Tag Archives: Viking Way

‘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.