Rules of the Road: Stop before taking I-5 north from Sunset

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 28, 2013 

Question: When getting on northbound Interstate 5 at Sunset Square, there are three lanes of traffic. The far right lane is a turn-only lane. There is also a stoplight with only two lights that appear to be in effect only for the lanes that are traveling straight. I see most drivers do a rolling stop when turning onto the freeway even when the stoplight is red. Is that stoplight for the turn-only lane, too?

Answer: Yes. The right-turn-only lane from Sunset Drive onto the northbound I-5 access ramp is controlled by the stoplight. In years past, there had been a "Yield" sign for that lane. That has been removed, and it is now controlled by the traffic signal. If it is red, you must stop before taking the right turn.

Q: I was driving north on Woburn Avenue and intended to turn right at Barkley Boulevard. I had a green light, but a pedestrian was crossing, so I pulled up slightly into the intersection and waited for him to reach the sidewalk. My turn signal was on, and my car was tilted slightly to the right, anticipating the turn I was about to make. The pedestrian reached the sidewalk and I began to move. Suddenly, from behind me, a cyclist came barreling up. He crossed right through my path, never looking around, and went whizzing through the intersection and up Woburn. The pedestrian and I were both startled, and I had to stop short to avoid hitting the cyclist, thus also startling the drivers behind me.

Shouldn't the cyclist have noticed that my car was about to turn and should have stopped and waited until it was safe for him to bike through the intersection? Or am I responsible to check for cyclists behind me whenever I want to make a turn?

A: You don't tell me where the bicycle was at to begin with. As you describe the situation, yes, the bicycle rider should have seen your turn signal, should have seen the pedestrian that you were waiting for and should not have passed on your right. The addition I would say is if you are driving up a street and pass a bicycle shortly before you wish to turn into a cross street or driveway, then you need to make sure you can safely turn without interfering with the bicycle.

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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.

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