Here’s an odd press release I got late Friday: King County will spend a stunning $140,000 to police the trail system this summer.
Now, of course people should be safe and follow the rules when using trails. And some police presence every once in a while is understandable as a way to remind people to obey the rules. But of all the traffic dangers in King County, the trail system is simply not a serious problem in need of a high-budget sting.
Just yesterday, not far from the Burke-Gilman Trail, neighbors in Kenmore marched through the rain to protest a rash of people walking and biking in their city who have been killed by people driving cars. At least three people have been killed in less than a year in Kenmore alone.
If the county wants to focus on the very real and serious problem of traffic injuries and deaths within its borders, they’re not going to find the core problems on the trail system.
That said, if the county really wants to enforce the rules, they need to focus on issues that actually affect comfort and safety on the trail: People biking and driving who don’t yield at trail crossings, people biking and driving who completely blow through red lights and people biking far too fast and passing too close in crowded sections. Unfortunately, trail stings often focus on less important issues.
For example, last summer we received several reports of police pulling over people in Kenmore who entered the trail crosswalks after the walk signal hand started blinking (but the traffic light was still green). Technically, it is illegal to enter a crosswalk once the hand starts blinking, and the law does not include an exception for people on bikes.
But on a bike, this is a ridiculous rule that nobody follows because there is no safety advantage to stopping and waiting an excess length at a light timed for walking speed, not biking speed (it might even be more dangerous, since nobody behind you will be expecting you to stop while the traffic light is still green). Nearly everyone who bikes treats the walk signal like a regular traffic signal: Solid hand means stop, and so long as you are more than halfway across when the light turns red, you’re good. This is perfectly safe.
So will King County’s big trail patrol budget make the trails safer? I hope so, but that depends on what kinds of violations they focus on. Is a big trail patrol the most effective way to decrease traffic injuries and deaths in King County? No way.
From King County Parks:
King County Parks and the King County Sheriff’s Office are joining forces to ensure the continued safety of all visitors to the County’s regional trail system and various parks sites during the busy summertime months.
Sheriff’s deputies are now patrolling stretches of regional trails including the Burke-Gilman, Sammamish River and Cedar River trails, and parks such as Big Finn Hill, Five Mile Lake, Lakewood, Skyway and others to provide parks patrons with information about proper conduct, including posted speed limits, leash laws and other rules that are intended to keep everyone safe.
“Trail use is at its highest during the sunny days of spring and summer, and now is the right time to remind everyone about the basic rules of conduct,” said King County Parks Director Kevin Brown.
Deputies are patrolling the sites to inform patrons on parks rules and regulations and also issue either a warning or fine for observed violations. Some of the most frequent observed violations include cyclists and other wheeled trail users greatly exceeding the trail system’s 15 mph speed limit, failure to follow pet leash laws that lead to accidents, and alcohol use.
Sheriff’s deputies will also be distributing copies of the trails code of conduct code of conduct, which is also posted at locations along trails.
The enhanced enforcement effort will continue along selected portions of the parks system through the Labor Day weekend. The cost of this safety program is estimated at about $140,000 and is funded through the King County Parks budget. This effort dedicates approximately 1,500 hours of patrolling and park patron interaction from April through October, with additional contingency hours to address concerns in the winter months. Deputies also work closely with park employees to help parks and trails patrons enjoy their visit.
The King County Regional Trail system is a network of approximately 175 miles of multi-use trails that is used by bicyclists, pedestrians, runners, skaters, equestrians and others. Regional trails are popular for recreational use and for commuting.
I think this would make a good editorial for the Seattle Times
I welcome more police presence on the Burke and Sam. River Trails if their presence will curtail the spandex-clad-weekend-warriors “training” during busy weekends, impatiently yelling ‘ON YOUR LEFT!!!’, scaring kids just learning to ride and folks out for a pleasant ride or stroll.
The trail is not your personal race-track. If you want to crank 15-20+ mph – while making a face more akin to ascending a ‘Tour mountain-stage – do it on an effing road! Stop perpetuating the stigma that cyclists are a bunch of selfish, reckless d-bags. (Sadly, that’s exactly what you are if you’re frequently cranking 20+ on the trail.)
Sadly I have to agree with you. I just hope that the police know the difference between a busy trail like the BG and a mostly vacant trail like the South Interurban Trail where it is quite safe to go 20 mph.
I’m not sure how mass generalization will help the situation.
The BGT is pretty much the only safe and convenient (and flat) East – West route for cyclists of all abilities to get out of the city and therefor attracts quite a few weekend riders (some of whom are spandex clad).
A better solution than kicking people off the trail and onto the streets would be to address the fact that demand has now exceeded capacity on the trial.
For the cost of upgrading a single highway intersection, the city could probably install a parallel trail for pedestrians and children on most of the BGT. Cyclists going anywhere from 10-25mph should be able to easily share a facility by simply staying to your right and letting people know when you are passing on the left.
It’s not rocket science.
> … address the fact that demand has now exceeded capacity on the
> trail. For the cost of upgrading a single highway intersection …
Hear hear! To start with, how about some flex lanes that can be converted to cycle tracks on days with high demand (i.e. nice weather). For that matter, when are we getting a Ciclovia in Seattle? They are so much fun, but also important because they really invite people to reconsider the way that street space is used.
@JB: Seattle’s traffic is, in general, lighter in the winter anyway, so if you can convert a lane during the summer you can probably convert it during the winter, too.
I think we really need better support for cycling in the dark and rainy times of year, because there are some things we really can do to make it better. We need to complete our network of low-stress bike routes. And we need to really improve lighting conditions. That includes understanding outside light sources, typically oncoming cars, buildings, parking lots, and waterways, and providing useful lighting so people affected by these overwhelmingly bright distant lights aren’t blinded to things directly in front of them. Sidewalk and trail lighting is unusually important here because of how much darkness and rain we get, yet we do it unusually poorly.
You mention a parallel trail for pedestrians and children… while I like this idea, the Elliot Bay trail is a clear example that it doesn’t work. I often see peds on the side painted with a bike, including (most recently) a double-wide stroller mom on a cell phone walking right down the middle of the cycle side, completely ignoring my “on your left”. I am curious if anyone thinks there is a way to convince peds to stay on the walking part of that trail.
Also, I think spending $140,000 on patrol is embarrassing, especially considering what someone else mentioned in this thread about lights. Having lived in Seattle only 2ish years now, I’m astounded at how little lighting the trails have at night, especially highly traveled parts of the BGT between the U-District and Fremont.
UW seems to think the answer is different types of surfaces…
The Burke Gilman ain’t the place to teach your kids how to ride.
If transportation agencies want people to use bikes as an alternative to cars, then limiting bikes to walking speeds is silly.
Wait, what? The Burke Gilman is the IDEAL location to teach your kids how to ride.
What you seem to be saying is that you want to bike on the Burke for transportation because it’s safe (as opposed to biking on the unsafe roads and sidewalks), but kids who are learning to ride should instead use those unsafe roads and sidewalks. Is that right? Or maybe you’re saying that they should instead learn to ride in a park, doing little loops over and over. Because that’s totally the way you learned to ride, right? You went from doing donuts alone for 20 mins to biking 10 miles on your 20″ Huffy?
If you want to argue that the roads should be made safer for transportational biking, I’m totally with you. Or that the Burke and other trails should be maintained with transportational biking in mind, definitely. But keeping kids from learning to ride on multi-use paths (maintained with Parks funds, btw, not transportation agencies) is the wrong argument to be making.
I think the key word is “teach”. The BGT is probably not a good place to teach a beginner how to balance, turn, brake, etc. But, once a kid can go reliably, it’s a great place to ride.
On the other hand, the King County rules posted earlier state that people shouldn’t ride side by side. This would apply to kids and parents as well as any riders. So, with that in mind, kids should stay to the right and learn to be wary of riders passing at higher speeds at any moment. This will help a kid to learn about traffic and be a safer rider when taking to the streets.
Again, where do you suppose they should learn to turn, brake, keep to the right, not panic when being passed, etc? People don’t learn linearly. You don’t say, “ok, I’ve mastered the art of balancing, now I’m going to learn to brake.” Instead, you get Good Enough at balancing, and braking, and turning around in a park, and then you go on the Burke. You’re still pretty darned wobbly.
How did you learn to drive? Did you do donuts in a parking lot, and then you were an expert? No, you can only learn so much in the parking lot. You really learned to drive while actually interacting with lots of other cars on the street and highway, making lots of stupid (dangerous) mistakes all the while.
I know it’s annoying to be biking along and have to slow down because a 4 year old is weaving back and forth across the trail. But they have just as much right to be there as you do. If anything, that should make you push harder for alternatives to the Burke – Greenways (shameless plug), protected bike lanes, etc.
If their patrolling leads to less pot smoking on trails it would be appreciated.
Because THAT is the real problem.
Not saying it is THE problem. But if alcohol use in on the list they might as well add pot too. I imagine a more visible presence will reduce this anyways.
“Some of the most frequent observed violations include cyclists and other wheeled trail users greatly exceeding the trail system’s 15 mph speed limit, failure to follow pet leash laws that lead to accidents, and alcohol use.”
Maybe this was pitched by the officers themselves? “Man, I hate summer traffic duty. How can we convince the boss to let us ride bikes all summer on bike trails?”
You know that was my first thought as well. Then I saw that they would enforce the leash laws and I was hoping that it would curtail that massive number of illegal dog walkers…
Then I remembered we had a shooting over on the BG trail and I was thinking they would be out in force to reduce the number of gang bangers shooting up the tourists on the trails…
But now I read that they are out to enforce the 15mph. Well good thing I can’t actually ride that fast unless it’s downhill and with the wind. Thanks to using GPS I now know that all those speed readings I did using a bike computer were 100% bogus and that it’s actually very hard to ride faster than 15mph. But since bicycles aren’t required to have a speedometer, I don’t see how they can enforce this. Anyone with a good lawyer would beat that rap.
Unless your bike computer is very poorly calibrated it’s almost certainly more accurate than the GPS, especially for instantaneous measurements.
Re: Bike Computer vs GPS.
Well the GPS agrees with those radar speed signs, and when I use it in my car, GPS agrees with the car speedometer. They are pretty good these days. (even if a huge power suck on my phone.)
Sooner or later we are going to need broad reform of traffic rules to better address the unique operating characteristics of bicycles. “Bicycles are vehicles and must follow the rules of the road” was a handy little shortcut that worked well enough at a mode share of 0.5%; but as cycling traffic grows heavier, lawmakers and traffic regulators will need to take a serious look at a comprehensive set of regulations that respond more realistically to the smaller size, greater maneuverability, unobstructed sight lines, slower speeds, etc etc etc. Spending this kind of money to enforce a broadly inadequate set of laws is pretty short-sighted IMO.
By the way, Rule #1 should probably be that bikes must carry bells on any sidewalk or trail.
Bells used to work, but now with everyone wearing earbuds and walking to talking, or their music, you really need an airhorn if you want their attention.
Yes bells are nicer but mine no longer commands any response.
Yes, earbuds … but a big part of the problem is that people just aren’t conditioned to pay attention to bells, however that will change if more cyclists start using them. Anyway, they can hardly blame you for yelling if they ignore your pleasant little jingle.
For the record, there is no mandatory bell law in Seattle/Washington (some places have them, like Vancouver BC, I think). But if you don’t have a bell, law says you have to use your voice when passing. On a busy trail, that can get rather tiring. My advice is: Get a bell. It’s way easier.
The polite bell is good for most trail interactions, but the $5 bulb squeeze airhorn gets the job done when more sound is needed. I find I have to run both on my commuter. Yelling gets tiresome fast….
Thank you, well put.
BTW, if my calculations are anywhere near correct, it seems like it’s 8 cops on the weekend, and since they travel in pairs, 4 patrols. That’s not a lot of coverage for all of the trail system. If you actually see a patrol you’ll be pretty lucky. (or not..)
$40K avg salary per officer * 2x for fully burdened cost (includes insurance/pension/vacation etc.) = $80K per. officer
50 week work year * 5 days a week * 8hrs per day = 2000 hrs. for your $80K
Patrol only needed for 6 months and on weekends = 25 weeks * 2 days per week * 8hrs = 400hrs of patrolling needed.
$140K/$80k = 1.75 person years of work * 2000hrs = 3500hrs of work.
3500hrs/400hrs per officer = 8.75 people… assume some transit time and we get 8 officers working the weekend. Or 4 patrols.
According to the County Auditor’s Office 2011 performance audit, the average salary and benefits cost of a county sheriff’s officer is about $130,000. So really, this is barely over 1 FTE patrolling the trails.
If they patrol just on the weekends then it gives me 6 people for two 8hr days for 20 weekends. Or 3 patrols for all of the trails.
Again, I doubt you’ll see these guys at all.
Is there really a 15 mph speed limit on the Burke-Gilman trail? It is used by a lot of commuters who exceed that number. I know I am still somewhat young and fit but does that mean I have to only ride on roads? I can’t keep up with 30 mph cars out there and trying can be quite uncomfortable and dangerous.
I have seen the 15 mph signs where the trail was recently upgraded but not elsewhere.
Much more dangerous than I am when I pass folks on the b-g. I know there are many slower riders and I slow down for them and give ample warning. Does this make me a bad rider? Your thoughts/feedback are welcome.
As a follow-up: Will people on bikes be given the same 5-10 mph leeway given to people in cars? If so, then the 15 mph limit will be no big deal (there’s no reason to hit 25 on a trail, especially if other people are around). But if they pull over people for 16, or 18, that’s not particularly helpful.
I also wonder if they’ll be enforcing their stupid, stupid helmet laws.
There isn’t quite a 15mph speed limit. There’s a rather dense paragraph in the King County Trail Use Regulations, 7.12.295, that says:
“No person shall travel on a trail at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with others who are complying with the law and using reasonable care. Travel at speeds in excess of 15 miles per hour shall constitute in evidence a prima facie presumption that the person violated this section.”
I am not a lawyer, but a prima facie presumption isn’t the same as a bright-line speed limit law. Still, I imagine most people find it less expensive to pay the fine than hire a lawyer, and it’s not a moving violation….
Thanks Josh, now if the coast is clear for a quarter-mile I will feel confident that I have a defense against possible reckless riding charges.
Trail etiquette is a tough issue. On a busy trail, if you yell “on your left” around casual trail users who are walking or infrequently riding, they become paralyzed with fear, and often will move into you, rather than away from you. On a trail, slow the heck down. If you are interested in being fast. get on the road.
But what of the trail sections when I see nobody ahead of me or behind me for a quarter mile? That is most of the trail most of the time. (Not Fremont to the U).
So when I used to ride the BG, I did sprints between groups of slow walkers. Pass the walker at 5mph, and sprint to the next group.
My non-scientific findings suggest that I get better results from using a bell than saying, “On your left.” One reason is simple: Not everyone on the trail speaks English.
The bell is the universal sound for: There’s a bike here, and it’s probably going a little faster than you.
And use the bell or horn well in advance, not at the instant of passing. Giving advance notice helps take out a lot of the unpredictable behaviour.
“On your left” has many drawbacks, besides all the people who don’t speak English.
You’re not in the middle of a conversation with someone when you’re about to pass them. They aren’t listening for your words, they’ll almost certainly miss the first few seconds of what you say.
If the first word they actually hear is “left,” as likely as not, they’ll do exactly what you asked and step to their left.
If you don’t want to add a bell or a horn, you need to squeeze at least three syllables into “on” so they’ve started hearing you before you get to “your left.”
But a bell is still more reliable.
I think we’ll have to see how it plays out. If cyclists who are being rude or being directly dangerous to others are getting cited, that’s probably good. If peds are getting cited for being oblivious, that’s probably good, too.
If riders start getting tickets for going over 15 when it’s safe to do so on the BGT and other bike ways, then take to the streets. That will slow down auto traffic, but you have to ride where you fit.
This is classic victim blaming behavior, and car centric to boot!
Problem: darn peds and cyclists keep getting themselves killed by cars near trails.
Solution, make and enforce rules to keep them from using trails “recklessly” so the cars don’t have to look for or murder them.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so stupid and sad. Also, I love all the infighting in the comments here so far, STUPID SPANDEX! USE A BELL!
If the patrols focus on keeping all pedestrians on the right side of the trail and keeping dogs on a leash, and a short leash at that, I would welcome them. A bicycle driver can ride quite fast on the trails, and still be safe, by giving ample advance warning of passing, and slowing down in congested areas. I find the greatest safety hazard on the trails are the pedestrians that use whichever side of the trail they feel like, the dog owners that let their dog wander on a long leash, and the bicycle drivers that don’t give an audible signal when preparing to pass.
While they’re at it, they should probably spend a lot of time enforcing the faint striping on the BGT near Gasworks Park that indicates pedestrians on the right and cyclists on the left for a couple of blocks. Following rules is important and worth spending money on, even if paint is not.
This. That is part of my commute home, but now I turn right onto that street right before that blind curve because I was tired of not knowing what I would encounter. Some people follow the very faint paint, but some don’t. Does anyone know the logic behind switching up the general “stay to the right, pass on the left” for all traffic? I understand the separate areas around Greenlake (though they are not always followed) but I just can’t figure out what the purpose of switching it up around blind curves would be.
No idea why the paint suggests that, but the law does not – King County Code specifies all users keep right except passing/turning:
1. USING A TRAIL. Every person using a trail shall stay as near to the right side of the trail as is safe, excepting those movements necessary to prepare to make or make turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another user moving in the same direction.
Legacy paint from a different era. It has been that way for 20 years, at least.
How much would it cost the city to power wash the paint off and install a sign that says “All users keep right”? I know at least one person who crashed on a bike trying to avoid a pedestrian in all black on the wrong side at night… he didn’t see her until he came around the curve and did a crazy somersault that luckily just bent his frame and not his body. It doesn’t really make any sense to have the trail switch back and forth from all users right to peds right/bikes left.
(Ignoring the obvious elephant in the room of the unbelievably disproportionate level of traffic violence caused by people in cars needing far more attention by the powers that be).. Send them to alki where there actually is a problem with behavior during summer months that has needed to be addressed by increased police patrols for years now.
so remember to put your beer in an inconspicuous brown paper bag.
Like Tom, I’d rather see scarce enforcement be spent where the actual danger comes from (cars). But if they’re going to ticket, please consider some of the following who I see regularly:
* The elderly couple who insist on walking in the middle of the trail ~8:00 AM every day, spreading out, and providing no space for bicyclists to pass them on either side. They don’t move when you ring a bell. They seem to take pride in trying to dominate the space and prevent cyclists from safe passage. One day I am afraid they will be hit by someone – and they’ll probably deserve it.
* The annoying young woman on the SRT who rollerblades in the middle of the trail, providing no space to pass, and can’t hear your bell because she’s wearing earbuds and isn’t listening.
* All the jerks who ride side-by-side at high speeds when the trail is too narrow to accommodate them. I appreciate the shared need to be social and communicate – but they seem to be presuming that people like me to run off the road to accommodate their trying to do something that the Burke just doesn’t fit at its current capacity.
* Every douche cyclist who can’t slow down from 20 mph to 10 mph when that would let a pedestrian pass by safely, rather ramming their way through dense traffic without adequate passing distance. If you want to injure yourself with your hobby, go for it, but putting other people at risk is a real asshole thing to do.
These are the reasons why I do Interurban or the Puyallup -> South Prarie trail on weekends.
That felt good. I will wake up at 5:00 AM again to try to get on the Burke early enough to avoid these people as much as possible.
What insanity! When cops do not ticket cars parked in bike paths/trails (Dexter, and 2nd Ave this is a daily dangerous occurrence), cars making illegal right turns, cars driving on sidewalks, running red lights…
We need that budget to protect cyclists not harass us.
How much of this is going to the enforcement of unreasonable speed limits required by the Lake Forest Park BGT settlement?
Since the speed limit question came up and the answer is in King County Trail Use code, figured people might want to know all the rules the officers might be enforcing.
No idea how picky they’re going to be, but another very common violation, 7.12.295 (E) prohibits all motorized vehicles, which includes e-bikes and electric-assist bicycles.
7.12.295 Trail use.
A. No person shall travel on a trail at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event, speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with others who are complying with the law and using reasonable care. Travel at speeds in excess of 15 miles per hour shall constitute in evidence a prima facie presumption that the person violated this section.
B. No person shall travel on a trail in a negligent manner. For the purposes of this section “travel on a trail in a negligent manner” shall be construed to mean any form of travel on a trail in such a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any persons or property.
C. For the purposes of this section “travel” shall be construed to include all forms of movement or transportation on a trail, including but not limited to foot, bicycle, horse, skateboard, and roller skates.
D. Every person traveling on a trail shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto placed in accordance with applicable laws unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
E. No motorized vehicles shall be allowed on King County trails. For the purposes of this section “motorized vehicles” means any form of transportation powered by an internal combustion or electric motor. This includes but is not limited to automobiles, golf carts, mopeds, motor scooters, and motorcycles. This section shall not apply to wheelchairs powered by electric motors, or authorized maintenance, police or emergency vehicles.
F. Regional trails, local trail corridors, and paved pathways are open to all non-motorized users unless otherwise designated and posted. Pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians are permitted on all maintained soft surface trails unless otherwise posted and designated. Trail restrictions may be posted at park entrances, trailheads or, in some cases, on individual trails. Trail use designations will be based on the park master plan, resource conservation, trail user conflicts, maintenance issues, and safety hazards.
G. Every person who shall use or travel on a trail shall obey the Model Trail User Code of Conduct.
H. Model Trail User Code of Conduct
1. USING A TRAIL. Every person using a trail shall stay as near to the right side of the trail as is safe, excepting those movements necessary to prepare to make or make turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another user moving in the same direction.
2. REGARD FOR OTHER TRAIL USERS. Every user shall exercise due care and caution to avoid colliding with any other trail user. All users shall travel in a consistent and predictable manner.
3. GROUPS ON TRAIL. No group of trail users, including their animal(s), shall occupy more than one half of the trail as measured from the right side, so as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of trail users.
4. AUDIBLE SIGNAL WHEN PASSING. Every user shall give an audible warning signal before passing another trail user. The signal must be produced in such a manner as to allow adequate time for response. The signal may be given by voice, bell or horn.
5. OVERTAKING TRAIL USERS ON THE LEFT. Any trail user overtaking another trail user proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of such overtaken user at a safe distance, and shall stay to the left until safely clear of the overtaken user.
6. ENTERING AND CROSSING TRAIL. Trail users entering or crossing the trail at uncontrolled points shall yield to traffic on the trail.
7. LIGHTS ON TRAIL USERS. All bicyclists using the trail from one half hour before sunset to one half hour before sunrise shall equip their bicycles with a headlight visible 500 feet to the front, and a red or amber light visible 500 feet to the rear.
8. REGARD FOR EQUESTRIAN USERS ON TRAIL. Trail users shall exercise extreme caution to prevent frightening horses with sudden noise or movement and shall always yield right of way to horses and warn equestrian users when approaching from behind and attempting to pass.
9. REGARD FOR ADJACENT PROPERTY OWNERS. Trail users should respect private lands adjacent to county trails and should stay on trails to avoid trespassing on or interfering with adjacent private property. (Ord. 12003 § 8, 1995: Ord. 8518 § 1, 1988).