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Monday, November 5, 2007

Is It Illegal for a Cyclist to Ride in the Middle of the Street?

posted by on November 5 at 8:55 AM

It’s not. So why the fuck are the police accepting it as an excuse for attempting to run over a cyclist?

And riders still are talking about a late-October near miss in Fremont, when a sport utility vehicle driver tried to hit or intimidate a bicyclist. The driver denies that accusation and told police the rider was in the middle of the street.

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I blame the bicycle/lack of light rail.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 5, 2007 9:04 AM

Speaking of illegal bicycle riding, I stumbled across this report, from southern California of someone arrested for "riding a bicycle without a license". WTF?.......

Duran Antonio Brown, 20, of Costa Mesa was arrested on suspicion of riding a bicycle without a license and a bicycle headlamp violation in the 1900 block of Newport Boulevard on Oct. 27.

Maybe by license they mean a registration tag for the bike, but it still sounds pretty creepy to me.

Posted by Paul In SF | November 5, 2007 9:07 AM

Get an engine, bitch.

Posted by heywhatsit | November 5, 2007 9:09 AM

Just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD do something. I frequently see bike riders who are traveling quite a bit slower than other traffic, have room to get over, and won't. That makes them assholes. They may be allowed to be assholes, but assholes they remain, and it's going to piss people off, and no amount of "but it's legal!" is going to change that.

Posted by Brad | November 5, 2007 9:12 AM

Nope. Sorry, Brad. The cyclist has the right to as much of a standard lane as he needs to feel comfortable. Your inconvenience doesn't matter even one tiny little bit.

But note that "middle of the street" is not the same thing as "middle of the lane".

Posted by Fnarf | November 5, 2007 9:16 AM

"Your inconvenience doesn't matter even one tiny little bit."

People that take this attitude in pretty much any realm of life are properly looked upon as insufferable pricks. There's a lot of give-and-take on the roads that's not mandated by law, and the more bike riders take that attitude, the less the rest of the people on the road are going to give and the more they're going to take. Guess who has the most to lose in that equation?

Posted by Brad | November 5, 2007 9:24 AM

Lets just agree that Seattle is full of assholes and end this thread here.

Posted by seattle98104 | November 5, 2007 9:24 AM

it is illegal to delay more than 5 vehicles in washington state

i don't think i've ever seen something like that happen because of a cyclist though - more on account of someone driving too slow

Posted by kinkos | November 5, 2007 9:24 AM

1) The fact that the driver offered that excuse doesn't mean that "the police accepted it", as you say here. I don't see any evidence of that.

2) Why assume the BB shots were specifically an anti-bicyclist hate crime? It seems just as plausible to me that it was just a couple of assholes having fun playing with a BB gun.

Posted by tsm | November 5, 2007 9:28 AM

Brad @ #4:

Just because you think that a cyclist should get over doesn't mean that he or she can safely get over. Pot holes, broken glass in the gutter, lack of visibility, lack of space for a car to safely pass (cyclist's width plus a minimum of three feet for safety), car doors that may suddenly open from the parking lane, these are all things that car drivers are rarely aware of, but can instantly lead to a really bad day for a cyclist.

The interesting bit about a car is that all the hard parts are on the outside, all the soft parts are on the inside, it is easily controlled by slight movements of the hands and feet, yet those who operate them are frequently ragingly indignant when they perceive others cause them to use slightly more movement in their hands and feet to exercise better control of them. God forbid, one would have to slow down for a bit, or steer slightly around someone.

As a more frequent driver than cyclist, I take the tact the bigger you are, the more responsibility you have, not the bigger ass you get to be.

Posted by kueven | November 5, 2007 9:28 AM

Meanwhile, the city of Portland is showing the nation how to be a truly cyclists friendly city and how to promote small business and envioremental friendly practices. They do everything from bike lanes to promoting bike culture. This from today's NYTIMES, complete with video report. Ya'll need to check this out.

Posted by SeMe | November 5, 2007 9:29 AM

That's because drivers in Portland are so stoned they rarely exceed fifteen miles an hour.

Posted by Fnarf | November 5, 2007 9:35 AM

But Brad, even if you're right and bicyclists shouldn't ever ride in the middle of the street regardless of how legal it is . . . how is the proper reaction to try and kill them with your car?

Posted by Levislade | November 5, 2007 9:39 AM

Why can't bike people just ride on the sidewalks? I'm always scared I'm going to run one of them over when I'm driving behind them and they're going 5 mph wobbling up a hill.

Posted by duh | November 5, 2007 9:43 AM

It's the old "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario: drivers piss-and-moan when cyclists pull illegal stunts like running red lights, etc., etc., and THEN piss-and-moan when cyclists stick to the letter of the law by riding in the center of the lane, or at the posted speed limit.

Note to drivers: If you're going to call-out cyclists for not bending or breaking the rules when they're in YOUR favor, you don't get to kvetch about them breaking a rule when it's in THEIRS.

Posted by COMTE | November 5, 2007 9:50 AM

Hmm...I don't really see any evidence that the police accepted the SUV driver's excuse as a legitimate excuse for his behavior. But, as a pedestrian / occasional driver I understand the tension on the part of motorists to some extent, because it's been my observation that a lot of cyclists around here still don't follow the rules of the road.

Case in point, I saw a number of near misses this weekend at the 50th & Brooklyn and 50th & University intersections near my apartment. In all cases, the cyclists blatantly ran red lights.

When motorists see cyclists put themselves in dangerous situations like that, yes it creates tension. There's no excuse for physically intimidating a cyclist, but there's no excuse for ignoring traffic safety laws just because you only have two wheels.

Posted by Hernandez | November 5, 2007 9:51 AM

motorists are just jealous that somebody gets to break a law that they can't. of course, when it comes to passing a bicyclist (which happens, uh, all the time), rarely to motorists follow the rules for passing a vehicle. usually they lane share, or pass without using a turn indicator, don't leave enough space... you name it. and then have to gall to complain because the cyclist was acting legally but annoying them.

Posted by infrequent | November 5, 2007 9:55 AM

Good point @10 about car doors. This is a constant threat to cyclists, and a good reason to ride a ways away from parked cars. People just do not look. And I assume you're joking, Duh @14, about riding on the sidewalks.

Posted by Peter | November 5, 2007 9:58 AM

What about all of the near misses with bikes and pedestrians we never hear about? Bicyclists are so rude..

Posted by Lloyd Cooney | November 5, 2007 10:02 AM

kueven @10

"The interesting bit about a car is that all the hard parts are on the outside, all the soft parts are on the inside, it is easily controlled by slight movements..."

you make the decision of riding in a car or bus vs. bike so easy. why would i want to ride in/on something where all of my soft squishy parts are on the outside? sounds like your asking for trouble. if i were a snail i too would get sick of the slugs bitching....

Posted by cochise. | November 5, 2007 10:03 AM

No Fnarf, the law states that when a bicycle is traveling slower than normal traffic the bikes needs to travel as far to the right as is safe. If there are potholes or cars that may open a door that would allow the bike to be further to the left but if there is no good reason then the biker would be breaking the law. The law does not say the biker can drive anywhere he wants.

Should a car driver do anything about it other than perhaps pointing it out? No

Section 11.44.040 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.

Posted by whatever | November 5, 2007 10:04 AM

I would think it would be easy to agree that no matter what a bicyclist is doing, they do not deserve to get shot or run down. Or is that asking for just a little too much empathy from Slog commentators?

I don't understand the cyclist/motorist stand off. I don't have a bike right now, but I do walk a lot, so sometimes I am a pedestrian, sometimes I'm a driver. When I get a bike, sometimes I will be a cyclist too. We are almost none of us JUST a biker/walker/driver 100% of the time, so how about we think about how we would like the pedestrians/bikers/drivers around us to behave when we are in whichever mode of transit, and behave thusly ourselves.

Again, I think I am asking far too much. But it's a suggestion.

Posted by exelizabeth | November 5, 2007 10:07 AM

The solution is simple: The government should tax the shit out of SUVs and use the money to pay for better bike lanes and better subways (plus the whole less-oil-consumption thing).

Posted by The Gay Recluse | November 5, 2007 10:08 AM

Sounds like everyone on the move in Seattle is rude to my ears, Lloyd. Is it that the town isn't dense enough to create the necessity of cars, bikes and pedestrians working together? Or is this all poor urban planning?

Posted by Boomer in NYC | November 5, 2007 10:08 AM

"That's because drivers in Portland are so stoned they rarely exceed fifteen miles an hour."


come on FNARF, everyone knows we have better weed up here.

Posted by SeMe | November 5, 2007 10:10 AM

Hypothetically, is there some point where we can delcare mixing cars and bicycles a failure? I mean, after a certain number of years trying to nag and browbeat drivers and cyclists into changing their behavior, and after a certain number of cyclists have been killed, could we, in theory, reach a stage where we say "This doesn't work"? That maybe countries that separate bikes from both cars and pedestrians might have the right idea?

If so, how many deaths would it take? One per month? Two? Or what?

Posted by elenchos | November 5, 2007 10:20 AM

DUH @14: "Why can't bike people just ride on the sidewalks?"

Um, Duh, it's a sideWALK not a sideRIDE. In some cities its illegal to bicycle on a sidewalk. The last thing you want to do is mix bicycles with pedestrians! Bicyclists who insist on riding on sidewalks are JERKS.

Posted by Joe DE | November 5, 2007 10:22 AM

fnarf (and others) are right - the story doesn't indicate what the facts of the case were, what "middle of the street" meant, or what the police (or prosecutors) made of that explanation.

Posted by RonK, Seattle | November 5, 2007 10:25 AM

Drivers need to start driving cars like the Puyo Concept car from Japan. (Who knew silicon could be used for other things besides fake boobs?)

Then everyone will be soft on the outside!

Posted by UNPAID BLOGGER | November 5, 2007 10:26 AM

As someone who commutes by hang glider, I can tell you right now that nobody in a car, on a bike, on foot, or in a kayak can grasp the meaning of inconvenience. I can't attempt to land anywhere without people in their cars or on their bikes looking up and shaking their fist at me. I wind up circling over and over again, and I'm usually late for work because of it. One person's road is another person's landing strip - learn to share, people!

Posted by Jeremy | November 5, 2007 10:32 AM

Quick question that is sort of related. When I lived in Chicago it was illegal for bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk, and they mostly didn't. Here bicyclists are all over the sidewalk. Is it legal to be on the sidewalk on a bike in Seattle?

Posted by thaumaturgistguy | November 5, 2007 10:39 AM

Dan: Where do you get that the police are "accepting it as an excuse" from this story? It just isn't there.

I'm going to venture that there's blame on both sides here. But that's not black-and-white enough for Slog commenters. The mouth-breathing, gas-guzzling, Republican, homophobic SUV driver (probably from the suburbs) is automatically at fault.

Posted by bigyaz | November 5, 2007 10:44 AM

Joe DE @27: I'm with you.

I'm an occasionally a motorist, often a pedestrian but usually a cyclist. Nothing drives me insane like the sight of idiot cyclists riding the wrong way down one-way streets, running red lights/stop signs, and RIDING ON THE SIDEWALK - especially without lights after dark.

Riding in the middle of the lane? Sure, it's within my rights but I avoid doing it at all costs. Right or wrong, cyclists who adamantly put themselves in the paths of SUVs are likely to lose the argument.

Posted by saxfanatic | November 5, 2007 10:57 AM

In Seattle riding a bike on the sidewalk is legal. And stupid. It's much safer to take a lane and suffer the slings and arrows of outraged fuckwads.

Posted by DOUG. | November 5, 2007 11:17 AM

@34: are you sure?

There have been cops all over UW lately handing out tickets for sidewalk riding, among other obnoxious things that reek of quota-meeting.

But I'm with you, the sidewalk is no place for a bike, unless it actually is moving at the snail's pace of the rest of sidewalk traffic. Even then it seems silly.

Posted by alodyne | November 5, 2007 11:26 AM

@ 34 & 35

Well whether it is legal or not I agree that bikes should not be on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are made for things with feet, not things with wheels. At the same time though I have lots of sympathy for the bikers. I don't bike in this city because of the lack of lanes and the attitude of drivers and so I don't get mad when someone is riding safely and respectfully on the sidewalk.

What does piss me off is when I'm standing on the corner waiting for the light to change and a biker will almost clip me because they are using the ramp at the corner to get up on the sidewalk...right where I'm standing. That has happened to me so many times, usually in the U district to.

Posted by thaumaturgistguy | November 5, 2007 11:32 AM

End the business subsidy for SUVs.

Yeah, you heard me, they are subsidized.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 5, 2007 11:34 AM

Riding on the sidewalk is DEFINITELY legal in Seattle, but it does have a caveat or two. If cops are ticketing cyclists at UW it could be for a "lack of prudence":

SMC 11.44.120

Riding on sidewalk or public path.

Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic-control devices. Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.

Posted by DOUG. | November 5, 2007 11:55 AM

Well how about in the farmer's market? Is it legal to ride your bike in a farmer's market?

I saw this happen in the *very crowded* U-district farmer's market this past Saturday. Get a clue! (ps. I commute by bike, but I do know to get off the thing when there are peds around).

Posted by Pamela Wrenn | November 5, 2007 12:01 PM

Riding in Vegas was far, far worse. People threw things at you, tried to sideswipe you out of bike lanes, sped up and tried to hit you at intersections.

Not that Seattle doesn't need work on its cyclist/driver relations, but it's actually far, far, far worse elsewhere.

Posted by Gomez | November 5, 2007 12:07 PM

Fnarf, it's either too stoned or that no one ever wants to get anywhere. Serious. If the speed limit is 35, they don't even break 30. Luckily if you tailgate close enough, they get so scared they pull over instead of speeding up.

Posted by PdxRitchie | November 5, 2007 12:12 PM

As a courier downtown I am amazed at how much hate there is towards cyclists. We make up a very, very small percentage of road users and yet we receive the majority of the hate.

And drivers who complain about cyclists breaking laws never admit that they do it too. So when you see people pushing red lights or riding on the sidewalk, maybe it might be wise to stop for a second and think about why they're doing what they're doing. I agree that blowing lights is stupid and retarded. But sometimes sitting at the intersection is much more dangerous than proceeding through. Sometimes a section of a particular street is not safe for riding, when the sidewalk is.

Cyclists who are in the habit of riding a particular route daily know much more about the area than drivers who commute from outside areas.

And now I've got work to do. See you out there!


Posted by moveitbybike | November 5, 2007 12:57 PM
As a courier downtown I am amazed at how much hate there is towards cyclists.

That was sarcasm, right?

Posted by elenchos | November 5, 2007 2:00 PM

I have a lot to say, but what I most want to emphasize is a point from moveitbybike, #43. If you are a driver, and it pisses you off to see a cyclist break a law, try counting the number of times you catch yourself speeding -even by a little bit- in one day. Remember, that's 20mph on the residentials, unless otherwise posted. Oh, signalling at turns and when changing lanes.

Or who stops twice at every stop sign, once before the sidewalk to check for pedestrians, followed by once a few feet further forward to see the traffic? Who even stops their wheels for a full two seconds?

Pedestrians, do you ever jaywalk?

Most people break some kind of traffic law regularly. I am sorry, because I do it myself. Let's...hush.

Posted by oprahwinfrey | November 5, 2007 5:16 PM

@44 - there's a continuum of law-breaking on the road, in the same way that murder and shoplifting aren't the same thing. Going 35 in a 30 isn't comparable to running your vehicle through a red light. Also, I'd never whine about how it's just "too hard" for me to stop at a stop sign in my car - and that, hey, I can see if anyone's coming anyway, so why should I bother?

Posted by tsm | November 5, 2007 8:38 PM

Anyone who drives a car and thinks the SUV driver was justified, should not be allowed to drive a car ever again. You are stupid, selfish, loathsome scum. The lowest of the low.

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