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Traffic Q&A: Treat turn across bike lane like any merge

Question: Who has to yield at an intersection when the person in a car makes a right turn and a person on a bike in a bike lane cannot be seen because they are in the car’s blind spot?

To me, having a bike lane to the right of a car lane is like making a right turn from a left lane. It’s setting up the car driver to be in the wrong.

What's the answer?

– Les Crosby, Lakewood

Answer: If you turn across a bike lane without seeing a bicyclist in your blind spot, then the bicyclist has to yield. Otherwise, you’ll hit him.

If there is a collision, though, you would be the one at fault.

Crossing bike lanes can be confusing, especially in places where the solid white lines defining them continue to an intersection, instead of becoming broken lines, as they should.

Washington law doesn’t speak directly to the situation, but standard rules of the road apply. Think of the bicycle lane as a lane like any other, only narrower and restricted to a particular mode of travel.

Before you merge, do what you’re always supposed to do when you change lanes: signal, check your mirrors and over your shoulder to make sure there’s nobody in the lane you would interfere with and then move over gradually. Yield to any bicycles. Then signal again to turn right and make your turn.

If you’re on a bike, the standard rules of the road apply, too. If a car is blocking the bike lane while waiting to make a right turn, stop in the bike lane and wait. If you can safely pass by moving left around the vehicle in the car lane, that’s OK.

Here’s a couple of RCWs for reference: RCW 46.61.110(2); RCW 46.61.755.

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