Tag Archives: bicycles

Reader asks about rules for bikes and scooters

The in basket: Larry Mann of Port Orchard writes, “It has always been my understanding that bicycle riders in the city ride in bicycle lanes or on the sidewalk, and to the right side of the road, to the right of the fog line on rural roads. It is becoming a common occurrence at the lighted intersections of Bethel-Lund and Bethel-Sedgewick in Port Orchard to have a bike rider in the traffic left turn lane. The left turn goes green and by the time the bike rider gets it all together and gets going the light goes red for left turn traffic. Is it not proper and required for the bike rider to use the two cross walks to make that left turn onto the crossing road rather than cause traffic interference?

“Second, on Bethel Road in Port Orchard once again. We have bike riders riding in traffic on bicycles that have motors on them. What is the policy on these bikes? I believe them to be illegal because they do not have insurance or license tabs that are required for motor vehicles.

Third, while driving down Jackson Avenue in Port Orchard at 35 mph I was passed by a teenager on what would normally be a foot-powered scooter you would see at the skate board park in Port Orchard, at about 10-15 mph faster than I was moving.

Again, these toys do not have license tabs and no insurance to be running on the streets or roads as a hazard to motor vehicles that have a paid legal right to be on those roads. What is the policy here?

“Fourth, two weeks ago (about) three teenagers on what looked like very miniature motorcycles came down the sidewalk in Port Orchard by Fred Meyer, around the corner by Fred Meyer gas station, heading towards the oil change business, traveling at around 20 mph (a guess). As before, no plates, no insurance, in addition to no helmets and possibly hitting someone on the sidewalk. What is the policy on these little critters?

The out basket: RCWs 46.61.710 through 730, which cover the requirements of such vehicles, are mind-boggling with their constant back-and-forth references to other RCWs. So I asked State Trooper Russ Winger to simplify it for us.

“Bicycle riders shall ride nearest to the right lane edge but are not required to ride to the right of lane edge line (fog line),” Russ said. “Bikes can ride on the paved or gravel shoulder if they choose.

“Bicycle riders can also ride to the left lane edge when approaching an intersection to turn left.

Bicycle riders do not have to use the crosswalk –  if present – to make a left turn. They can, in fact, wait, stopped in the lane of travel, in front of or behind vehicles in both travel and turn lanes. They have the same rights and responsibilities afforded vehicles.


“Bikes with either electric or liquid fuel motors are considered ‘Mopeds,'” Russ said. “Mopeds have less than 50cc displacement and less than 2hp and can travel 30mph or less on level ground. They are required to obtain a registration and permit to operate. A helmet is required to operate mopeds on state, city and county roadways. They must follow all rules of the road.

Mopeds cannot operate on bike paths/ bikeways/ equestrian/ hiking or recreation trails.



“Motorized Foot Scooters can be electric or powered and capable of 20mph or less on level ground. They have access to highways and roadways (other than limited access highways.) They must follow the all rules of the road. MFS cannot operate on bike paths/ bikeways/ equestrian/ hiking or recreation trails that were built, operated and maintained with federal funds.). A helmet is not required on an MFS.




Motorcycles, Mopeds, Motorized Foot Scooters and Electric Assisted Bicycles do not require insurance coverage. It is illegal to operate any of these on a sidewalk.


The ‘Miniature Motorcycles’ are not legal to drive on roadways, sidewalks.


And very importantly, state and local agencies can place restrictions on where and how any of these vehicles operate.”


‘Motor vehicles only” freeway signs recalled

The in basket: After reading the recent Road Warrior column saying bicycles are permitted on freeways, Michael Schuyler wrote, “I remember quite clearly that at every freeway entrance in the’60s there used to be a sign that said, ‘Motorized vehicles only.’ What changed and when? Was it simply a policy change or was it a change in the law? I saw these signs on the interstate, for sure, but can’t recall if they were also on state freeways.”

The out basket: I recall those signs too, though I didn’t  until Michael jogged my memory.

State officials couldn’t pinpoint what changed, so I went to Lloyd Brown, director of communications with the

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Lloyd used to work for our state’s transportation department.

He had one of their staff look into it and librarian/historian Bob Cullen sent the following”

“The Federal Highway Act of 1973 established the Bicycle Transportation and Pedestrian Walkways program.  Those provisions have been revised and even expanded upon several times since in other major pieces of federal legislation, notably the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991.

“However, in answer to the specific question, there have not been any laws at the federal level providing a nationwide authorization or prohibition with respect to riding bicycles on freeways.  As described in section ‘Bicycles on Freeways’ on web page for the Federal Highway Administration’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/freeways.cfm#bicycles):

‘There are no federal laws or regulations that prohibit bicycle use on interstate highways or other freeways. Although a state may prohibit bicycles on freeways, prohibition is not a federal requirement. Most western states allow bicycles to use interstate highways or other freeways. Many of these states restrict bicycle use in urban or other congested areas.

“In some locations, the interstate highway or other freeway may be the only reasonable route, or may be preferred compared to other steep, narrow, or winding routes. A state should consider safety and traffic concerns along the freeway and along alternative routes when considering whether or not to allow bicyclists to use freeways.”

In other words, the federal government leaves it up to each individual state to decide whether bicyclists can travel along freeways. States still have the initiating role in any assessment of whether bicycles can even be used on those particular segments of highway.”

Bicycles may use freeways – if they dare

The in basket:  Johanna Baxter of Port Orchard writes, “Lately when I’ve been driving, I’ve seen bicyclists on the highway. The other day I saw one on Highway 16 and then yesterday on

Highway 3.

“Is this legal for them to be there? I seem to remember something about pedestrians walking on the highway and the legality of

that, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything in reference to bicycles.”

The out basket: I must assume Johanna’s curiosity is about four-lane freeways, which describes all of Highway 16 and much of Highway 3.

Bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicles so are permitted on freeways, though it must be a scary place to ride. I think bicycle events like the Seattle-to-Portland use local roads to stay off freeways.

Pedestrians and hitchhiking are prohibited on limited access highways like 16 and the four-lane stretches of 3.

Motorcycle loading rules on ferries no different on holidays

The in basket: My stepdaughter Ronda Armstrong and I had need to drive to Blaine on July 3, the Friday of a holiday weekend. Because of the prospects for heavy end of the workweek and start of the holiday traffic, we took the Kingston ferry.

Arriving on time for the 8:30 a.m. departure from Kingston, we drove right on without waiting. But after getting off in Edmonds, we drove past miles of cars waiting to go west to Kingston.

Ronda, a budding motorcyclist, wondered if motorcycles (and bicycles) get the same preferential treatment under the conditions we saw that morning as they do at other times. She also wondered if there is a limit to how many motorcyclists would be thus accommodated per departure.

The out basket: Yes, says Susan Harris-Huether of Washington State Ferries. Specific to Edmonds, “She (would go) to the lower lot (past the railroad tracks) and she either has to get off her bike and go in to buy a ticket or hopefully, she pre-buys on line so she can just be scanned and get in line.  “So yes, she bypasses the line.”

Motorcycles and bicycles get preferential loading at all state ferry terminals, at all times, though logistics vary with each terminal.

I had included State Trooper Russ Winger in asking the question, and he said, “That is my understanding also. Motorcycles and bikes also bypass the tally system in Kingston when in effect.

“I believe the ferries take as many bikes and motorcycles as arrive on time for departure,” he said.

Those ‘Except Bikes’ signs below Right Turn Only signs at Warren

The in basket: Daniel Crall e-mailed to say, “In Bremerton at Fourth Street and Warren Avenue, the city built a center divider so that a car can not turn left. However, there is a sign that states
that ‘Bikes’ may turn left. Does this mean bicycles or motorcycles?”

The out basket: The signs actually say a right turn only is permitted, with an arrow, but with a second sign, “Except Bikes” just below.

They are on both Fourth and Fifth streets on both sides of Warren.

Gunnar Fridriksson of the city street engineers says, “This allows bicycles to go straight through on Fourth and Fifth streets.  Otherwise, the bicyclists would be subject to citation.”

I asked Gunnar if a left turn by a bicyclist passing through the median barrier would be permitted, and he said he believes that would be permitted. I also asked if any kind of motorized two-wheeler, from motorcycles to motorized scooters, could take advantage of the exception, and he said no. But the final call would be by a law enforcement officer who witnessed what was done.

Gunnar also said a businessman with a view of the barrier from atop the large glass office building there tells him he occasionally sees cars squeeze through the crosswalk gaps in the barrier. That, of course, is illegal.

The battle over taxing bicyclists

The in basket: Eleanor Roden read the recent Road Warrior column about the need for expanding the room for bicyclists in Highway 305 leaving the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal and asked, “Are the bicyclists paying anything for all these road lanes we put on for bicycles? We pay a motor vehicle tax for roads, bikers should to.”

The out basket: I referred Eleanor to the April 2010 Road Warrior column detailing the pros and cons of licensing bicycles for a fee (you can see it on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com), and said bike lanes usually are the product of state and federal grants. Then I asked Kitsap County if I was right.

Bill Zupancic of Kitsap County Public Works, replied, calling it “a perennial argument and discussion that has gone on for years.

“Having been directly involved with bike planning and bike groups for over 20 years,” he said, “I can tell you the opinions are all over the map.

“The predominant argument opposing fees for ‘cyclists is that it is a rare bicyclist who doesn’t own a vehicle – if not two or three – and hence they are, indeed, contributing to the road tax fund. I’ve personally known only one bicyclist in this area who did not own a vehicle but (he was) a contributing property taxpayer nevertheless and a portion of this millage makes it way to the road fund.

“The argument that bicyclists don’t pay taxes generally presupposes that vehicle gas tax and other taxes associated with automobile use account for all the expenditures for roads (construction and maintenance). Nothing could be further from the truth.

“It takes an extraordinary amount of general tax revenue from both the state and federal sources for the transportation infrastructure, and even this infusion is inadequate. Motor vehicle taxes don’t begin to cover the direct and indirect hidden costs of automobile use.”

State law requires local agencies to provide for bicyclists in an amount never to be less than one-half of one-percent (0.005%) of the local gas tax, Bill said, adding, “This is a miniscule amount of gas tax going towards bicyclists. And this also includes paths and trails for pedestrians.

“To put it into perspective, one-half of one-percent for a county our size (pop. 250,000) generates about $25,000 per year.  Because this is such a small amount it doesn’t accomplish much and local agencies generally budget more to increase safety for all users.

“Also, nearly all the monies spent for bike paths and trails in recent years have come from federal and state grants that are specifically earmarked for bikes and pedestrians.

“(There has been a) philosophical change in recent years all the way up to the state and federal level that automobiles shouldn’t get all the funding all the time,” he said.

“As was noted by many writers, bikes don’t tear up the roadway necessitating reconstruction every so many years; bikes don’t create congestion; bikes don’t create pollution; bikes don’t require the heavy structures needed for autos; and the list goes on.

“Now, having said all this, you would be surprised at the number of bicyclists who would be willing to pay more user fees provided the revenue were to go directly to bicycle improvements.

“Now we come to that nominal’ fee spoken about by one contributor.  What would it be?  How would it be determined and would it be enough to cover the costs of collecting it?

“I personally don’t feel that we are likely to see taxes levied against bicycles anytime in the near future.  The discussion in recent years has moved away from taxing bicycles, and instead granting tax credits and other incentives for bicycle use.

“And to provide an answer to Eleanor’s question –  our board of commissioners was desirous that the Road Department spend at least 10 per cent of county road funds on bicycle and pedestrian improvements. In recent years, we have exceeded that amount and are in the 15 percent range.”

Bill can be reached at (360) 337-7210.



Bill Zupancic

Shoulders, not bike lanes, on new Manette Bridge

The in basket:  Alison Loris asked what I expected to be a simple question. Will the new Manette Bridge have bike lanes? Her husband commutes by bicycle, she said.

The out basket: I started to steer her to the state Web site on the project (www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR303/ManetteBridgeReplacement/) but checked first and found no mention of bike lanes.

That’s because there won’t be any specifically designated bike lanes, says Project Engineer Jeff Cook. But there will be five-foot-wide shoulders on each side, which will provide bicyclists with a place to ride separated from vehicle traffic.

There also will be a 12-foot-wide sidewalk on the same side as the sidewalk of the existing bridge, but it’s uncertain whether bicycles will be allowed there. The state defers to the city for that decision. City street engineering says there doesn’t appear to be any prohibition of bicycles using the sidewalk, but the city attorney has been asked for an opinion.

The vehicle lanes will be 11 feet wide, a foot narrower than those on the existing bridge.

Harper road work still planned


The in basket: Jane Myers  of Olympiad Drive in South Kitsap, one of the Harper area residents in favor of the Kitsap County’s planned alteration of Southworth Drive through Harper, asked in July whatever became of the project. I had lost track of the proposal and wondered myself if the impending departure from office of County Commissioner Jan Angel, a key proponent of the work in the face of opposition among the property owners to be affected, might be the end of it.

The out basket: Since Jane asked, there have been news stories bringing us up to date and revealing that the project is still planned, regardless of Jan Angel’s decision to run for the Legislature instead of reelection. 

The state Shorelines Hearings Board in late August rejected an appeal by the project’s opponents, which was based in part on the changed slope of the road and loss of landside ditches, which they feel will increase contaminated roadway runoff into the bay or onto the beach. 

They have asked the hearings board to reconsider, the kind of  reversal I’ve never seen happen after an initial ruling, in court or otherwise. A final decision is due this month. After that, the opponents can go to court to try to stop it, and opposition leader Rebecca McCoy says she will, if it comes to that. 

The project has been on the county’s road improvement list for a couple of years, and now is expected to show up on the 2009 project list, due in December. Continued appeals could delay it further.

The work would add four-foot shoulders for bicycles and pedestrians to the road from the Harper Dock to Olympiad and a foot in width to the travel lanes. It’s estimated to cost $910,000.