Empowering The Bicycle Traveler

How to Ride a Bridge with no Shoulder.

photo of Agate Pass Bridge

Sky King snapped this after crossing the Agate Pass Bridge. The bifurcated "shoulder" doesn't leave room for a cyclist. One option would be to walk across on the elevated portion, but there is not much room even for that. The other option is to "take the lane" as though you have the right...which you do.

Riding across the Agate Pass Bridge between Bainbridge Island and the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State on a fully loaded touring bike is one of the most frightening experiences I have had on a bike. The “shoulder” of the road way is divided by elevation, half is at road level and half is raised about 8 inches. So what is left is two unusable strips about 18 inches wide.

As I watch my wife ride over I choke down my fear of the unimaginable. She actually timed it perfectly by starting off just in front of a big box van which would have difficulty passing her with the heavy traffic in the opposite direction and “took the lane”, in other words, she rode in the depression the right tires of innumerable cars have left in the pavement. So  every vehicle behind the box van just had to take a deep breath and use the big pedal beside the gas pedal.

Expert that the bike hermit is, he decided he could ride on the elevated part. Which was no problem until a gust of wind almost blew him off the curb and into oncoming traffic. When his heart rate slowed sufficiently and there was a break in traffic he continued across….. taking the traffic lane.

Sometimes you have to hold up traffic to avoid dying. Just remember, you have as much right to use that section of the road as an automobile does. And remember that most people are not psychopaths and they will not run over you. If you act predictably and make sure that motorists see you, without being obnoxious, then you can co-exist. Just assume that the motorist doesn’t see you and ride very defensively. Every state has different laws governing bicyclists and a tourist can’t be expected to know all of them, but I think common sense and riding with confidence, as if you belong, can go a long way.

Of course, this was a relatively short bridge and I don’t recommend this for every situation. You should check local conditions and if a road or bridge appears to be too dangerous then find another route or another way across.

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