Question: When going west on Ohio Street to the freeway, there is a sign that says "freeway entrance only." Some people, after seeing this sign, are turning left into the Shell parking lot to cut across to King Street. I feel that this practice is a traffic hazard as I almost rear-end them when they stop abruptly to make their left turn. Sometimes the drivers enter the oncoming turn lane going the wrong way to make their left turn, and I feel this is a hazard, too.
Answer: Not only are these both traffic hazards, they are illegal movements. I know that both Bellingham police and the Washington State Patrol have made numerous stops for these violations. The intersection is now very well marked, and those that make the illegal movements may anticipate a ticket for the violation.
Q: Does traffic have to stop for a pedestrian wanting to cross a street on a corner that does not have a crosswalk or a light? For example, on Alabama Street along the four-lane section a person was standing waiting to cross, but with four lanes of traffic in that section I was not sure what the policy would be.
A: State law considers all intersections a crosswalk, marked or not. Yes, traffic is legally required to stop for a pedestrian waiting to cross the street or crossing the street if they are within one-half lane width of the vehicle's side of the road. On Alabama, that would mean that if you were eastbound and the pedestrian was crossing the street from the westbound side of the road, you would need to stop when they were halfway across the westbound lanes.
Q: Not totally a traffic law question but the right lane on the highway has grooves cut a few feet apart in three lines on each side, basically where the tires of a car ride. Those grooves are a true annoyance to a motorcycle rider who doesn't want to use the middle of the lane because of all the oil and grease. So the preference becomes riding in the left lane. But the law says stay right unless passing. As long as we are not holding up traffic, is it OK to ride in the left lane to avoid the rough right lane? And do you know why those grooves are there and why they are only in the right lane?
A: The RCW doesn't make an exception for rough lanes. The grooves in the freeway right lane are called "dowel bars," according to my friend at the Washington State Department of Transportation. Basically the bars help hold together the concrete panels in areas where there is heavy wear and tear on the roadway. More information about them can be found at wsdot.wa.gov/Contact/Ask/FAQarchive.htm#MiscDowelBars.
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DAVID WRIGHT is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.