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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Readers express concerns

Thanks for your email messages.  Whether I call them rants, grievances, or concerns, I always enjoy seeing your points of view on driving topics.  Here are a few of those recent reader comments.

Bicycle commuter B.S. sent a timely note, since the presence of the two-wheeled conveyances will soon proliferate with the advent of warm weather and schools’ summer hiatus.  His common-sense approach to motor vehicle/bicycle interaction is evident in his comments, noting, “1) For the most part, my experiences as a bike commuter have been positive, with a few notable exceptions.  On rare occasions, I have had had drivers scream at me, and come much too close with their vehicles.  There is probably not much chance of changing their attitudes, short of assault charges.  Much more often, drivers have, out of misplaced courtesy and/or ignorance, yielded their proper right of way to me, creating confusion, delay and danger.  2) Both cyclists and motorists make bad mistakes at times.  Cyclists ride the wrong way, dart on and off sidewalks, and generally ignore traffic rules.  This is not a good way to be respected on the road.  3) Our bike infrastructure is poor, and ill conceived.  Bike lanes appear and disappear randomly, are often debris filled gutters, and are limited in where they go.  What’s worse, they reinforce the notion that bikes do not belong on the road.  Meanwhile, secure bike parking is hard to come by.  Those businesses with racks I can lock my bike frame to get my patronage.”

Many drivers are over-conditioned to watch for cars and trucks.  As a result, they may see, but not mentally recognize pedestrians, motorcycles and bicycles as “real,” and fail to yield to them.  As B.S. implies though, misplaced, unwarranted “courtesy” yielding is not a good solution.  Also, some drivers and riders simply hate one another.  I’ve said before, given those attitudes and our current road system, harmonious bicycle/auto interaction is unlikely.  For now, a workable approach must involve vigilance, patience, empathy and adherence to road rules on the parts of riders and drivers.

C.T. vented, “My rant today is about people who drive with their pets in their laps. 99% dogs, though I’m not sure if I’ve seen cats (other than on the dash or in the back window).  Pets probably would be messy air bags in case of a collision.  I don’t know if the RCW has anything that addresses the issue specifically but it at least should come under the class of inattentive driving or something.”

There is no Washington law (RCW) aimed directly at pets in laps.  RCW 46.61.655 disallows embrace between a driver and another person, but does not mention animals.   I think Section 2 of 46.61.615 is the most applicable to the pet infraction, declaring, “No passenger in a vehicle shall ride in such position as to interfere with the driver’s view ahead or to the sides, or to interfere with his or her control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.”  As long as a pet can be defined as a passenger, that law seems to fit.

J.M. pointed out, “I travel on Highway 395 north of Spokane on a regular basis. A common situation is that you come up on vehicle that is stopped waiting to make a left turn where there is no left turn lane. I slow down and then go around the person on the right rather than stop behind them and wait for them to turn. A person told me that that is not legal, but the vulnerability of sitting at a dead stop on 395 with cars coming up on you at 60 mph seems like a worse choice.”

J.M.’s choice is a good one for safety and traffic flow, and in Washington, RCW 46.61.115 allows it if there is a paved shoulder wide enough to accommodate the passing vehicle.  Idaho’s 49-633 mirrors the Washington requirement.  Neither state allows driving off of the paved roadway to complete the maneuver.

If you have topics on your mind please let me know; even if they have been covered in the past, good discussions bear repeating from time to time.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at