Same Rules— Same Road — Same Rights | Guest Column

By Sheriff Rob Nou and Joe Cussen

Spring is here and summer is on its way.

As our weather improves, bicyclists will be on our roads enjoying the beautiful vistas that make the San Juan Islands a wonderful destination place. For everyone’s safety, it is important that both bicyclists and motorists show courtesy and respect for each other and abide by the law.

In our state, both bicycles and automobiles, as well trucks, are defined as “vehicles”. According to law, cyclists and motorists have equal rights and responsibilities when operating their vehicles. They are both required to obey all traffic laws and all traffic control devices, such as stop signs.

Using the Revised Code of Washington State [RCW] and the Department of Licensing’s Driver Guide as our reference, what follows are a few of the primary rules for sharing the road:

Responsibilities of bicyclists:

On public roads cyclists may ride in either single file or in pairs and should use hand signals before turning. They must ride as far to the right side of a roadway as is safe and practical, except when turning or passing. Although shoulders and bike lanes maybe safer than roadways, bicyclists are not required to use them, especially if there is debris, such as rocks, glass, branches, etc., in these areas.

It maybe of interest to note that to be designated a bike lane, a riding area must be at least four feet wide, and there are no designated bike lanes in the San Juan Islands.

If a cyclist is traveling on a two-lane roadway where traffic in the opposite direction makes it hazardous for motorists to pass, and five or more motorists are lined up behind, the bicyclist must turn off where there is sufficient area for a safe turnout and allow the motorists to pass.

Responsibilities of motorists:

A motorist passing a bicyclist should allow at least three feet of space. If the driver’s view of oncoming traffic is obstructed due to a crest or a curve, the motorist may not drive to the left side of the roadway in order to pass the cyclist.

If a motorist sees a cyclist approaching in the opposite direction, the motorist may not drive to the left side of the roadway if the width or condition of the roadway puts the cyclist at risk. Motorists should use turn signals so bicyclists are aware of their intentions.

We hope this information is valuable to both bicyclists and motorists. It is in all of our best interests to use common sense and common courtesy in order to keep our roadways as safe as possible for everyone who uses them.

— Joe Cussen is a member of the Bike Paths Group, sponsored by Island Rec and the Island Trails Committee.


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