Tag Archives: freeways

‘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.