Bicycle Traffic Citations to Rise in Seattle, but Still No Cycling DUIs

Bicycle Traffic Citations to Rise in Seattle, but Still No Cycling DUIs

Posted by Coleen D. St. Clair | Apr 20, 2015 | 0 Comments


In an effort to deal with its booming population growth, Seattle is making strides to be a less car-dependent city. This effort means the Seattle of tomorrow will have less road expansions and curbside parking and be more reliant on public transportation, pedestrian traffic, and bicycle commuters to get people where they need to go in the city. These developments will bring big changes in many aspects of how we live our lives in Seattle, including how the cities traffic laws are enforced against its residents.

The ​Seattle Police Department announced that it will be stepping up enforcement of bicycle traffic codes, taking account of the surge in cyclist within in the city in recent years. Many cyclists are shocked to be handed a traffic ticket they thought was reserved for people in cars. Much of the traffic code, however, applies equally to automobiles and cyclists, and with bicycles playing an ever greater role in the way Seattleites get around, there are certain things that cyclists should be particularly aware of to avoid being slapped with a traffic citation on their bike.

In an interview with King5 News, Seattle Police Department Det. Patrick Michaud stated the most common violations committed by cyclists include running a red light, stopping in a crosswalk, and not using turn signals. Det. Michaud also claims cyclist not wearing a helmet may be cited for a health violation.

In addition to these common cycling traffic violations, the in the past few years, t​he number of speeding tickets handed out to cyclists has also increased. Most cyclist do not have speedometers on their bikes, but that is not a valid excuse for speeding in Seattle. On downhill streets, cyclists can exceed 30 mph.

Even though cyclist are held to largely the same traffic laws as automobile drivers, the fines they must pay for the same offenses are usually less. This decreased fine reflects the simple fact that violating traffic laws on a bike is less risky behavior than violating the same law behind two tons of steel. The fines can still be steep. Speeding in a school zone on your bike will set you back over 100 dollars--a little more than half of what a motorist must pay.

You still cannot receive a DUI while riding your bicycle in Washington, however. The most a law enforcement officer may do is impound your bicycle if he or she believes you are riding under the influence, but the officer must offer you a ride home first.

As commuting by bicycle moves from the fringe to the main stream in Seattle, enforcement of traffic laws will be increasingly applied to cyclists. The onus then is on cyclists to be aware of their responsibilities on public streets for safe and considerate riding habits. But just as with a motorist traffic ticket, cyclist are innocent until proven guilty, and cyclists who feel they have been wrongly targeted by law enforcement are free to contest their charges before a judge.

About the Author

Coleen D. St. Clair

Ms. St. Clair is a former senior prosecuting attorney with over 25 years experience handling criminal cases. She has successfully handled tens of thousands of criminal and DUI cases with remarkable results.


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