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Ticketed for taking up lane in Washington State

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Ticketed for taking up lane in Washington State

Old 08-28-17, 09:58 AM
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maallyn
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Ticketed for taking up lane in Washington State

Has anyone been ticketed for taking up lane in Washington State and holding up traffic?

I have been told by others when I lived in Oregon that it is okay (and suggested) to take up the entire lane when there is no bike lane and force drivers to move over to the next lane to pass you rather than squeeze past you in the same lane (which can be dangerous).

Now that I am living in Bellingham Washington, I plan to do the same thing. However someone told me they knew of someone who got ticketed for doing that; taking up the lane and holding up cars. It apparently happened on Marine Drive north of Bellingham where it goes over an overpass over the BN railroad tracks.

Have any of you been ticketed for taking up the entire lane and holding up cars behind you? Has it gone to court?

Thanks

Mark Allyn
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Old 08-28-17, 10:09 AM
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There are roads where it is illegal to delay more than five cars. I don't know if that is applicable to all roads, or the specifics of the law, but if you're in traffic and holding up a lot of cars, that might be what triggers the ticket.
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Old 08-28-17, 10:30 AM
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TITLE 31
Motor and Other vehicles
CHAPTER 31-19
Operation of Bicycles
SECTION 31-19-6

§ 31-19-6 Bicycles to right of road.

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction except where official traffic control devices (signs or pavement markings) specifically direct bicyclists to do otherwise.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is a copy of my state. Many states have the same. Not sure about yours. It's not practicable if there is no shoulder, the lane is too narrow for a safe pass, there is trash or sand in the shoulder, etc. There needs to be a reason
to take the lane, and there are many legit reasons, even if there is a narrow section, or parked cars coming up and you need to warn cars in advance. But not if there is a wide, clean, safe shoulder. It would be best if the cops or a judge would understand your reason, but sometimes they don't.
I'm sure there are other legit reasons to take the lane that I did not mention.
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Old 08-28-17, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
TITLE 31
Motor and Other vehicles
CHAPTER 31-19
Operation of Bicycles
SECTION 31-19-6

§ 31-19-6 Bicycles to right of road.

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction except where official traffic control devices (signs or pavement markings) specifically direct bicyclists to do otherwise.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is a copy of my state. Many states have the same. Not sure about yours. It's not practicable if there is no shoulder, the lane is too narrow for a safe pass, there is trash or sand in the shoulder, etc. There needs to be a reason
to take the lane, and there are many legit reasons, even if there is a narrow section, or parked cars coming up and you need to warn cars in advance. But not if there is a wide, clean, safe shoulder. It would be best if the cops or a judge would understand your reason, but sometimes they don't.
I'm sure there are other legit reasons to take the lane that I did not mention.
How about that! Washington State has almost identical language.

RCW 46.61.770
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(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. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.
(2) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

So I guess if you're in the middle of the lane, you can be ticketed.

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Old 08-28-17, 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by jeromeoneil View Post
How about that! Washington State has almost identical language.

RCW 46.61.770
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(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. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.
(2) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

So I guess if you're in the middle of the lane, you can be ticketed.

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Even neighboring towns can have different laws about this. There was a forum member that lived in Boston, and rode into the next town. They had different laws about taking the lane. I don't remember the details.
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Old 08-28-17, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
Even neighboring towns can have different laws about this. There was a forum member that lived in Boston, and rode into the next town. They had different laws about taking the lane. I don't remember the details.
That's state law there, and there is no provision for amendment by local municipalities that I could find (and I just looked.) Generally, cities can pass more restrictive laws, but they can't pass a less ordinances that undo the state's.

YJMV - Your jurisdiction may vary.
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Old 08-28-17, 11:46 AM
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SHARE THE ROAD

Applies to both cars and bikes.

If a car slows down behind me, I can usually facilitate their passing within a few seconds.
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Old 08-28-17, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by jeromeoneil View Post
That's state law there, and there is no provision for amendment by local municipalities that I could find (and I just looked.) Generally, cities can pass more restrictive laws, but they can't pass a less ordinances that undo the state's.

YJMV - Your jurisdiction may vary.
Also MMMV*.

* My Memory May Vary.
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Old 08-28-17, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by jeromeoneil View Post
How about that! Washington State has almost identical language.

RCW 46.61.770
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(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. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.
(2) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

So I guess if you're in the middle of the lane, you can be ticketed.

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And there's the crux of the matter. Many more enlightened states have clarified this particular aspect of FRAP by explicitly exempting cyclists on roadways where the right-most lane is not wide enough for a motor vehicle to safely pass a cyclist while remaining entirely within the lane, a standard that has been generally accepted to be a fourteen-foot wide lane. (Go ahead and do your own arithmetic; you're going to come pretty close to this.) Of course one still has to use pull-outs to facilitate passes where they are provided.

A given cop with extreme windshield perspective may give out a citation and a given judge with the same malady may uphold it. Such miscarriages aren't unheard of, but when the cyclist who has been so cited pushes the issue, the citation is almost universally tossed (some exceptions in Texas and one other backwards state that I can't remember, but in both those cases the cyclists seemed to go out of their way to lose).

Obviously, it's not safe to hug the gutter when that encourages a three-way that involves an unsafe pass. Any holding to the contrary essentially guts the explicit wording of the law regarding riding as far to the right as is SAFE. I've had some looooong conversations with state troopers on a few roadsides about this issue, and have yet to not get them to see that I am being legal, although some of the more obtuse ones don't quite understand that I am also being as safe as is possible. However, even the dense ones acknowledge that someone who has 600,000 miles of riding on the road must know something about staying safe.
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Old 08-29-17, 09:10 AM
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Old 08-29-17, 09:27 AM
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There's a difference between taking the lane to prevent high speed squeeze by passes, and keeping the lane and blocking traffic. It's a judgement call calling for common sense and courtesy.

I have no problem taking a lane and causing cars to move over when traffic is light and it's easy for drivers to do so.

However, when traffic is heavier, once a car has slowed to my speed, I move over and allow a tight same lane pass. Since our speeds are similar, I have no problem with tight spacing. A close low speed pass is no worse than normal conditions in NYC traffic, and safe enough.

IMO the take the lane attitudes of many cyclists is contributing to the anti cyclist sentiment we see in many places. So take the lane when necessary, but share the road whenever possible.
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Old 08-29-17, 11:14 AM
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Here in my Wisconsin city of 50,000 there have been cyclists ticketed for riding in a lane of traffic with cars lined up behind them. "Obstruction of traffic" is what they got ticketed for when there was enough room to the right to safely ride their bike but they chose to take the lane. But I haven't heard of anyone getting a ticket in quite awhile now because the cyclists have got the message and it's rare that it happens anymore.
But I have to commend the cyclists who are brave enough to take the lane and are trusting enough of the drivers behind them that they won't clip them or have a truck with a long mirror on the right side just take them out. A cyclist has to win every one of those close encounters because the first one they lose may well be their last. Then again, if they don't have a mirror on their left side the cyclists may never know it they are about to come road kill.
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Old 08-29-17, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by jeromeoneil View Post
How about that! Washington State has almost identical language.

RCW 46.61.770
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(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. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.
(2) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

So I guess if you're in the middle of the lane, you can be ticketed.

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The critical phrase here is "as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe." It's your right and responsibility as a cyclist to make that judgment. There are certainly times when the center of the lane is as far right as is safe. As others have noted, you may have to go to court to defend your perspective if you're deemed overly diligent in your caution.

In addition to the piece of law you cited, I think you'll likely find that Washington also has a slow moving vehicle law which requires you to pull over and let cars pass whenever possible. In a state like Washington that clause was most likely written with farm machinery in mind, but it applies equally to bicycles.
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Old 08-29-17, 06:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
The critical phrase here is "as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe." It's your right and responsibility as a cyclist to make that judgment.
The thing is, that if it is the judgment of the ticketing cop that you could have just as safely ridden further to the right without taking up the entire lane and still allowing motor vehicles to safely pass you with less difficulty then that will be the justification used to give the citation.
Cyclists who choose to take more of the lane of traffic than they safely need to take do none of the rest of us a favor.
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Old 08-29-17, 06:49 PM
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One problem is that a Smart Car or Fiat 500 can often squeeze by with one wheel on the center line and give a cyclist riding right enough room.

An 8'6" semi truck trying the same pass is too close.

Unfortunately there is no good answer to that problem.
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Old 08-29-17, 09:00 PM
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Common sense and courtesy are the key. Take the lane when you need to, move back over as soon as you can. I've been riding the roads around Seattle for over 40,000 miles and have never been pulled over.
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Old 08-29-17, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by woodway View Post
Common sense and courtesy are the key. ....
Others and I keep repeating the same theme. Unfortunately it's both too simple and too subtle at the same time for many to accept.

Sharing the road is like eating dinner served "family style". Help yourself to as much you want, keeping in mind that the others sitting around you are also hungry.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:23 PM
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Appealing to "common sense" is not exactly going to carry the day. I'll go with Albert Einstein's take on it: "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

In a society dominated by windshield perspective, such prejudices invariably lean towards the convenience of motorists being more important than the safety of other road users. Cross a road in a crosswalk, marked or otherwise, and any motorist who has to apply his or her brakes is likely to curse you out, in spite of clear right of way laws indicating that the motorist must yield. Similarly, take the lane where required and legal for safety reasons, and any motorist who is even temporarily slowed down (even if they will wait at a traffic control device a short distance up the road) will scream bloody murder.

I've watched motorists take ridiculous risks to pass me when I'm on my bike because they were so blinded by rage at my presence on the road that they couldn't see the SUV twenty feet in front of me.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by elocs View Post
But I have to commend the cyclists who are brave enough to take the lane and are trusting enough of the drivers behind them that they won't clip them or have a truck with a long mirror on the right side just take them out. A cyclist has to win every one of those close encounters because the first one they lose may well be their last. Then again, if they don't have a mirror on their left side the cyclists may never know it they are about to come road kill.
You either haven't had many miles in the saddle or you're not very attentive. That gutter you are riding in and allowing yourself to be squeezed into with no escape route is far more dangerous than the middle of the lane, even in this age of motorists playing with their vibrating toys while driving.
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Old 08-29-17, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
Appealing to "common sense" is not exactly going to carry the day. ......
The rest of the post talks about other people's objections, but they don't matter.

I'm not bound by what others may feel. Using "common sense and courtesy", I have a decent idea of what's reasonable in any given situation, and ride accordingly. A few drivers may not be happy, but as we used to say as kids, "they can like it or lump it". As long as I'm satisfied that I've acted fairly and reasonably, their problems are on them.

The state laws, and common law rules of the road are a framework, but ultimately we must use judgement because everything is about the situation.

So, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree, but IMO, it's ALL about common sense and courtesy, rather than specific legal language or rights.


On a side note --- reading this forum over many years, I note that some of the regulars, like myself, rarely have any issues with motorists, while others seem to have an endless stream of negative experiences. I grant that there may be regional differences, but problem motorists are basically randomly distributed. So, I can only conclude that the difference is in the individuals, probably a mix of skin thickness, and overall mental attitude.
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Old 08-30-17, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by woodway View Post
Common sense and courtesy are the key. Take the lane when you need to, move back over as soon as you can. I've been riding the roads around Seattle for over 40,000 miles and have never been pulled over.
Your riding attitude and philosophy would clearly be the reason you have never been pulled over because it's likely any law enforcement officer who observes you can see that respect. But we both know that there are a number of cyclists who are not that way, who are aggressive and assertive in their cycling and who seem to delight in pissing off as many motorists as possible and who would joyfully take the lane with a line of cars behind them honking their horns. We may as well be honest and admit they exist and don't do the rest of us cyclists any favors in the eyes of the motorists who are in vehicles much larger than we are, who outnumber us, who will scream bloody murder about these kind of cyclists and have an empathetic ear with cops who are motorists too.

I am sure I have not ridden 40,000 miles on a bike but I have ridden for nearly 60 years and I have seen bike riders pulled over, particularly now when we have a couple of cops who are on bikes in the good weather.
(Frankly, I can remember as a kid when we had bike court here and was worried about being stopped by a cop for riding double and other infractions.)
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Old 08-30-17, 05:48 AM
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Originally Posted by 2manybikes View Post
Even neighboring towns can have different laws about this. There was a forum member that lived in Boston, and rode into the next town. They had different laws about taking the lane. I don't remember the details.
Originally Posted by jeromeoneil View Post
That's state law there, and there is no provision for amendment by local municipalities that I could find (and I just looked.) Generally, cities can pass more restrictive laws, but they can't pass a less ordinances that undo the state's.

YJMV - Your jurisdiction may vary.
The next towns around Boston are:
  • Brookline
  • Winthrop*
  • Milton
  • Canton
  • Dedham
  • Needham

(* Called the Town of Winthrop even though it is a city.)


None of them have "different laws" about taking the lane.
None of the other cites and towns in the state do either.

We are a FRAP-free state.

-mr. bill

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Old 08-30-17, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by elocs View Post
The thing is, that if it is the judgment of the ticketing cop that you could have just as safely ridden further to the right without taking up the entire lane and still allowing motor vehicles to safely pass you with less difficulty then that will be the justification used to give the citation.
Cyclists who choose to take more of the lane of traffic than they safely need to take do none of the rest of us a favor.
I was just gonna say that. The cop will make the decision, and if you disagree with them, the judge will decide who's right.

I think in general, if you don't ride like ass, you'll be fine.
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Old 08-30-17, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by mr_bill View Post
The next towns around Boston are:
  • Brookline
  • Winthrop*
  • Milton
  • Canton
  • Dedham
  • Needham

(* Called the Town of Winthrop even though it is a city.)


None of them have "different laws" about taking the lane.
None of the other cites and towns in the state do either.

None of 'em are in Washington State, either.
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Old 08-30-17, 10:20 AM
  #25  
ksryder
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Others and I keep repeating the same theme. Unfortunately it's both too simple and too subtle at the same time for many to accept.

Sharing the road is like eating dinner served "family style". Help yourself to as much you want, keeping in mind that the others sitting around you are also hungry.
Hey now that kind of level-headed rationality has no place on BF!
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