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Yes, you can get pulled over for speeding on a bike (especially in a school zone)

Screenshot shows the story on the front of the Times homepage
Screenshot shows the story on the front of the Times homepage

Seattle’s Internet is blowing up this morning due to a story in the Seattle Times about a handful of people on bikes getting speeding tickets on Fremont Avenue.

As with other schools, the speed limit next to BF Day Elementary is 20 mph when children are present. And Fremont Ave is steep enough that a person on a bike can get over 20, perhaps even without realizing it.

Bikes rarely have speedometers, but that’s not an allowed excuse for speeding. It’s against the law and dangerous to go faster than 20 in an active school zone. Sure, it’s more dangerous to speed when you’re in control of a two-ton vehicle, but so long as officers dole the tickets out without bias against people on bikes, it’s a fair ticket.

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That’s apparently how one person who was nabbed saw the situation. From the Seattle Times:

Standing near a bus stop and crosswalk signal, Rodgers pointed his laser gun up the hill, where it measured speed 450 feet away. He pulled over a hatchback, a brown Jeep and a gray SUV.

Next he measured an orange bicycle at 31 mph, waved the rider to the side, and showed him the digits on the laser device. Another bicyclist stopped and asked if the man was OK.

“Yeah. I was just going too fast,” replied Robert Allyn. His bike lacks a speedometer, and after receiving his $103 citation, he said bicyclists should obey the rules of the road. “It’s not like they’re singling out me,” he said.

Read more…

The fine for speeding on a bike is lower than speeding in a car: $103 instead of $189. But it can increase your car insurance rates.

The lower cost not only acknowledges that a traffic infraction on a bike is less dangerous than the same infraction in a car, but it also provides an incentive for officers to give more of them without feeling like they are handing out a disproportionate fine.

Davis, California, recently tacked the same issue. Their tickets for bike infractions used to be about $200, which made officers hesitant to hand them out for something as relatively low-priority as a person failing to stop at a stop sign.

Their Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program does several important things. First, it lowers fines to $70 if you also complete an online bike safety course. Once you do both those things, the police will throw out your ticket before it goes on your record (and, thus, goes to your car insurance company if you have one).

Could a similar program work in Seattle/King County?

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42 responses to “Yes, you can get pulled over for speeding on a bike (especially in a school zone)”

  1. Cranky

    Ah, but can you get ticketed for distracted biking? While biking recently, I’ve had close encounters with bikers talking on phones or texting. Just like when I drive, I’d like to be sure that others around me are following the rules of the road.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      No. The state distracted driving law is only for people operating motor vehicles: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.668

      However, if you break another traffic law because you are distracted, you can get a ticket for whatever that other infraction was (stop sign, hitting someone, not ringing bell or using voice to pass, etc)

  2. Sander Lazar

    “Could a similar program work in Seattle/King County?”
    Great idea. With few exceptions, opportunities like this should be taken to educate people in exchange for reduced penalties.

  3. RTK

    I received a ticket for speeding on a bike in North Seattle in the early 90’s. It was dismissed by the judge as the cop had only estimated my speed, none of the boxes had been checked for radar, paced, aircraft timed…

    Most of my interactions with Seattle Police have gone pretty well, this one did not. Fortunately the judge dismissed both tickets that I was given.

  4. grayson smith

    Someone has to watch out for the people who walk across the street with their hoodies on, without looking while mesmerized by their iPhones. I get it.

    Funny how this happens at the end of the month.

    But yes, they are being generous by lowering the fine for cyclists. Hopefully we don’t have to start paying to lock our bikes up to city owned racks next. I kid…

    As a cyclist new to Seattle I’ve realized it’s much safer than anywhere else I’ve lived, but the system/infrastructure is still heavily biased against us. Sadly, I’ve read way too many articles this year that have lead me to believe that if you want to get away with killing murder, run over a biker.

    So, sure, ticket cyclists for speeding, I hope the revenue goes towards SPD and Seattles much larger issues.

    1. Gary

      “Someone has to watch out for the people who walk across the street with their hoodies on, without looking while mesmerized by their iPhones. ”

      NYC has a solution for this problem… seeing eye people


  5. Andrew Squirrel

    I’m not sure if one is already installed there but it would be nice to have a dynamic speed feedback sign “Your speed is…” you see around town (downhill on 23rd comes to mind) to give drivers and cyclists a reminder that they are exceeding the speed limit near sensitive areas like downhills near schools. Some of these only turn on when you exceed the limit but it would be great to have one that shows the speed regardless & flashes when you exceed.

    It would be great to have two signs, side by side, that each had their radar emitter/receiver pointed at the car lanes & bike lanes respectively.

    One more addition to my expensive infrastructure wishlist

    1. It’s incredible the degree of ire for speeding cyclists – by people who don’t bike. I passed the 8th Ave speed sign in Ballard yesterday, going uphill, with a loaded cargo bike, mind you – at a whopping 7mph. Daaangerous.

      1. Andrew Squirrel

        What is this anecdotal story intending to express? how slow it is possible to go on a bike?

        I can cruise down a hill at 30mph on my 60 pound loaded CycleTruck and be much more dangerous than simply riding my unloaded commuter. In addition to being more dangerous I’m sure it would also take me a longer distance to go from 30 to zero mph.

        To a degree the penalization should really be a function of weight & speed over the posted limit. It seems like the laws already do this in an X or Y manner but it would be interesting if there were different sub-classes of bikes and motor vehicles.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        I just starting imagining a utopian world where speeding ticket fines were a factor of vehicle mass. $1/lb or something. Then again, that would make car tickets like $1,500. Maybe a bit steep…

  6. adot

    Seattle times clickbait. I’d rather see cops pulling over motorists who get behind cyclists and honk, rev their engine, refusing to pass and generally exhibiting threatening behavior.

    1. & Front Page story? Talk about skewed focus!

    2. Southeasterner

      It’s helping to point out the evils of a McSchwinn cycling society.

      Let’s not forget the Times has already endorsed the other candidate and reminds readers of their endorsement on a regular basis.

  7. Andres Salomon

    It’s pretty hard to defend speeding behavior like this. It’s a school zone! Slow down. Smacking into a kid with your bike is not going to feel good. :(

  8. Matthew Snyder

    I wonder if the guy in the photo got a separate ticket for not wearing a helmet…

    Are there stats available on the number of helmet law tickets per year/month/whatever in the county?

  9. Josh

    It’s true that getting hit by a bicycle is less lethal than getting hit by a car, but the point of school zone speed limits and crosswalks isn’t simply reducing the severity of accidents, but also the frequency of accidents.

    A school zone is an area where every driver on the street should be prepared to avoid colliding with some of the most vulnerable members of our society. That includes people driving bicycles. It’s your job to go slow enough to avoid small pedestrians who haven’t yet developed traffic sense, and to stop for them if they’re crossing the street.

    As a parent, I’ve seen far too many cyclists risk the safety of school children in crosswalks. No, you can’t just thread between kids or swerve behind them. The law is simple, and clear, and applies to all drivers, including cyclists: if there’s a pedestrian less than one full lane from your side of the street, you must STOP and REMAIN STOPPED at the crosswalk.

  10. Steve Campbell

    Wait a minute. After perusing the reader’s comments to numerous other articles in the Seattle Times I was sure it was impossible for the police to ticket cyclists until bikes were required to have license plates.

  11. Ben Morris

    Just read the FRONT PAGE (!!??) article in the break-room, here at work. There’s a part of me that wants to click over to the article and peruse the comments. But, I just don’t think I can handle ‘the stupid’…

  12. Allan

    I wish the police would give a lot more speeding tickets to everybody, until the average speed of traffic slows down to the limit. Here is an idea, when you are on the highway you see a sign that fines double in work areas. Fines should double anywhere that vulnerable users are present as well. I am sorry to say that there are also places where cyclists travel at unsafe speeds. I often see it. Cyclists also don’t slow down for vulnerable users, red lights, stop signs, etc. Everyone could be safer with more law enforcement, and we would all drive better and maybe occasionally pay a ticket.

    1. Becka

      I would rather see speed limits enforced with good road design instead of making Seattle cops waste their time on speeding tickets. Road diets around schools!

  13. Victor

    First, it doesn’t affect insurance rate (so the article said and PEMCO person confirmed).
    Second, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a speedometer on their bike they start at $10 and I bet you can get a used one for less or free from craigslist.
    Third, I wish they ticked bicyclists much more. Nothing raises more hate in me, when I stop at stop/red light and some douche would cut through intersection at 20mph.

    1. Andres Salomon

      That’s funny, I don’t think I know anyone with a speedometer on their bicycle. That includes the six people in my house (all of whom own bicycles except one).

      1. Victor

        Well, I guess we’re in different circles :—)
        And, probably, depends on what you ride for. People I know ride everyday/most of the days.
        Also, you know, there are smartphones and those have GPS and as such can be used to show speed (though, I guess, buying a handlebar attachment and waterproof case costs more than cheap bike computer).

    2. Why does this raise such ire in you as a driver? How does it affect your driving or impede your trip?
      I see people driving cars who choose to knowingly break the law every single day I ride home on my bicycle but I don’t hate those people.

      1. Victor

        I completely missed the inference that I am a driver.
        No, it irritates me as a bicyclist (otherwise, why the hell would I even read this blog?)

    3. I own 5 bicycles and none of them have speedometers. I think its interesting that other cyclists actions “raises more hate in you” than the typical b.s. you get from people in cars. The douche blowing through the intersection on a bike is probably only going to hurt him or herself. The douche in the car is at least 100 times more dangerous because the car weighs 100 times what the bicycle does.

      1. Victor

        As I said earlier, I guess it’s just who you deal with. For me and my friends stats are of essence and as such are bike computers. But, for others may be not.
        What considers violations, I guess, if you consider damage done — yes, you are right. But for me it’s just the principle — laws are laws.

      2. Andres Salomon

        Stats are the furthest thing from my (or my family’s) mind. Instead, we care about hauling a kid around, being able to fold up a bike to get over to east side, or having as simple machine that will last forever without breaking. Could care less about any kind of speed records.

        That said, if bikes in the US were designed for actual transportation instead of toys, they’d come standard with cup holders, fenders, racks, lights, and perhaps even speedometers (dynamo-powered or something, not some silly battery). I might actually use one in that case.

      3. Victor

        Those also usually come with IGH with 3 speeds.
        Heh, try riding in the one you mentioned up the Fremont avenue :))
        Though, I have to add, I never said anything about speed records — just stats.
        I never had a bike that would break (well, outside of being doored and thrown under passing car), so I am not sure what are you riding that breaks…

      4. Andrew Squirrel

        I’m also someone who has 5 bicycles, none of which have speedometer/odometers. However, I was recently thinking how easy it would be to implement a speedometer inside a dynamo lamp. By calculating the amount of poles inside the dynamo hub you could easily convert the AC frequency to a speed output if you entered the wheel diameter.

      5. Tom Fucoloro

        I also have never owned a bike speedometer. My main reason: I don’t want another thing on my bike that can get stolen or that I have to worry about taking off. Maybe a weak reason, but I like to lock it and forget it.

      6. Dave

        I’m also irritated by the cyclist blowing through the light, partly because I know that their irresponsible behavior will be unfairly reflected on me, the (usually) lawful bike commuter. Obviously bikes are not as dangerous as cars. But let’s be honest, you rarely see a car blow right through a red light at speed.

  14. Chris

    Would the cyclists who keep insisting that everyone else has it out for them please acknowledge that there are indeed some, but by no means all, cyclists out there who do indeed endanger others? And that it would be better for all of us if they were made responsible for their actions?

    I’m a ped more often than a driver or cyclist and would appreciate it if I didn’t have to worry quite so much about fast cyclists on the sidewalk. I don’t have a problem with you riding on the sidewalk but i do have one if you don’t like the speeding cars on the street and then go and create the same situation you are avoiding for the peds you speed past.
    Or if i almost get run over by a cyclist running a red light trying to cross the street when i have the light.
    Could we all please do the grown up thing, act responsibly? None is out to get you, insisting on always being the victim only no matter what does not help.

    1. Matt

      I’m so sick of posts like this from the “sacred” pedestrian. Yes, cyclists need to follow the rules of the road, but singling them out as reckless and lawless individuals on a suicide mission is beyond my comprehension. Would you rather be hit but a 2 ton car or a 20 pound bike?? Give me a break. I’m sorry you are annoyed that some bicyclists go on the sidewalk but it’s most likely only due to a lack of infrastructure. Why is bike infrastructure considered so different from sidewalks? Sidewalks connect the entire city and are built without controversy. Many of them are barely ever used but they are essential to public safety and quality of life.

      And yes I do think everyone has it out to get me when I read posts like yours that imply that my desire to bike safely is less important and too expensive than your desire to walk places without fearing for your life.

    2. doug

      As a pedestrian, you should be concerned with automobiles most of all, since they kill thousands of pedestrians every year. Claiming that cyclists pose a real threat to pedestrians is a red herring.

  15. Matt

    I realize my post seems like an overreaction. It’s not so much geared towards what you said but the endless numbers of comments from “pedestrians” in the ST comment section complaining about cyclists and not cars every time there is a article like this. Again, cyclists need to follow the rules but why, as a “pedestrian”, would you be so hateful towards bikes when we are not the ones killing you every single day. The entire cycling community seems to get blamed if one guy accidentally speeds through a crosswalk but when a car runs over an entire family and kills them…well that’s just part of life.

  16. […] As a result, when on a roadway with a speed limit, that limit applies to bicycles. I even found this story on it when I googled. ____________________________Flying Horse Racing Reply With […]

  17. […] To be fair, there are some common-sense rules for bicyclists on the books in Seattle, including lamp and reflector laws for riding at night, keeping left, and the duty to alert a pedestrian ahead of you by sound in order to avoid collision (it’s been my experience that this one is frequently neglected). Seattle does have a helmet law. All municipalities in Washington have the authority to enforce bike laws with fines and penalties, but the only penalties I have found to actually be administered by traffic police are speeding tickets. […]

  18. ken

    In California, is if they follow the law, no license is needed to ride a bike so therefore cannot go on your driving record. So legally cannot be used against you for insurance for a motorized vehicle. Many parts of the law for non motorized vehicles like bicycles is this way. Not saying the law cannot give you a ticket but like I say cannot attach it to your drivers license. I assume many other states also are this way, otherwise everyone riding a bicycle would need a license issued by the state they live, including kids 4 years old, or at what young age someone starts to ride. Licenses are given due to the danger, bikes kill less than 5 people in the usa every year and cars do that in the usa every minute.

  19. pablo

    I can run over the 20mph speed limit so does that mean I can get a ticket? This is beyond stupid.

  20. […] (and be condemned by drivers for) creating and maintaining size-appropriate ID chip technology. Cyclists get ticketed regularly and, considering how much risk bikes pose to the population relative to cars, cyclists […]

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