Bicyclists in Seattle must follow the same road rules as motorists

Joe Adamson of Seattle says he's tired of tangling with bicycles on Lake Washington Boulevard.

"Bicycles have to stop at all posted stop signs, correct? The reason I ask is that every day I nearly get into an accident with cyclists who do not stop at the stop sign at Lake Washington Boulevard and the Highway 520 offramp. Is there something special about Lake Washington Boulevard that exempts bicyclists? I know that the road is also a bike path but thought that they still needed to obey posted traffic signs."

Liz Rankin, with the Seattle Transportation Department, says cyclists must follow the same rules as motorists, under the Seattle Traffic Code.

"In other words," Rankin said, "bicyclists must stop just like any other vehicle. And Seattle police do issue citations to cyclists."

Given that, she said, there are no special rules for cyclists on Lake Washington Boulevard, and the Seattle Transportation Department does not install special stop-sign messages directed specifically at bicyclists.

Contacting the Seattle Police Department to request increased enforcement at this particular location would be a good idea, Rankin said.

Seattle resident Brian Beck posed this question for which there's no easy answer:

"I daily drive up and down I-5 from 145th Street to downtown. It seems to me that something needs to be done to maintain four lanes southbound on I-5 between the 85th/Aurora exit and the 65th Street on-ramp. The freeway inexplicably goes from four lanes to three with a long exit lane between Northgate and 85th/Aurora, then to three lanes, then suddenly back to four lanes again.

"Having looked pretty closely at this problem as I have many, many times been stuck in it, I've noticed that a minimal amount of 'surgery' would be needed to correct the problem."

Beck suggests that on the west side of the southbound lanes, one bridge support would have to be moved and a retaining wall would also have to be moved or repositioned.

"There's plenty of 'right-of-way' access for the minimal widening it would require," said Beck, adding that he didn't know what it might cost.

"In short, with all of the large-ticket items that are calling for the public dollar to lessen the traffic woes in Seattle, it seems like there's one possibility that I never hear mentioned for traffic-congestion relief," Beck added.

Stan Suchan, with the state Department of Transportation, agrees that Northeast 85th Street is a choke point on Interstate 5, but more than minimal surgery would be required to safely construct the solution Beck suggests.

"We would need to rebuild the 85th Street I-5 overpass and construct a large retaining wall. This would likely cost tens of millions of dollars and wouldn't solve the congestion problem. It'd simply push the congestion 10 blocks south, where traffic enters I-5 from Lake City Way, Green Lake/Ravenna and the University District," Suchan said.

However, he added, the state is working to develop solutions for this heavily traveled stretch of I-5.

How did we get to this point? Southbound I-5 was designed to include three lanes, Suchan said, but to accommodate growing traffic, the transportation department added a fourth lane where it could.

The transportation funding recently approved by the Legislature authorized $10 million to study I-5 from Northgate to the Boeing Access Road, and the state now is gathering data.

Express-lane query

Speaking of freeways, another Seattle reader asks: On I-5 southbound through downtown where the end of the express lanes merge with the HOV lane, who has the right of way?

It all comes down to courtesy and common sense, say state traffic officials.

"At this location on southbound I-5, much of the through traffic on the express lanes must move right while car pools, van pools and buses are moving left to get into the high-occupancy-vehicle lane," Suchan said.

"A stretch of highway is open to all traffic to allow drivers to merge into the correct lane before the high-occupancy-vehicle lane begins.

"Dictating right-of-way for one type of merging traffic over another hampers traffic flow and gives a false sense of security to one group of drivers or another," he said. That's why the state decided not to put up any right-of-way signs.

Thus, areas where traffic merges are open to all and rely upon driver courtesy and common sense.

Bumper crop

Starbucks is mobilizing volunteers next weekend to clean up sections of the Burke-Gilman and Sammamish River bicycle trail. Ten projects are scheduled along the popular trail, from Fremont to Willows Creek in Redmond.

The cleanup, involving such jobs as preparing planting sites and removing ivy, will be Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Starbucks expects about 450 volunteers to help clean up 30 miles of the trail as part of its Make Your Mark program to encourage Starbucks employees and customers to volunteer in the community. Starbucks will donate $19,000 to Seattle Parks and Recreation as part of the cleanup effort.

To volunteer go to and click on the Make Your Mark program.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or

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