Rules of the Road: Can cars parked on driveways block the sidewalk?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 26, 2014 

Question: Several people in my neighborhood park several cars in their driveway at a time, so one of the cars extends into the sidewalk. Sometimes, the parked car entirely blocks the sidewalk. Is that legal?

Answer: No, it is not legal for a vehicle to be parked so that it obstructs the sidewalk. For those interested, in Bellingham the relevant municipal code section is 11.33.060.

Q: When one is heading south on Woburn Street and reaches the Sunset Drive intersection, the signs indicate that there are three lanes, the right one providing access for cars turning west on Sunset. Frequently, however, cars turning right come up the hill and create a fourth lane to the far right. Are there actually four lanes there or is this illegal? It's scary when turning right from the third lane to find another car is beside you.

A: This is an interesting corner. The right turn lane there is extremely wide so that the large (semi-tractor/trailer) trucks are able to make the turn without going into the oncoming traffic lane.

The answer is complicated. First, it starts with RCW 46.61.290 , Required position and method of turning at intersections. "The driver of a vehicle intending to turn shall do so as follows: (1) Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway."

At this point, the second RCW comes into play: RCW 46.61.115 When overtaking on the right is permitted. "(1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions: (a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; (b) Upon a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle. (2) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.

So the ultimate answer is no, this is not illegal and no, there are not four lanes there. But don't pull up alongside a semi that is going to make the right turn. He needs all of that intersection to do so safely.

ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

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