes, the right-lane-must-turn-right restriction is with the project (a three-month closure of 11th Street for sewer work) and not permanent.  This was done to maximize the number of vehicles turning from Warren onto Sixth Street for the detour route.

“We are watching the situation, and for a majority of time, it seems to work quite well. I understand the frustration with those ignoring the signage and going through the intersection.  We are hoping this is part of the learning curve for motorists and will diminish with time.”

The same restriction has been imposed on Sixth Street’s westbound right lane at Warren, also is temporary for the duration of the sewer work on 11th and also is routinely violated. There’s less reason to change lanes beyond Warren on Sixth, and it hasn’t generated any complaints to me.

 

Stay inside white line while turning from Riddell to Pine

The in basket: Deanna Dowell wonders about the legality of something she sees a lot, drivers crossing the white line when turning right from eastbound Riddell Road in East Bremerton to go south on Pine Road.

The out basket:  No, that’s a fairly common behavior that is not legal and can result in a ticket if observed by an officer with time on his hands. The shoulder in that quadrant of the intersection is very wide and lets a driver make the turn at a higher than usual speed for a turn, making it all the more dangerous.

Making a right turn so shallow that it carries the car across the white line is no different that crossing onto the shoulder of a straight stretch to get around a car waiting for oncoming traffic to clear so it can make a left turn.

I see this infraction often on westbound Sedgwick Road at the Highway 16 on-ramp, and at the top of the eastbound Waaga Way (Highway 303) off-ramp onto northbound Central Valley Road. I’m sure there are dozens of other intersections where it is common.

Crossing the white line can endanger pedestrians and bicyclists using the shoulder.

Deanna tells me she’s grateful for the information and has quit crossing that white line while turning. Pine

 

Signs can’t legally be tacked to road signs

The in basket: When garage sales season arrives, I am often asked about the legality of signs tacked to street signs and utility poles advertising them, as well as sandwich board signs and other business signs along the road side.

Some of the inquiries in recent years were about a pizza place sign on Central Valley Road, a painting company’s yellow signs along Anderson Hill Road, a junk removal company’s signs on Provost Road and apartment-for-lease signs on Ridgetop Boulevard.

The out basket: Before Dusty Wiley, onetime county commissioner candidate and former sheriff’s deputy retired as Kitsap County Traffic Investigator a year of so ago, he would intermittently remove such signs around the county, especially near Manchester, where he lived.

One weekend a few years ago, my wife was participating in a yard sale on Alaska Avenue near Manchester and Dusty dropped by to tell those running the ale that he’d removed their signs posted along Mile Hill Drive, and said that technically posting them could incur a $50 fine per sign. He didn’t go that far, fortunately. And my wife said even then, he’d missed signs she’s put up on Sedgwick Road. Dusty was quite ernest in dealing with such signs.

His successor, Ron Pierce, says garage sale signs are most likely to be taken down if they obstruct drivers’ view of something they need to see.

Jeff Shea, Kitsap County traffic engineer, says, “State law prohibits posting signs on official road signs.  A-frame boards are prohibited in public rights-of-way, but are permitted in some instances under Kitsap County Code 17.445.070.

“Enforcing the law and code is challenging for those involved in enforcement,” he said. “There are over 19,000 signs, and thousands of businesses, in Kitsap County. We do respond to complaints as priorities permit, and pull signs off our signs and out of public rights-of-way as part of routine maintenance operations.

“As you can imagine this is not a high-priority item from a law enforcement perspective. Signs that are blocking the view, blocking pedestrian access, or otherwise obstructing sight distances should be reported to Kitsap 1 at 360-337-5777 or help@kitsap1.com.