Question: A vehicle can get a ticket for driving too slow because they can cause an accident. Is there a rule for a bicycle going too slow because it could cause an accident? Such as a bicycle going 5 to 10 mph on Marine Drive when the speed limit is 40 mph? Should the bicycle pull over when they are holding up more than four vehicles? Also, I think a lot of vehicles don't realize that bicycles can't get all the way over to the right in a bike lane because that is where broken glass settles.
Answer: Washington does not post a minimum speed for roads like you will see in California. You may be cited for impeding traffic in some areas (Highway 20 near Newhalem comes to mind). Most bicycles would not be allowed on a road if they had to constantly do the speed limit. The rule for a bicycle is to ride as near to the right side of the road as is safe to do so. This allows the bicycle rider to move farther into the traffic lane to avoid things like broken glass, gravel, large storm grates, etc.
Most of our roadways make it possible for a driver to pass a bicycle in a safe manner. There are some roads (such as Chuckanut Drive) where getting past a bicycle might be a bit of a challenge. When I have ridden that road, if I find that I am holding up traffic, I will move out of the way to let the cars go past, as soon as I find a safe place to do that. There are some sections of that road where you will just need to enjoy the scenery at a more leisurely pace until you reach an area where the bike can move out of the way, or you can safely go around it.
Q: When I walk my first-grader to school on one of Bellingham's streets with no sidewalk on either side, we walk on the left side facing traffic. On those occasions when he is riding his little bike and I am walking with him, must we then really be on opposite sides of those streets, or may he then also be on the left side facing traffic. I prefer the latter. What's the rule?
A: That is an excellent question that I don't believe has a specific answer in the RCW. If we were to look at the letter of the law I would think you would need to be on opposite sides of the road. Would I suggest that? No. Common sense, at least my version of it, would say that you are walking facing traffic (much better to see the cars coming at you) and your first-grader (soon to be second) is being schooled on how to safely ride their bicycle. My hope is that when you both venture out on your bicycles, that you follow the bicycle rules and ride with traffic and obey all of the traffic laws. This is a great way to educate our young riders on riding responsibly and hopefully keeping them safe on the road.
ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD
Rules of the Road is an online forum with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. To ask a question, use this form.
DAVID WRIGHT is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.