How should a bicyclist yield to a pedestrian?

The in basket: Laraine Gaulke said she was walking on the rather narrow sidewalk on Wheaton Way across from Albertson’s recently and two bicyclists in full riding gear approached her on the sidewalk. Though they were riding single file, the sidewalk was narrow enough she stepped off to let them pass, she said.

She wondered why the bikes weren’t in the street and whether it was legal for them to be on the sidewalk. I told he it was legal, but the law requires a bicyclist to yield to a pedestrian on a sidewalk or crosswalk.

She then said, “To me (that) means you stop and put your foot down on the ground and actually wait for me to pass.” I told her I’d ask what the police think of that definition.

The out basket: Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police said it would depend on the situation. “Yield would be giving the right of way to the pedestrian. If they can do it by moving over, great. if not, they may need to dismount and allow the pedestrian to pass.” As a matter of courtesy and avoiding liability, I would think that slowing  down if you wish to stay mounted would be essential.

9 thoughts on “How should a bicyclist yield to a pedestrian?

  1. Its not too often that I see a bicyclist yeild to anyone or anything, especially stop signs and traffic signals. Visit downtown any morning or afternoon during commute times and you’ll see what I mean. The bikers weave in and out of pedestrians and blow through the signs and signals, routinely. Only a matter of time before there is a collision between a biker and a vehicle or perdestrian.

  2. Agree w/grtscot.

    Recently, a cyclist was killed in Seattle, on 2nd Ave. The available information published indicated that the cyclist was going at a fairly high rate of speed, was passing the truck on the left (one-way street), and ran into the truck when it made a legal left turn.

    The reports still say that the truck hit the cyclist…

    Perhaps she would have been better off on the sidewalk. Pedestrians are much softer than large box trucks.

  3. I understand your point Denis, but are you aware that the cyclist killed on 2nd Avenue in Seattle last week was riding in a designated bike lane? That lane is indeed the left-most traffic lane, and the truck that killed her failed to merge safely into that lane as required by law before executing the turn. So yes, the truck hit and killed the cyclist.

    It’s a horrible design, and as a cyclist I never use that left-most cycling lane but instead use the right-most traffic lanes where it’s easier for me to stay visible and where I’m less-likely to surprise inattentive motorists.

    Riding on the sidewalks is legal, but we must yield to pedestrians. I agree that it’s the cyclists and not the pedestrians who should have to move to the street if a sidewalk is too narrow for co-existence, and it should fall to the cyclists’ situational awareness and courtesy to make that determination.

    Yes, as is sometimes the case with others regardless of mode of transport (including motorists and other pedestrians), we can’t always count on common courtesy. As a pedestrian in the scenario above I would have stood my ground and either let the cyclists move off the sidewalk or helped them to do so in the name of defending myself against their assault. 🙂

  4. Michael, I have made that particular turn at that particular intersection more than a dozen times a year, for years, after exiting the parking garage at Benaroya Hall.

    There is no “merge” into the bicycle lane; that lane ends at the stop line, to restart on the other side of the intersection. The proper left turn is from the leftmost traffic lane only, as indicated by the directional arrows.

    There is a crosswalk, and usually pedestrians in said crosswalk. It requires more than normal care for just an automobile to make the turn safely; a large, somewhat ungainly box truck, starting to climb a steep hill, has even more to contend with.

    Per published reports, the cyclist ran into the truck, fast enough to cause her death. As an overtaking vehicle, the responsibility to avoid was hers.

    And yes, the design is dangerous. But no more so than cyclists who believe that they have the right-of-way, just because they think so.

    Tonnage rules.

  5. Sorry if I wasn’t clear, Denis.

    My point is that the truck turned across the bike lane and caused the collision and death of the cyclist. When I say “merge”, I’m not talking about modification of the bike lane stripping, but instead the driver actually merging safely into the bike lane before turning.

    I think Seattle Municipal Code is clear on this point and the responsibility of motorists not to turn across bicycle lanes, as detailed in Section 11.53.190: “DRIVING IN A BICYCLE LANE: The operator of a motor vehicle shall not drive in a bicycle lane except to execute a turning maneuver, yielding to all persons riding bicycles thereon.”

  6. 1. It’s an intersection, a busy one. There is no “bike lane” marked in the intersection.

    2. The truck was making a legal left turn, per your reference. It was doing so from the lane marked, and thus designated, for this purpose.

    3. The cyclist was (a) overtaking, and (b), from evidence and witness reports, traveling at a high rate of speed down 2nd Ave. From both standpoints, the responsibility to avoid, to use caution, and perhaps a bit of common sense rests with the cyclist. A box truck has limited ability to dodge bicycles, whereas the cyclist has has numerous opportunities, paying attention being primary.

  7. 1. Actually, the bike lane markings do exist through that intersection and don’t stop at the stop line as you indicate. This can clearly be seen on the google maps street view.

    2. It wasn’t a legal left turn if he failed to yield to traffic in the lane immediately to his left, i.e the bike lane.

    3. It is very possible that the cyclist was overtaking the truck. But this is legal, and does not absolve the driver from checking his mirror to ensure it is safe to make a left turn. It’s akin to changing lanes on the freeway. If traffic in the lane we want to enter is traveling faster than we are going, we must check our mirrors and look behind us to ensure that our merge will be safe. If we jump out into traffic and are hit, it’s still our fault. Unfortunately both the driver and cyclist made mistakes, and the cyclist paid with her life.

  8. The “bike lane” ends at the stop line, as does the motor vehicle lane(s)

    There is a dashed lane, indicating that bikes may use it for transitioning from one lane to the next, but also indicating (to cyclists) that motor vehicles may be encountered.

    I have made that left turn many times; after waiting for pedestrians to clear the crosswalk, I have simply made the turn, so long as there was nothing next to me, and nothing in the mirror RAPIDLY OVERTAKING ME.

    This not the freeway; it is a busy street in the city, and these are not motor vehicles, these are totally different modes of transportation, both with advantages and disadvantages, in relation to one another. The big truck is slow, clumsy, the bicycle quick, agile. In any overtaking situation, it is the responsibility of the person overtaking to ensure that such a maneuver is safe.

    This is not the first such incident in Seattle; there have been several. The cyclist has always lost. Tonnage rules.

    The whole incident is now moot; Seattle DOT has a solution.

    Now, if the cyclists pay attention, and motorists are not too confused, it may, clumsily, work.

    We shall see.

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