Thoughts on SPD bike enforcement: Focus on safety (also, King 5 gets bike laws wrong)

King 5 has been pressing Seattle PD on the issue of enforcing traffic laws on people who bike and has a report out this morning saying that recent SPD bike law efforts are switching from giving out warnings to giving out tickets.

We here at Seattle Bike Blog are totally in favor of reasonable and safety-focused bike law enforcement. For example, with the new protected bike lanes on 2nd it is important that people obey the new bike traffic signals. Most do, but there are always some people who don’t (as is true for all modes of transportation). And that’s where enforcement is useful.

Another example is yielding to people walking. While people driving are still much, much, much more likely to injure or kill someone on foot, this is one of the few situations where someone biking can seriously hurt someone else. It is very rare, but as this week’s terrible incident in New York’s Central Park shows, it can and does happen.

So it was good to hear from Detective Patrick Michaud that safety around people walking is their top priority in the enforcement efforts. From King 5:

“The majority of bicyclists do follow the rules, and just like drivers, there are the few that do break the law,” said Det. Patrick Michaud of the Seattle Police Department.

“We want to reinforce that it’s everybody’s duty to be out there using the roads safely,” said Michaud. “The thing that we’re most worried about [are] the pedestrians.”

However, the King 5 report troublingly also lists a series of supposed infractions that are not against the law (or at least not always), such as:

  • stopping in a crosswalk” – People biking are allowed to use crosswalks and are legally treated as pedestrians while using them (though people biking must always yield to people walking). While obviously you shouldn’t fully block a crosswalk, sometimes you need to use the crosswalk in order to make a two-stage turn if no bike box is provided. This is legal.
  • not using that familiar turn signal sign language” – The law says you have to signal “unless during the last one hundred feet both hands are needed to control or operate the bicycle.” This is obvious: Keeping control of the bike is more important than signaling. So signal as often as you safely can, but don’t hurt yourself doing it.
  • remembering to walk bikes along on sidewalks” – This is 100 percent not the law in Seattle. You do not need to walk your bike on a sidewalk unless there is a sign that specifically says so. However, when biking on the sidewalk, you must yield to people walking. UPDATE: King 5 has corrected their story to reflect this. Thanks, King 5!

I hope that these mistakes were made by King 5 and not the Seattle PD, who should know these basic bike laws. I also hope King 5 corrects these errors.

Beyond these not-laws, there are some laws that do not actually affect the safety of others, such as “riding without a helmet.” While it is true that it is against health regulations for an adult to bike without a helmet in King County, it’s also true that we are one of very few big cities in the entire world that even has this law. And no, we aren’t ahead of the curve. If anything, cities around the globe that did have all-ages helmet laws are repealing them (or making them only apply under 18) in order to help bike share systems succeed.

It is simply not wise nor beneficial to public safety to spend precious police enforcement time going after people who aren’t wearing a helmet while they ride a bike. This will be especially true when Pronto Cycle Share launches next month, since short, spontaneous trips are important to the success of the system. Sometimes that means people will choose to forgo a bike helmet for their short and simple trips. Bike share systems have an astoundingly safe track record in places where few people wear helmets. In fact, after 23 million rides on bike share systems all over the US, zero people have died. Seattle will be the first major US city to launch a bike share system with a helmet law still on the books.

We have suggested that if the city/county does not repeal the helmet law or change it to only apply to people under 18, they could at least change it to be a secondary offense. If someone without a helmet is breaking more important traffic laws like blowing through red lights or endangering people using crosswalks, then sure, they can get a double ticket. But if their only offense is not using a helmet, stopping them and giving them a ticket is not a valuable use of officer or traffic court time.

And as should always guide traffic enforcement efforts, police should focus on the kinds of law breaking that injures and kills people most often. Some effort to reign in the most egregious biking law breakers certainly is worthwhile, but by far the biggest bearers of injury and death on Seattle streets are sitting behind car steering wheels. This is not because people who drive are worse people than those who bike or anything like that. It’s simply because their vehicles are much larger and heavier. With more potential for damage comes more responsibility for the safety of those around you.

Here are some telling graphs from Seattle’s Road Safety Action Plan:

SDOT-SafetyActionPlanWEB-bike SDOT-SafetyActionPlanWEB-pedUnfortunately, Seattle PD has had a history of ticketing exactly the wrong people:

Screen-shot-2011-10-31-at-1.51.38-AMSo I hope these bicycle enforcement issues are guided by the right principles and are carried out along with significant efforts to curb dangerous behavior by people driving.

We all want the same things: A city that is safer for everyone. We’ll only get there if we stay focused on the biggest dangers.

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71 Responses to Thoughts on SPD bike enforcement: Focus on safety (also, King 5 gets bike laws wrong)

  1. Peri Hartman says:

    In principal, this is a fine and reasonable proposal but let’s also make it fair. Start ticketing vehicles for parking in the bike lanes, opening doors without looking, and passing at an unsafe margin, following too close, blocking crosswalks, turning into or across bike lanes without yielding, etc.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      It doesn’t even need to be about being “fair.” It’s about staying focused on the causes of damage, injury and death. Every once in a while, this is someone on a bike, but it’s usually someone driving doing the things you mention. It doesn’t need to be a bikes vs cars thing, it’s a simple public safety thing: This behavior is causing harm to others, so let’s focus on stopping it.

  2. Andres Salomon says:

    Along with the fact that nobody has died using bike share, it’s also worth noting that research has correlated bike share with improved safety for EVERYONE on a bicycle. It’s unclear why that is (it could be safety in numbers, it could be the focus on improved bicycling infrastructure that goes along with bike share implementations; we don’t know).

    However, what we do know is that when you compare cities that have implemented bike share with ones that have not, injuries dropped in the former and rose in the latter.

    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/06/head-injuries-didnt-rise-in-bike-share-cities-they-actually-fell/372811/

    Despite a flawed research paper claiming otherwise, we have responses correcting them.
    http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302166
    http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302180

    The second link there has too short of an abstract to get a good feel for it. Here’s the next paragraph:

    “Graves et al. misinterpreted the injury data.
    Although the proportion of injuries that were
    head injuries increased (Figure 1a), the authors
    fail to mention that the total number of head
    injuries declined by 14.4% in bicycle share
    cities, compared with a decline of only 3.9% in
    control cities (Figure 1b). The total number of
    nonhead injuries declined even more sharply—
    by 37.8% in bike share cities, compared with
    a 6.2% increase in control cities. Head injuries
    declined, but not as quickly as other injuries,
    explaining the increasing proportion of head
    injuries.”

    So, even if you’re not personally planning to use Pronto, it still seems like it would be beneficial for street safety in Seattle.

  3. Allan says:

    King 5 is now incompetent in my book. Glaring mistakes that they made should be retracted. Now people who have seen this report will think that cyclists should get off empty uphill sidewalks and get out there in traffic. They will think you should fall off you bike to use a turn signal while braking. I am just saying this article is 75% worse than no article at all and the journalists involved should be fired for imcompetence. This kind of article add to problems and I am mad.

  4. Allan says:

    Wait, I just went to the King 5 report and maybe they changed it because it says that it is legal to ride on the sidewalk. It did not mention the violations that are not violations. They must have gone back to edit it?

  5. Josh says:

    I hope the reference to “stopping in a crosswalk” doesn’t refer to being stopped while in a crosswalk, as in waiting for a 2-stage turn, but rather failing to stop before the crosswalk when going straight through an intersection.

    If there’s a stop bar before the crosswalk, that’s where you’re supposed to stop, so that you don’t obstruct pedestrians using the crosswalk.

    • Joseph Singer says:

      Which is routinely ignored by motorists.

    • Josh says:

      Coincidental timing… see #2 in this video from the SFBC:

      http://www.sfbike.org/news/video-top-10-rules-of-the-road/

      • ChefJoe says:

        You mean #3 from the video ?

        The flashing bike headlight depicted by the oncoming cyclist at 2m 11s is also illegal in WA.

      • Josh says:

        My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that SDOT is more concerned with stopping when the crosswalk is actually in use, #2 in the video, but #3 would also apply. They’re both incredibly common violations by drivers and people on bikes.

        Yes, flashing headlights are clearly illegal in Washington, and I wouldn’t mind enforcement against those riders who insist on a strobing Magicshine aimed up into my eyes, but I haven’t seen any suggestion that SPD is doing any serious lighting enforcement. No headlight is still a more serious issue than an illegal headlight, and there are plenty of unlit ninjas on the streets.

      • benwood says:

        I looked up the federal definition of a “headlight” and it does not pertain to a bike, a pedestrian, a skateboarder, nor anything except as follows:

        S3. Application. This standard applies
        to:
        (a) Passenger cars, multipurpose passenger
        vehicles, trucks, buses, trailers
        (except pole trailers and trailer converter
        dollies), and motorcycles;

        http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title49-vol6/pdf/CFR-2011-title49-vol6-sec571-108.pdf

        Unless I see a reference pertaining specifically to bike lights, I will consider this inaccurate regarding a front flasher (daytime or nighttime). And surely there would be a specification, e.g. 10 lumens, 100 lumens, 1000 lumens, or ?? Surely not any white forward light no matter how dim is a “headlight” same as with cars.

        I personally do not use a front flasher at night unless it is accompanied by a 2nd steady front light because I can’t see well enough. And even then I only do it in congested or confusing areas (for cars to see me).

      • ChefJoe says:

        Benwood, flashing lights, except for specific exemptions and bike taillights, are illegal per RCW.

        http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.37.280
        Flashing lights are prohibited except as required in RCW 46.37.190, 46.37.200, 46.37.210, 46.37.215, and 46.37.300, warning lamps authorized by the state patrol, and light-emitting diode flashing taillights on bicycles.

        O Wise One Tom has even said so (although he said so with mealy-mouth justifications for breaking the law anyways, because ). Funny how the same sort of “don’t do it on a bike trail” obnoxious is OK for cars to be dazzled but on bike trails with other bikers that’s bad.
        http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2013/11/25/is-there-really-a-bike-light-arms-race-or-are-we-all-just-confused-about-whats-safe/
        Technically, it is probably not legal to have a flashing headlight on a bicycle.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Sometimes things are not black-and-white, Chef, and our laws are not perfect (shocking, I know). Not all bike lights are created equal, and neither are all road conditions.

        Yes, to the word of the law a flashing headlight is illegal. And you definitely should not use the flashing mode on a dark path or low-light street, since that will simply disorient every other users.

        But if you feel safer using a flashing light during the daytime or on well-lit busy streets, then I say trust your instincts in setting up your lights however you feel most comfortable. This is especially true for people who do not own the super high-power lights that can dazzle others (so, like 98 percent of people).

        Technically an officer could ticket you, but if you are doing it in the name of safety I bet it wouldn’t stick. And really, that officer would have some seriously backwards priorities. I have never heard of anyone getting a flashing headlight ticket, though I suppose it probably has happened.

        I guess you find that answer “mealy-mouthed,” but there is no single perfect answer that matches every single person’s comfort level, every bike light’s strength and every road condition. If our government regulated bike light designs like Germany or some other European countries so that every light sold is properly safe and road-ready, then this would not be a problem. But the US does not, so we have to make up the best practices as we go.

        Like so many other biking decisions, you just gotta do whatever you think is best for the conditions.

      • Don Brubeck says:

        Tom,
        Yes! Saved as pdf for re-reading to restore my sanity whenever threads get diverted to this endless war on bike lights.

      • Josh says:

        I know two riders who’ve been stopped for strobing headlights, but not ticketed, just warned, one in Seattle and one down by Auburn. So it does happen, but I don’t think there’s any chance of a police crackdown on flashing headlights in general. I have heard complaints about really bright flashing lights on the 2nd Ave sidepath, where bikes are approaching head-on with less clearance than most off-road trails.

        The law bans all flashing headlights, no threshold for intensity. If you wanted to legalize low-powered blinky lights, I suspect that could pass the Legislature, if they could reach agreement on what “low powered” means, but I doubt the votes could be found to legalize strobing 1000+ lumen Magicshine clones, even in daylight.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        I think the right solution would be an allowance for modulating lights and a phase in period permitting full strobe lights. A modulating light isn’t as noticable as a strobe but, depending on depth of modulation, can still be quite attention grabbing. The difference with modulation is the time it gives the pupil to react – not much be better than strobe trauma.

        The other thing that might help – and I’m going to try this – is to install a low power light pointing back towards the rider. This would have to be dim enough, and aimed low enough, not to diminsh your, the rider’s, vision but still illuminate the body a bit. Showing the context of an illuminated body instead of a single point source light (whether strobing or not), should make it easier for others to identify distance and speed.

      • Allan says:

        Bicycles are invisible to cars unless they have a really bright flashing light. Many of the cyclists who have been hit, have been hit because they are invisible to many drivers. They turn left right across in front of you. A bright flashing light should be mandatory as it would have saved many lives.

      • Kirk says:

        For the record, flashing white lights are illegal, not flashing forward lights. You can mount a flashing amber light on your bike as a hazard flasher, and you will be in compliance with the law. These are now being manufactured. I made one with a AV gel, and have run it for a few years. It has the same effect, and is perfectly legal.
        As a bonus, if your bike was manufactured prior to 1969, you can legally have flashing white lights.

        RCW 46.37.215
        Hazard warning lamps.

        (1) Any vehicle may be equipped with lamps for the purpose of warning other operators of other vehicles of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking, or passing.

        (2) After June 1, 1978, every motor home, bus, truck, truck tractor, trailer, semitrailer, or pole trailer eighty inches or more in overall width or thirty feet or more in overall length shall be equipped with lamps meeting the requirements of this section.

        (3) Vehicular hazard warning signal lamps used to display such warning to the front shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall display simultaneously flashing amber light: PROVIDED, That on any vehicle manufactured prior to January 1, 1969, the lamps showing to the front may display simultaneously flashing white or amber lights, or any shade of color between white and amber. The lamps used to display such warning to the rear shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall show simultaneously flashing amber or red lights, or any shade of color between amber and red. These warning lights shall be visible from a distance of not less than five hundred feet in normal sunlight.

      • Allan says:

        Ok so where do you get a sub 4 lb frame made prior to 1969 cheap so you can run flashing white lights, legally.

      • Josh says:

        Does anyone know of a commercially-made set of synchronized amber hazard lights for bikes?

        Wide spacing wouldn’t be too hard with individual amber blinkies, but I don’t know of any that meet the RCW 46.37.215 requirement for simultaneous flashing.

  6. Southeasterner says:

    Out of curiosity why does Seattle allow cycling on sidewalks?

    In pretty much every city I have lived in cycling on the sidewalk is against the law (although DC is the only place I have seen it actively enforced) and I even remember being grounded at the age of 12 when a neighbor alerted my parents that I had been spotted cycling on a sidewalk!

    It seems that a majority of cycling accidents happen at intersections so wouldn’t biking on a sidewalk actually make you less safe as cars wouldn’t necessarily be looking out for cyclists crossing at higher speeds in a crosswalk?

    No matter what the law says, as an occasional pedestrian I do think cyclists need to be ticketed when they don’t yield to pedestrians on busy sidewalks. There is no valid reason you can’t slow down/stop or dismount.

    • Josh says:

      Washington’s Model Traffic Code includes language banning bicycling on sidewalks in business districts, but many the Model Traffic Code is optional, and many cities choose not to adopt that part.

      Many city councils don’t see bicycles as a serious issue for pedestrians because there are so few bikes around; others don’t want to force bicyclists onto the streets when the city doesn’t provide safe streets and adequate traffic enforcement.

      Bicycling on sidewalks does increase intersection risk, but can be safe enough if you treat intersections as a pedestrian would — stop at the curb, look carefully for conflicting traffic, don’t enter the street unless it’s clearly safe.

      Note that the Model Traffic Code does also require bicyclists to yield to any pedestrians where riding on the sidewalk is allowed.

      WAC 308-330-555
      Bicycles—Riding on sidewalks.

      (1) No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in a business district.
      (2) A person may ride a bicycle on any other sidewalk or any roadway unless restricted or prohibited by traffic control devices.
      (3) Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian.

    • jt says:

      Even in DC, cycling on sidewalks is only banned in the central downtown area (roughly the CBD, bounded on the north by Mass Ave); it is allowed everywhere else, even in fairly close-in neighborhoods like Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Capitol Hill, Adams Morgan, etc, above Mass Ave. There is likely also a rule about yielding to pedestrians and going unsafely though. The map is here http://greatergreater.com/images/200805/cbdbike.jpg.

      I suppose some people might bike on sidewalks for extended distances, but mostly I expect people are doing it just for short distances, perhaps to bridge a short unsafe-feeling segment between two long trail/road segments, or avoid a lengthy detour caused by one-way streets. Outside my old office, and at my current apt., I hop on the sidewalk for about a hundred feet (literally just alongside my destination building in either case), going very slowly, and dismounting if walkers appear, to avoid a hilly 3.5-block one-way-street-route that is technically the only way to do it on-street. In either case this followed about 3 miles of legal commuting on streets and trails.

      Biking on the sidewalks in a manner that endangers pedestrians is quite likely to endanger the cyclist by almost as much, so I think it’s kind of a self-solving problem — most people who try to do it regularly would get uncomfortable or injured before too long. But sure, slapping someone with a fine when they’re behaving recklessly would be great. I just think a blanket sidewalk ban would round up more of the responsible folks than the reckless ones.

    • Don Brubeck says:

      Why does Seattle allow riding on sidewalks? A few reasons that come to mind:
      – children 5 to 10 years old riding bikes on busy streets.
      – anyone riding uphill on a high-speed curving arterial with narrow lanes. Try taking the lane westbound on Highland Park Way SW, for example.
      – the Ballard Bridge.
      – bike cops, parking enforcement officers, downtown ambassadors on bikes who want to interact with or sneak up on people.

      Bikes are not pedestrians. Bikes are not cars. Bikes are not trucks. and not all bike riders ride the same way.

    • Allan says:

      Your number one goal when riding a bicycle is staying alive and that sometimes requires flashing lights in traffic and sometimes requires riding on sidewalks where traffic is dangerous. Taking away these safety alternatives will either make cycling impossible or result in increased deaths on the road. In every case I can think of where a cyclist was killed it was because they were not seen, never because they were seen and had a flashing light. They died without a flashing light and maybe the roads they were on were too busy and perilous for cycling and they should have been on a sidewalk. Yes cyclists should slow down and give pedestrians a wide berth and have a voice or bell warning.

  7. Alkibkr says:

    We are having increasing success getting people to use non-motorized transportation. Yeah! With that success comes the increasing problem not only of having to segregate bikes from cars, but also sometimes having to segregate fast bikers from slow bikers and pedestrians. Yesterday while biking to West Seattle I almost got creamed by a fast biker cutting a blind corner (blocked by parked trucks) at the port freight entry crossing on Harbor Island. He was not a kid (more like a senior), but he was biking like he thought he was a kid. In an area where there are known safety issues or blind corners, slow down, even though you normally like to bike fast. Multi-use trails such as Burke-Gilman, or the trail from Delridge Ave SW to the West Seattle Bridge are becoming dangerous due to increased usage. My pedestrian friend has to avoid the latter route altogether during peak commute hours because many bikers are bombing around the blind corner with no consideration of what they might encounter. A dog on a leash could easily result in a dead cyclist. As more and more people choose biking as their commute method, these areas begin to scream out for safety improvements, sometimes to the extent of providing separate trails.

  8. Joseph Singer says:

    Why do police never ticket drivers who wait in a crosswalk to make turns on red lights?

  9. jeik says:

    How about a few tickets for drivers blocking intersections? This happens daily (in EVERY single light cycle) at Mercer and 9th, causing cyclists to dangerously weave around the cars to get through the intersection at all. I’ve seen it in other spots too. A few of those $101 fine signs and example tickets would go a long way in improving safety for bikes and traffic too.

  10. Chris M says:

    Ironically, I have seen a few King 5 Employees park their cars in the bicycle lane on Dexter right before Harrison in the north bound direction. I guess some laws don’t apply to everyone…. ;)

  11. Gary Anderson says:

    It always bugs me to see riders run red lights or stop and then go if there’s no cross traffic. Do they do this when they’re driving a car too? Probably not. Seems like its more common to stereotype the bad behavior of a few cyclists to all cyclists than it is to stereotype all drivers based on the few bad ones.

    • Allen Brown says:

      In Idaho some cycling advocates got a law slipped into some legislation years ago that is now referred to as the Idaho Stop. Simply put bicyclists can treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. There was some outcry about it but it turns out that with this law traffic flowed better and it was safer for all concerned. The crux of the issue is that bicycles and automobiles are vastly different forms of transportation and using an one size fits all policy is not productive. Treating two wheeled vehicles different than four wheeled vehicles makes sense. In California a motorcyclists is allowed to split lanes on the highway when traffic is slow. Many times people have tried to repeal this but the CHPs always fight it because it is safer for the motorcyclists to split the lanes instead of being rearended by inattentive drivers in stop and go traffic.

  12. Steve Campbell says:

    It’s important to note the law saying you have to signal turns and stops “unless during the last one hundred feet both hands are needed to control or operate the bicycle.” is in the Seattle Municipal Code only and not in the RCW.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      Seriously? The RCW effectively requires you to signal with one hand while trying to brake with the other, even if the pavement is wet and steep? Clearly, if a rider was cited for this it would be dismissed. But it’s totally wrong to make the rider guilty and have to be proven innocent. This ought to be changed!

    • Josh says:

      RCW doesn’t need the exclusion, because RCW does not include the SMC provision that requires the signals to be given “continuously for 100 feet” before initiating a turn. RCW only requires the signals be given “before initiation of a turn,” so you can signal when it’s safe, as long as it’s before you actually start to turn.

      SMC:
      Such hand signals shall be given continuously during the last one hundred feet traveled by the bicycle before initiation of a turn, unless during the last one hundred feet both hands are needed to control or operate the bicycle.

      RCW:
      The hand signals required by this section shall be given before initiation of a turn.

      • Josh says:

        This is just one area where SMC is more restrictive on bicycles than the RCW.

        Seattle is also more restrictive on when you have to ride to the right — no matter how many bikes are on the road, the “normal speed” in Seattle is always set by motorists.

        SMC:
        RIDING ON ROADWAYS. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed slower than the normal and reasonable flow of motor vehicle traffic thereon shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe, except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

        RCW:
        (1) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Ok, good to know. So I’ll keep in mind signaling at some arbitrary point when I feel like it :)

      • Andy says:

        It’s important to remember that the key language of both those codes is “as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe”, a determination left to the judgment of the cyclist. If you deem taking the lane to be the safe choice to make, that is your legal right.

      • Josh says:

        Unfortunately, the law isn’t explicit that “as far to the right as is safe” is at the discretion of the cyclist.

        A police officer who doesn’t like or understand bikes is free to order you further right if he disagrees with your judgement, or cite you for a violation, and a traffic court judge who hasn’t straddled a bike in decades is free to agree with the officer.

      • jay says:

        Peri Hartman,
        “signaling at some arbitrary point when [you] feel like it :)” is no worse than the average driver, but note that the section of RCW Josh mentioned (46.61.758) only applies to bicycles, when you are driving an automobile RCW 46.61.305 says:
        ” (2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.”
        So getting your sleeve caught on the turn signal lever as you turn (across the bike lane, into an occupied cross walk while rolling through a red light) does not count as “signaling”

        Also, RCW says regarding hand signals by bicyclists: ” right hand and arm extended horizontally to the right side of the bicycle” is an alternative the left arm held vertically, this make some sense because ones hand remains a bit closer to the handlebars in that case. However, since that is not the hand signal one learned in drivers-ed, it is possible that is part of “not using that familiar turn signal sign language”. Not that many drivers seem to be all that “familiar” with the law in any case.

        Ok, I admit it, the “across the bike lane” was a snark, if you have a red light, the bicyclists do as well, and you are not likely to get a ticket for not yielding to the pedestrians (if you are driving anyway) so, no worries!

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Don’t worry – I’m just being facetious.

      • jay says:

        Yes, I saw the smiley ;)
        I was just trying to point out that that is pretty much standard operating procedure for many motorists, and seems to be largely ignored by other motorists. (note they were very specific with: ” not using that familiar turn signal sign language”. “failure to signal turns” would have been much shorter, but not specific to bicyclists.)
        Other things ignored when drivers do it,: Failing to make a complete stop (or, sometimes, even slow down) before making a right turn on red, rolling past stop signs.
        In the KING article:
        “Police say some of the most common Seattle cyclist violations include running red lights, …”
        I’m sure running stop signs is even more common, but since “all” the drivers do it too, we shouldn’t make too big of deal about it, else the cyclists will complain about a double standard.

        It seems odd they did make a big deal about stopping in cross walks though, cars do it “all the time”, but I guess since a bicycle doing it may stop a car from tuning on red, it is much worse when a bicycle does it. (a car, that if it stopped at all, probably would have also stopped in the cross walk)

      • Andy says:

        @Josh re: as far to the right as safe.

        You’re totally right – for some reason I had mistakenly remembered that law being amended to make it less ambiguous.

      • Kirk says:

        Regarding lane position while riding, King County has this to say on their website. Note number three:
        Question: What position in the lane should a bicyclist use?
        Answer:
        1) Bicyclists traveling at the speed of traffic may use the middle of the lane.
        2) A bicyclist traveling at a speed less than the normal flow of traffic should ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except when a) preparing to turn b) when passing another bicycle or vehicle or c) on a one-way street, where it is legal to ride on the left (RCW 46.61.770).
        3) Bicyclists should ride in the middle of the right through lane when that lane is too narrow to permit side-by-side sharing with motor vehicles, and when hazards (such as drain grates or a rough edge) prevent riding on the shoulder or along the edge of the lane.
        4) Bicyclists may ride on the road shoulder, but this is required
        only on limited-access highways, such as freeways.

        http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/Roads/SafetyTips/TrafficLaws.aspx

      • Skylar says:

        Given that a standard car’s door zone is 4′ from the car itself, and a standard travel lane is somewhere around 10′ wide, it seems that if one is biking alongside a parking lane, the furthest right one can ride safely is the middle of the lane. This is especially true when one considers that a car is around 6′ wide – there is simply no way that a bicyclist and a car can safely exist in a lane adjacent to parking given that the door zone, 3′ safety margin, and car width comes out to 13′, which doesn’t even account for the width of the bicyclist.

      • ChefJoe says:

        Skylar, you could make the same argument that cars should be far over, to the left, from the parked cars to avoid the door zone (my grandmother gave up driving in the 70s after she nearly hit a man getting out of his car).

        Unfortunately, being “doored” is a danger all modes of transit encounter on narrow streets. The law doesn’t really recognize that additional danger from being in traffic with no protective metal cage, at least with regard to how to use the lanes.

      • Skylar says:

        @ChefJoe, a driver is not going to be injured running into an open car door. A person getting out on the traffic side of a car might be injured, but hopefully that motivates them to pay attention to traffic behind their car prior to opening the door. Those same people have no motivation to pay attention to cyclists, since the risk of injury to them is a lot less than the risk of injury to the cyclist.

  13. Skylar says:

    With both a new SPD chief and a new SDOT director, I wonder what it would take to refocus the city’s attention on the real cause of dangerous streets.

    I might just have my hopes set too high, though.

    • Becky says:

      They do regularly meet with each other. It’s my hope that they will refocus on the things that matter most as well.

      Also, just because King 5 wrote a story about it doesn’t mean it’s an actual focus at the City, or that the City is doing it the way they describe.

      They are trying to increase education and enforcement about bikes.

  14. Kirk says:

    I’m all for ticketing anyone flaunting traffic laws, whether they are driving a car or a bike. I do find it quite annoying and hypocritical that KING is asking the SPD to focus on bicycle drivers. But I love the comment from SPD that their focus is on protecting pedestrians.
    Perhaps KING needs to be reminded of all of the innocent pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed in recent years – months – weeks by motor vehicle drivers breaking the law. That is where their outrage should be channelled. We have yet to see a cyclist or pedestrian kill or injure a motor vehicle driver. Not that I’m not tempted sometimes…

  15. Pingback: Pronto Cycle Share Just Over 2 Weeks Away: Updates | Kevin Lugo

  16. ChefJoe says:

    Hey Tom, maybe instead of just pointing out the exception for hand signals you should actually use the full sentence, which would also serve to educate.

    Such hand signals shall be given continuously during the last one hundred feet traveled by the bicycle before initiation of a turn, unless during the last one hundred feet both hands are needed to control or operate the bicycle.

  17. jdg says:

    the best part of the king5 article is the photoshopped guy without a helmet.

  18. biliruben says:

    A witnessed a city cop pulling over a wobbly new student heading to class on the Ravenna bike lanes a couple days ago. He jumped the light by a couple seconds (after initially stopping). The cross light had turned red, but there is a delay between that, and the Ravenna light turning green – I’m guessing because of the double-light situation due to the median – so that the intersection has time to clear. It sounded like he was cited for both red-light and lack of helmet.

    So this is not just lip-service.

  19. Pingback: Seattle begins installing bike share stations — including a dozen around Capitol Hill | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

  20. Allan says:

    Every time I turn off my flashing light and try a steady beam, I become invisible and someone tries to hit me. It is a case of flash or dodge.

    • ChefJoe says:

      So you think a, illegal, strobing lamp that dazzles the cars coming at you is a good idea?

      The brightness could be better regulated, but bright and strobing is asking for it.

      • Allan says:

        Why is it that I have never been dazzled by a flashing bike light whether I am on a bike or in a car? I have more trouble with bright lights, on cars, on dark two lane country roads.

  21. Nancy says:

    People around here are nuts. Pedestrians jaywalk (right out in front of me in my car) from between 2 parked cars instead of walking 15 steps to the next corner. Bicyclists zoom around like maniacs with minimal or no lights. Skate boarders never have lights or even reflective bits on their clothing. I am not from here and I creep around in my car trying desperately not to kill anyone. And the guy behind me honks, I assume, because I am going too slow. Strobing lights are the very least of my trouble.

    • Allan says:

      Now let’s take a break from all this seriousness and pick up a pen and paper. I want you to write down each infraction you see in this video cycling in NYC.

      • Gary says:

        a Zillion!…

      • Gary says:

        Wow this video has all those great techniques for getting through a city faster!

        a) Grab the antenna of the car next to you if they are going in the same direction as you. The driver won’t mind if you coast a couple of blocks using the car.

        b) Split the lane everywhere! No bus can possibly pull away from the curb and close the gap.

        c) Use the reverse lane when it’s clear, hey no cars, no problem and if there are cars, just hug the curb they’ll swerve around you.

        d) When approaching an intersection which the light is red, head toward the oncoming traffic, then turn with them as you cross, It gives you extra space to make the move.

        e) Pedestrians can’t move fast enough to get in your way, so just dodge around them.

        f) rim brakes and coaster wheels are for the weak who can’t use their shoe soles as a brake.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Posting a Lucas Bunnel video is like posting an illegal car street racing video. It’s an extreme subculture.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Here’s the pedestrian equivalent of that video.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Ha! Wow. Those pedestrians just have no respect for traffic laws. We shouldn’t build another inch of sidewalk until they learn to follow the law like drivers do. It’s up to all the other pedestrians to keep them in line.

  22. JM says:

    I may be wrong, by my understanding is that the RCW provision cited (47.36.280) applies on state highways and areas under the jurisdiction of the WA state patrol. The RCW appears to specifically delegate the creation and enforcement of bicycle related rules and regulations to the cities and towns on their own roadways and bike paths under RCW 35.75.010 (http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=35.75.010). It is therefore not clear from the legislation whether or not front-facing flashing lights are “illegal” at all on city streets and bike paths.

    • JM says:

      On further inspection of Seattle Municipal Code Sections 11.44.010 and .020, it would appear that the city of Seattle has incorporated the provisions of RCW by reference, so it may be moot. At any rate, I had no idea that this was the law until I saw a sticker on the light pole crossing MLK on Mtn to Sound greenway. Glad I saw it, and will refrain from using flashing light during hours specified in the statute.

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