Tag Archives: bicycle

Of bicycles, cars and double yellow lines

The in basket: I came across a nearly five-year old inquiry in my e-mail queue from Hal Johnson about what a driver can do when following a bicyclist.

“I live on Bainbridge Island,” he said, “where there has been a large increase in bicycle traffic (and the increase will continue with the increasing density in Winslow.)
“Many of the roads on Bainbridge do not have bike lanes or shoulders wide enough for cars to pass bicycle traffic; also an increasing number of bicyclers are asserting their right to travel in the traffic lane and not leaving enough room for cars to pass and stay within the lane.

“Most of these roads have double center lanes,” Hal said, “prohibiting cars from using the adjacent, opposite lane for passing vehicles. The result is often following the bicycles at 4-12 miles per hour for long distances, with the auto driver frustrated and biker feeling pressured.

“The double center line prohibits passing because of short visibility. Is it legal to cross the double center lane to pass a bicycle?”

The out basket: State Trooper Russell Winger, spokesman for the State Patrol here, says, “The answer is no, you cannot legally cross over a double yellow centerline to pass a bike that is legally traveling on the roadway. The bike rider has every right to use the lane and CAN USE the shoulder but is not required to by law.

“However, if a bike rider(s) are traveling at speeds slower than other traffic, and at least five vehicles are prevented from maintaining normal flow and speed behind the bike rider, this is an impeding violation. Bike riders traveling on roadways are subject to the same traffic laws and rules as motor vehicles.

“Bike riders, as well as motorists, need to be aware of surrounding traffic and be prepared to move to a position that allows traffic to legally and safely pass,” Russell said.

Since Hal’s question focused on Bainbridge Island, I tried to find out if the island police department had anything to add, but they didn’t respond.

 

 

 

 

Summit Avenue rough spot a threat to bicyclists

The in basket: Fred Allman wrote in an e-mail a year ago in January saying he’d recently retired from PSNS, to and from which he’d ridden a bicycle via Summit Avenue in Bremerton.

“About half-way down the hill, the road turns from asphalt to cement,” he said. “I’m told that this is the division between Bremerton city limits and Kitsap County roads. “Unfortunately the asphalt side has always been in need of repair,” he said. “Now there is a large chuck hole that has developed in the middle of the downhill lane.

“During my riding of the bike, I always steered clear of the bad spot in the road. My wife continues to ride her bike into the shipyard daily. If she or some other rider were not paying attention and were to hit this chuck hole they could have a major accident.”

Fred said at that time the county and city were both telling him it was the other’s problem.

This month I asked if there’d been any improvement and he said the chuck hole had been repaired but the pavement was still very rough.

 

I drove the area and found most of Summit Avenue on the county side to be in good condition but the spot Fred describes is very rough and has a slightly raised manhole to boot.

I asked the county if it was their area and if any plans have been made to improve it.

 

The out basket: Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works, says “This area is scheduled for repair during the paving season. I would expect to see the repairs in May or June.”

 

 

 

 

 

Bike races need at least one certified flagger

The in basket: Clayton Waldron of Port Orchard  writes, “While driving in Kitsap and Mason County when there is a bike race on the public roads, I have looked at the people directing traffic for the races.  Isn’t it a state law that they should have a flagger card and wear the proper equipment to direct traffic on the public roads?  I’ve seen flaggers in construction zones, and the ones in the bike races don’t look the same.”

The out basket: Clayton may be seeing what are called “marshals,” course officials trained for the event by a certified flagger.

Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton State Patrol headquarters looked up the Washington State Bicycle Racing Guidelines manual for me. Created in 1998 for the state Department of Transportation,  it includes the following:

“Marshals and certified flaggers are needed to organize and stage a safe bicycle race event.

“The duties of marshals and certified flaggers are distinct. Certified flaggers are responsible

for stopping and holding motor vehicle traffic during a bicycle race event at major intersections, and for training marshals.

“Marshals are responsible for crowd control and minor traffic

control. Marshals can hold traffic at a stop controlled intersection or minor uncontrolled

intersection, and shall be given a briefing on their duties prior to the bicycle race event.

“At least one certified flagger is needed for each road race. The certified flagger is responsible for training marshals on

how to stop and hold motor vehicle traffic.”

“A police officer or certified flagger shall direct traffic if traffic signal indications are to

be bypassed.

“A police officer shall be necessary if traffic signals are to be overridden, unless the

race course or this portion of the race course is completely closed to motor vehicle traffic.”

There’s a lot more in the guidelines, which you can access online. It’s a long, convoluted Web address, so just using Google or similar site and asking for Washington State Bicycle Racing Guidelines will get it for you.

The cell phone law and bicyclists

The in basket: Kathryn Simpson wonders about the applicability to bicyclists of the ban on cell phone and texting while driving.

“Several times in the past couple of weeks I have seen kids riding their bikes on public roads and talking on their cell phone or texting,” she said. “Can they be cited? Does it make a difference if they don’t have a driver’s license?

“What about me, as a licensed driver, if I’m riding my bicycle on a public road and talking or texting, can I be cited?”

The out basket: No, the two laws that forbid holding a cell phone to one’s ear or texting while at the wheel specify that they apply to moving motor vehicles. So use of a cell phone while bicycling, skateboarding, or otherwise on a rider-powered vehicle is not prohibited.

Despite the “moving” specification in those laws, Trooper Krista Hedstrom, spokesman for the State Patrol  detachment in Bremerton says, it does not allow use of cell phones or texting while stopped in the roadway briefly, such as at a traffic signal.

The bicyclist and the drive-thru lane

The in basket: Ray Smith e-mailed in October with a strange tale.

“Today I rode my bicycle through the drive thru at the Burger King at the intersection of Highway 303 and Fairgrounds,” he wrote. “After getting no response at the speaker where orders are normally taken I proceeded to the pick-up window.

“The order taker informed me that a bicycle will not trigger the sensor that tells them someone is there. I was then informed that they could not take orders from a bicyclist.

“I inquired ‘Does that mean you will not take my order?’ I was told they couldn’t take my order because there was a car behind me. I said ‘There was no car behind me when I rode up.’ The reply was ‘Sorry I can’t take your order.’

“Is there some kind of requirement, by law, that says a bicyclist cannot be served in a drive thru? What about motorcycles or snowmobiles? (I recall reading an article that McDonald’s takes orders from snowmobilers in northern climates where the snow gets deep). “And finally, Is this just a Burger King policy? So much for ‘Have it your way.'”

The out basket: I asked Ray why a bicyclist would want to use a drive-through and he told me, “There was no convenient or designated place to park and lock my bike. From personal experience I have found you can’t secure your bike to whatever might be handy, I have had my locking cable cut and the bike hauled away by security personnel for securing it to a fence. It was also a nice day and I preferred to stay outdoors.”

Jeff Rose of Sound City Foods, which runs that Burger King, had this to say, “Drive thru lanes were built, primarily, for cars.  With today’s active lifestyles and fuel prices, guests are traveling to our restaurants using a variety of methods.

“It is true that a bicycle will not trip the sensor indicating a vehicle is present but once Mr. Smith was at the pick-up window we could have and should have served him.

“I would, however, advise caution using a bike in any drive thru as most guests are not accustomed to seeing a bike in the drive thru lane.”

They’re happy to serve motorcyclists in the drive-thru lane, he said. “Bottom line is we want to provide a safe experience for all guests.

“Please send along my apologies to Mr. Smith and my contact info should he want to contact me directly.”

‘Filtering’ in traffic is illegal for bicyclists

The in basket: After a flurry of bicycle-related Road Warrior columns last summer, Julie Snyder of Poulsbo asked about what she called “the fairly common practice of ‘filtering,'” or riding one’s bicycle between lanes of traffic stopped at an intersection.

She specifically asked about The Finn Hill/Lindvig Way intersection with Viking Way in Poulsbo, and turns in either direction onto Viking.

Coming west on Lindvig, she said, it’s uphill and bicyclists have trouble not delaying cars if the biker has to take a full spot in the travel lanes to get to the Viking Avenue signal.

“The road splits from two lanes into three just before Cenex, with no shoulder,” she said. “At the bottom of the hill (near Bond Road), I’m moving much slower than traffic, since it’s uphill. Everyone passes me. Then, as cars stop at the light, I start overtaking them.

“Since I want to proceed straight, I look and signal into the center lane, cross the right turn lane when given a break by a motorist, and ride to the right BESIDE those center lane cars up to the stop line, ready to cross when the light changes. There is a shoulder on the opposite side of Finn Hill, and soon the line of cars passes me again.

“I use the same method when turning left to go south on Viking Way (but I add some further eye contact and a nice left-turn signal).

“A motorist friend told me that although filtering was practical, it wasn’t legal. I should take the lane and act ‘like a car’ through this, and every, intersection with no bike lane. I tried this once, and found myself the subject of motorist frustration. Since Lindvig is uphill, I take much longer than a car to move through, and drivers weren’t happy about waiting.”

Going in the other direction on Finn Hill Road, she runs afoul of a safety tip on the state’s Web site, which says, ‘Don’t pass on the right – Motorists may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right.’

“There is often a back-up of 20 cars from the light,” Julie said. “Should cyclists NOT pass this line of traffic on the right-hand shoulder? There is no designated right-turn lane at the bottom. I approach the bottom of the hill slowly, and stop at the stop line well to the right of the first car in line at the light,” she said.

The out basket: Julie is OK with her tactic coming down Finn Hill Road eastbound, says Ian Macek, the state’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. The advice about not passing on the right doesn’t apply to bikes on the shoulder or in a bicycle lane, he said.

I would hope so. The shoulder is the safest place for a bicyclist, and state law specifically accords bike riders the right to use the shoulder.

Sadly, that’s the only exemption from the state law that requires bicyclists to comply with all laws that apply to cars. Julie’s friend is correct, filtering is illegal.

I asked Sgt. Andy Pate of Poulsbo police and Deputy Scott Wilson of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office about this.

Andy replied, “I have ridden the same portion of roadway on a bicycle. Going uphill is an issue at that intersection. Bicyclist cannot legally ‘filter’ in this state. They can, however, ride on the shoulder to avoid impeding traffic. If they are going to make a left turn they must ‘take a lane’ and the fact that they will annoy motorists is unavoidable.

“The idea behind the laws is that bicyclist should not do anything that would surprise a motorist. A bicyclist ‘filtering’ through traffic leaves a motorist, inexperienced in riding a bicycle on the roadway, confused and wondering what the bicyclist’s intentions are. That leads to accidents.

“If a bicyclists takes an assertive position in a lane, such as a left turn lane, it makes it clear to the motorist that the bicyclist is preparing to make a left turn, albeit a slow one.

“It is important in this state that bicyclists approach an intersection and assert themselves into a lane of travel making it clear for all surrounding motorists of the intention. No surprises.

“Once in a lane of travel, the bicyclist is afforded all the rules of the road pertaining to a motorist, forcing the motorist to also follow the rules of the road and treat the bicyclist as a vehicle. Granted, this can be annoying to some motorists, but it does put the burden on them to also follow the rules of the road.

“If a bicyclist rides near the fog line, but not actually on the shoulder, this allows an impatient motorist to try and take advantage of the extra room and go around the bicyclist and squeeze by the bicyclist… In such cases where it is dangerous for a bicyclist to ride on the shoulder, or there is no shoulder, the bicyclist should ‘take the lane’ and ride closer to the center line, helping to ensure that the motorist behind him must treat them as another vehicle.

It is difficult, (but) bicyclists must develop the mindset that they are part of the traffic when riding on the roadway.

Scott’s advice differs somewhat.

“If the bicyclist becomes the impeding factor, ie:  a bicyclist traveling uphill on a roadway in the lane of travel, it would be prudent for the bicyclist to move onto the roadway shoulder, or at least as far to the right of the lane of travel as possible, in order to allow uphill traffic to pass the bicycle (given that there are no other impediments and traffic is moving along at the posted speed limit),” Scott said.

“If traffic is slowed or stopped, the bicyclist certainly may pass this traffic on the shoulder as in all probability the bicyclist will be moving faster than traffic.

“The realities.” he concluded, “are that there are a few bicyclists who ride their bikes in all manner of movement or design, ie:  riding against traffic, riding at night without any illumination, failing to abide by the most basic rules of the road.

“These are the individuals about whom we are most concerned from a safety aspect to both themselves and other motorists.  Serious bicyclists are very aware of their personal actions and strive to adjust to traffic flow utilizing common sense and adherence to traffic laws.

About bike lanes with dotted lines

The in basket: Mike McDermott of Poulsbo wrote in late July saying, “Driving north on Silverdale Way, coming down the hill towards the intersection where it turns into Viking Way (at Luoto Road), the shoulder (bike lane) curves to the right to make way for a right-turn lane near the gas station.

“A cyclist was in the bike lane, and if he wants to continue straight through the intersection he has to cross the solid shoulder line to enter the lane going straight, while I, in a car wanting to turn right at the intersection, simply follow the road as it curves to the right, without crossing any lines to be in the right-turn lane.

“The cyclist was just in front of me in the bike lane, and I saw the potential for an accident should he want to continue going straight, so I stayed behind him until I knew what he was going to do. Sure enough, without any indication he was changing lanes, he crossed the solid shoulder line to continue straight. Had I not considered the potential for an accident, we would have collided.

“Who would have been at fault and why?” Mike asked. “He crossed a solid line, while I crossed none.”

The out basket: It’s a helpful question, as a new kind of bike lane alignment has shown up here, on Viking Way at Finn Hill Road in Poulsbo and on Sheridan Road at Wheaton Way in Bremerton. There may be other places I haven’t noticed.

In those two places, a passage marked by a dotted line provides a path for bicyclists on the shoulder to reach a narrow lane between the through lane and the right turn lane.

But that’s not the alignment where Mike had his experience, and the answer to his question is pretty straight forward.

Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says, “The motor vehicle has the right of way in this scenario. The bicyclist would have to yield to all other traffic, traveling in same direction/lane of travel, prior to entering the roadway to cross the intersection.

“It’s the same as if a car was stopped on the shoulder and the driver wanted to re-enter back onto the roadway,” Scott said. “The driver has to wait until traffic is clear and it’s safe to enter back onto the roadway before proceeding.

“If there had been a collision between Mr. McDermott and the bicyclist, the bicyclist would have been found at fault for causing the collision,” said Scott.

But what about those two spots and any others where a dotted lines indicates a path for bicyclists to get from the shoulder to inside the right turn lane.

The answer is different there.

Sgt. Andy Pate of Poulsbo Police says, “The bike lane you are referring (to) is a designated bike lane by the city. Due to the right-turn-only lane on northbound Viking, the city positioned the bicycle lane across the right-turn-only lane for through bicycle traffic.

“This ‘crossing’ of the bicycle lane is treated similar to a crosswalk or a lane change. Motorists must yield to bicyclist that has entered their lane of travel using the bicycle lane to cross, just as they would a pedestrian or bicycle crossing at a crosswalk.

“However, there is a ‘due care and caution’ (duty) that must be exercised by the operator of the bicycle. They are not allowed to enter/cross the right-turn-only lane of travel suddenly or in such a way that an overtaking vehicle could not safely slow or stop for them to cross.

“The bicycle lane does not give either motorist or bicyclist exclusive right of way, both must yield to the lead vehicle to end in an orderly flow of traffic,” Andy said.

Lt. Pete Fisher, head of Bremerton police traffic division, says the rules are the same at the Sheridan-Wheaton alignment.

Do bicycles on shoulder forfeit right of way?

The in basket: I just came across a misfiled, year-old e-mail from Bill Christensen, sent about the time a man on a bicycle was killed when a car turned in front of him on Holly Road at Wildcat Lake Road.

“After reading all the comments on the death…,” Bill wrote, “I conclude there is some confusion as to the rights of riders and automobile drivers. I believe that anyone on the shoulder of the road is considered to be off the road, thereby relinquishing their right of way as a vehicle in a lane of travel.

“If this is the case, the rider that was killed was at fault in as much as he didn’t stop at the cross road and walk across/ride across as if it were a crosswalk.

“My question is this: Is a person walking or riding on the shoulder considered to be on the road or off the road and what are the obligations for crossing cross streets for the rider and the turn requirements for drivers?”

The out basket: The law that confers to bicyclists the same rights and duties as motorists deviates from that standard to allow bicyclists to ride on the shoulder, which cars aren’t allowed to do.

So the fact a bike rider is on the shoulder doesn’t change the rules and the rider, if going straight, has the right of way over a turning vehicle.

Pedestrians have the right of way at any unsignalized intersection, whether there is a crosswalk or not, provided the pedestrian doesn’t move so abruptly a driver has no realistic chance of getting stopped in time. The signals confer right of way at intersections with stop lights.

Should bicyclists have to be licensed?

 

The in basket: Three readers over the past year – Richard Burke and Ann Sencerbox of Bainbridge Island, and Chuck Fisher, have called to advocate the licensing of bicycles and bicyclists.

They cited various justifications, which boiled down to: 

– Raising money for bike lane improvements and sharing in the cost of  

maintaining roads.

– Helping identify unconscious bicyclists after an accident if there is no ID on the person.

– Better educating bicyclists about the rules of the road and the fact that they are required to obey nearly all those that motorists do.

– Helping in recovery of stolen bicycles.

– Recognizing that motorcyclists and bicyclists face similar hazards on the roads, so requiring the same kind of license endorsements for both.

Anne said, “If you have ever driven the waterfront in Seattle at commuter time, it’s really a zoo, then you have the bicyclists who pass on the right between parked cars…

“They just disappear into the crowd,” she said. “There is no way you can identify them, but if there was a nominal fee for a license, it might help with those who had so much distain for automobiles.” 

Chuck also said he recalls that a bicycle license was required when he was a kid, decades ago, in Bremerton’s Eastpark housing project. 

“Ours were green and white and maybe six inches from corner to corner and we could have it anywhere on the bicycles,” he said. 

Ann said her husband recalls the same thing from when he was a child.

The out basket: Last things first, I also recall bicycle licenses, but I think they were novelties offered by cereal companies, not a legal requirement. Do any readers have memories along these lines? 

There’s no shortage of discussion of licensing bicycles on the Internet. Just Google “licensing bicycles” and you can read pros and cons for hours, submitted from all over the country.

In the rare places where they exist, they appear to be issued by cities.

The cons generally contend such a law would be unenforceable and that most bicyclists would ignore it.. 

Other con arguments are:

– Bicyclists already pay their share with property and other taxes while causing very little wear on the roadways.

– Bicycle use shouldn’t be discouraged by such a fee, as riders reduce road wear, fuel consumption and air pollution.

– A nominal fee would be lucky to cover the costs of collecting it and contribute nothing for bike lanes or anything else, 

– Bicyclists have more in common with pedestrians than any kind of motor vehicle.

The cleverest take on this issue that I found online came from self-described 

“cranky curmudgeon” Isaac Laquedem in Portland, Ore., who proposed that bikers be required to wear city-issued bright yellow bike jackets, with their license number printed in large figures on the back of the jacket, and a bike safety class required to get a jacket.

Whatever the arguments, I checked with Lowell Porter of the state traffic safety commission, Brad Benfield of the state licensing department and Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and none were aware of any recent efforts to require licenses for bicycles or bicyclists.

Two encounters with wrong-headed bicyclists

The in basket: Brian J. Peterson says, “I get a little upset at bikers … who think they are immune to the laws of the road.

“For example,” he said, “(One) Friday afternoon in late October I’m driving through Illahee park. The main road through the park is one way. As I’m heading down the road going around 10 mph the right way, a man and woman with a child, on bikes, came around the corner going the wrong way and almost hit me in my car,

“I told them they were going the wrong way on a one-way street. The man cussed me out and then the lady told me cars are required to yield to bikes.  

“‘I don’t think so,’ I told her (and) she then proceeded to cuss me out for not moving my car off the road so they could go around me. I couldn’t  back up the wrong way on a one-way street.

“Later the same day I’m heading home westbound on E. 30th Street,  when a middle-aged man comes barreling down the hill on Viewcrest completely ignoring me and the stop sign at the end of Viewcrest and headed west also on 30th. I had to slam on my brakes and swerve to miss him. 

“When i told him he had to stop at the sign just as cars are required to, he cussed me out and flipped me off, saying ‘Cars must yield to bikes.’  I told him bikes have to stop at stop signs also and if I hadn’t slammed on my brakes I might have killed him.

Brian called the police both times, he said, and was told  there is nothing they can do unless they see it happen.

The out basket: It’s unusual in my experience to encounter two aggressive, misinformed bicyclists in a single day, but that’s appears to be what happened to Brian. 

Cars are not required to yield to bikes in any situations in which they don’t have to yield to other cars. State law accords bicyclists all the rights and duties of motor vehicles, except that bikers are specifically allowed to ride on the shoulder, which cars can’t do. 

Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office tells me, “The parties that Brian mentioned were not operating their bicycles in accordance with the law. The operators of the bicycles could have been (ticketed) for at least two traffic offenses, ie:  traveling in the opposite direction on a one-way road (Illahee Park incident); failure to stop at a stop sign (man on Viewcrest @ East 30th).

Scott also said roads in state and county parks are public roads and violators can be ticketed on them. They’re not private roads, such as shopping center parking lots, where violators can’t be cited.

While I was at it, I asked if bicyclists can ride across streets in crosswalks and whether it mattered if pedestrians are in the crosswalk. Scott said bicyclists may stay mounted in crosswalks and on sidewalks, but must yield to pedestrians in either case.

I ran Scott’s answers past the State Trooper Krista Hedstrom, who said she agrees with him.