Q: Is it legal for a bicyclist to go to the front of a line-up of cars at a stoplight, especially if many of those cars passed that bicyclist earlier? — Chip M., University Place.
A: Chip, in his missive to Traffic Q&A headquarters, seemed to have safety on his mind.
If the answer is yes, he reasoned, all those cars that crawled past said bicyclist would have to do so again.
Chip also wondered whether there were any preemptive actions he might take to prevent such a situation from arising.
“Is it legal to hug the curb in your vehicle, so the bicyclist cannot overtake you at the light?” he wrote.
We put Chip’s questions to Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.
“Bicyclists are required to follow all rules of the road, same as a motor vehicle, which means they cannot pass on the right. Officers have the discretion of writing a traffic infraction to the bicyclist.”
RCW 46.61.755 confirms Cool’s contention that bikes are vehicles, and other laws state that passing on the right generally is prohibited.
But some two-wheeler advocacy groups, including Washington Bikes, disagree that it’s always wrong for a bike to pass a car on the right.
That group reports on its website that, “It’s OK to pass cars on the right if it is safe and there’s space for bicycle traffic.”
It points to RCW 46.61.115, “When overtaking on the right is permitted,” which states, in part, that doing so is permitted “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.”
Hmmm, a toss-up, in our view.
Cool then addressed the “hugging” question.
“If you are still within the lane of travel, you are fine,” she said. “If you travel outside the lane of travel, you are not and can be cited.”
After addressing the letter of the law, Cool expounded a bit on the spirit of it.
“The object should be to share the road,” she said. “Since ‘sharing the road’ is not adhered to, cities are designating bicycle lanes. That means vehicles are losing a lane of travel and parking in the bicycle lanes becomes an issue.”
On she pedaled:
“The question should be: Does it really take that much time to be considerate to a bicyclist and pass when it is clear? Because in most instances, even at stop lights where they ‘catch up,’ does it really take too much to pass them again?”
Cool concluded thusly:
“Let’s all try to be patient, so that there does not have to be designated bike lanes on every roadway.”
While an argument can be made that adding bike lanes to every roadway is a good idea, we agree that exercising patience while behind the wheel, or at the handlebars, is in fact a worthy exercise.
More bike-inspired fodder
Q: Is it illegal to turn left across a double-yellow line and into a private driveway? Kim K., Tacoma
A: Kim asked because she recently had some trouble on her way to visit her uncle, who lives on North Vassault Street in Tacoma.
Vassault has a double yellow down the middle near her uncle’s house, she said.
“As I approached his driveway to turn left into it, a bicyclist was coming toward me, and, as I waited for him to pass (my window was cracked a bit), I plainly heard him say repeatedly, ‘Double yellow, double yellow,’” Kim explained.
“I never once thought I was doing anything wrong crossing the double yellow to pull into a driveway.”
She went on:
“So now I'm looking for an official answer. Am I breaking the law? Will I need to drive an extra half mile around the block to make sure I can make a right into the driveway?”
The short answer is no.
RCW 46.61.130, titled, “No-passing zones,” is on point.
That law prohibits “passing or driving to the left of the roadway” where signs or pavement striping (read: double yellow) designate a no-passing zone.
Subsection (3), though, spells out that the law does not apply to a vehicle turning left “into or from an alley, private road or driveway.”
You’re in the clear, Kim, and a good niece to boot.