Cascade and Washington Bikes Support Decriminalizing Helmet Use

  • A new study shows that Black people have been disproportionately ticketed in Seattle for violating King County’s helmet ordinance.
  • Washington Bikes urges its members to learn about the negative impacts of bicycle helmet laws on communities of color.
  • Cascade and WA Bikes fully support helmet use, but want to decriminalize their useage. 

Seattle police have stopped and ticketed Black people for not wearing bicycle helmets at a rate about four times greater than for white people since 2003, according to data obtained by the King County Helmet Law Working Group, of which Washington Bikes is a member.

Black people represent about eight percent of Seattle’s population but they received more than 17 percent of the tickets for violating the bicycle helmet law, the group found after reviewing Seattle Municipal Court data on 1,667 helmet infractions.

The disproportionate ticketing of Black people riding bikes is even more notable in light of the group’s data that shows Black people make less than five percent of all the bike rides in Seattle. Due to this new data and a growing body of evidence showing that helmet laws disproportionately impact communities of color across the country, Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes are working with the Helmet Law Working Group to gather data and community input to create a process for decriminalizing helmet use in King County and Seattle.

The Helmet Law Working Group was formed last summer by Central Seattle Greenways, a member of the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways coalition, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and its focus on racism in policing. Members include Cascade and its sister organization Washington Bikes, Real Change, and individuals from other transportation and equity-focused groups. Cascade and Washington Bikes are participating as part of their Commitment to Anti-Racism and with support from the Board of Directors to pursue initiatives that decriminalize helmet use.

The group’s data analysis was done by Ethan Campbell, a 26-year-old University of Washington Ph.D. student who got involved with the issue last summer after joining with other bike riders to support the Black Lives Matter protests. Campbell produced a Technical Report explaining the methodology and findings. He hopes to refine the study and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.

People who would like to share their thoughts about the helmet law in King County, which Seattle enforces, are invited to fill out an anonymous survey about their experiences with police enforcement of bike infractions..

Cascade previously advocated for King County’s helmet law but is now calling for public officials to review the law with the potential for repealing it. The case for repeal is even stronger in light of recent reporting that shows nearly half of Seattle’s helmet tickets go to people experiencing homelessness.

Cascade and Washington Bikes support the voluntary use of helmets, as they can reduce head injuries, and will continue to require helmet usage in Free Group Rides and at community events and all Cascade lessons and programming. However, data shows that other public policies including safer street infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, and reductions in vehicle speeds are more important for reducing injuries and deaths among people riding bikes. That’s why Cascade supports the effort underway in Seattle to reduce speed limits to 25 mph on most arterial streets.

“The data shows conclusively that the number one safety issue for people biking or walking is vehicle speeds,” says Alex Alston, state policy director for Washington Bikes. “Anything we can do to slow down vehicles saves lives.”

Racial disparities in the enforcement of helmet laws is not just a problem in Seattle. National reporting has shown that communities of color have been ticketed and stopped at disproportionate rates in other cities, leading some communities to repeal their helmet ordinances.

Tacoma, Wash., repealed its bicycle helmet law in the summer of 2020. In 2018, a federal court ordered the city to pay $500,000 to a teenager who was thrown to the ground and tased by an off-duty city police officer after being stopped while bike riding without a helmet. The incident can be seen in this video, but be advised the video shows violence.

There are other reasons to oppose mandatory helmet laws beyond racial profiling. These laws can discourage people from bicycling, especially people who cannot afford helmets, which is an impediment to the public policy goal of getting more people to ride bikes for both health and environmental reasons.

Campbell’s analysis shows a dramatic decline in tickets issued for bicycle infractions over the past decade, from a peak of 789 in 2011, down to 118 in 2019, and just 17 through June of 2020, the last date for which he collected data. The reduction in tickets issued does not necessarily mean there are fewer police stops, however, as just a fraction of stops result in citations, Campbell says.  

If police are issuing fewer tickets for bicycle infractions, why is it important to repeal the helmet law? “There is nothing preventing the police department from increasing enforcement, and for those vulnerable populations it’s still an issue as long as this law is on the books,” Campbell says. “But for the wider public, your chance of getting stopped while riding a bike is almost nonexistent.”

Campbell, who is Asian-American, was stunned to see how people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent were one of the least-likely groups to be ticketed by police while bicycling. “It was staggering for me to see that Asian cyclists get cited for not wearing helmets at a rate 11 times lower than expected for their share of bike trips.”

“What that tells me is that police are being totally discretionary in whom they stop. Police are able to use this law to target certain communities that, for whatever reason, they already want to stop,” Campbell says.

More Information:

Attend the King County Helmet Law Working Group’s next meeting on Feb. 10.

Read Campbell’s Technical Report with data, methodology and findings.

King County Board of Health helmet law text

The Washington Department of Transportation has compiled a list of municipalities in the state with helmet laws.

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Major Progress on Washington’s Longest Bike Trail

A bike bridge over the Columbia River is among approximately $10 million in projects underway on the 285-mile Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.

Photo courtesy Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

Anyone who has biked the Palouse region of eastern Washington has seen the beauty of its rolling hills, dryland wheat fields, wide open spaces and big skies. Thanks to the work of Washington Bikes, the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition, legislators in Olympia, and Washington State Parks, the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is about to get some major improvements that will make it more accessible to all.

The historic Beverly Bridge, a former railroad trestle that spans the Columbia River in central Washington, is scheduled to open for bicycling, hiking and non-motorized recreation in September, providing a key linkage in the Palouse to Cascades trail, which spans much of the state.

The Columbia River currently splits the trail, requiring people on bikes to make a long detour, or risk their safety crossing an Interstate 90 bridge that has no shoulders. Opening the Beverly Bridge, which is gated and closed due to safety concerns, will provide a big boost for bicycle tourism in Washington, according to some supporters of the project.

Washington State Parks expects to complete a $5 million construction and resurfacing project on the Beverly Bridge, built in 1909, in September, when a grand opening ceremony is planned. Nearly three-quarters of a mile long, the Beverly Bridge passes 85 feet above the river and offers spectacular views.

“This is a really cool project,” says Randy Kline, statewide trails coordinator for Washington State Parks. “In addition to being a big attraction for long-distance bicyclists, we expect that the bridge will become a destination in itself, and that people will come just to visit and walk or ride across it.”

The Beverly Bridge project is part of about $10 million worth of work underway on the Palouse to Cascades trail, which runs through the old Milwaukee Road railroad corridor from the Puget Sound region to the Idaho border. The Palouse to Cascades is the second-longest rail trail in the nation, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

“We support the effort to complete the Palouse to Cascades trail and other cross-state multi-use trails that allow people to bicycle on safe routes separated from roads,” says Alex Alston, state policy director for Washington Bikes, which lobbied for funding to rebuild the Beverly Bridge.

Washington Bikes advocates for full funding of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program because it pays for trail projects including work on the Palouse to Cascades.

The map above from Washington State Parks shows the many projects underway along the trail.

Another important project on the Palouse to Cascades trail that is expected to be completed this year is the 680-foot-long Renslow Trestle, which crosses over Interstate 90 about 11 miles east of Ellensburg. In March, workers are expected to finish $1.2 million in improvements to the bridge, including the addition of decking and railings to make it safe for biking and walking.

“This is an exciting project because it will eliminate another big detour,” Kline says, “and people driving by on the interstate will see people on bikes passing right over their heads.”

Workers are adding decking to the Renslow Trestle that passes over Interstate 90 to make it safe for bicycles. Photo courtesy Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

Renamed in 2018, the trail was previously called the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. Washington State Parks took over management of the rail corridor from the Department of Natural Resources and has in recent years installed 23 new signs along Interstate 90 to build awareness of the trail and help people find trailheads.

Another important project expected to be completed in 2021 on the Palouse to Cascades is $1.8 million of work to resurface sections of trail between the towns of Malden and Rosalia, and to repair two former railroad trestles. State Parks plans to build trailheads with bathrooms, parking spaces, and shade shelters.

This project, like all bike tourism, will hopefully boost the area’s economy–especially if Washington can implement its Scenic Bikeways Program in the near future.

Tekoa is a small community near the Idaho border. Here, the state is adding decking and railings to open a 975-foot-long bridge located in the middle of town. “This is another beautiful trestle that is iconic to the town of Tekoa,” Kline says. The $1.7 million project is expected to be completed in the fall.

In 2019, a fire burned the trestle over Crab Creek near Smyrna, necessitating a short detour. The state plans to complete design work for a new bridge this year, with construction estimated for 2023, according to Kline.

Another ongoing project includes an effort to find an off-road trail for about 30 miles of active rail line just east of the Columbia River, from Royal City Junction to Othello and Warden. Ideas include building a trail alongside the rail line, Kline says.

Big skies and wide-open spaces. Photo courtesy Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

Other small gaps in the trail that must be filled include a short stretch between the towns of Ralston and Marengo where the trestle over Cow Creek is missing, as well as a few stretches of the rail corridor that pass through private property.

By the end of 2021, long-distance bike tourists who want to pedal the Palouse to Cascades trail will have a vastly improved experience.

“Washington Bikes will continue to advocate for completing this trail because we know that it will enhance bicycle tourism in Washington and bring needed economic activity to the many rural communities along the route,” Alston says.

At the Idaho border, the trail corridor ends when it hits private property. In the future, some hope a route can be identified to link the trail to the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a 73-mile paved trail that spans the Idaho panhandle on the former Union Pacific rail corridor.

The trail terminus at the Idaho border. 

In western Washington, bike advocates including the Leafline Trails Coalition that Cascade helped found hope to link the Palouse to Cascades trail, which ends at Cedar Falls near Rattlesnake Lake, to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, whose construction is ongoing. In the future, Cascade hopes that ongoing trail work on the Olympic Peninsula will eventually allow people cross the state from the Pacific to the Idaho border almost entirely on trails.

The Palouse to Cascades is one of five long-distance rail trails overseen by Washington State Parks. Others include the Columbia Plateau State Park Trail, a 130-mile rail corridor between Cheney and the Tri Cities.

Another is the 37-mile Spokane River Centennial State Park Trail from Spokane to the Idaho border, and the 57-mile Willapa Hills State Park Trail in southwestern Washington that runs from Chehalis to Willapa Bay on the Pacific Coast.

Cascade and Washington Bikes will continue advocating for trails in 2021 and beyond because bikes are good for our health, climate, and economy. Please consider donating to Cascade today so that we may continue this important work:

More Information:
The Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition offers maps and resources.

Watch this video of the Beverly Bridge to learn more about its historical significance.

See the trail from the air in this video.

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Washington Bikes Outlines 2021 Legislative Agenda

Washington Bikes will push to increase investments in infrastructure for people who bike, walk, and roll during the 2021 legislative session. Join us on Thursday, Jan. 7, for a virtual meeting to learn more about our legislative priorities.

The 2021 Washington state legislative session begins next week on Jan. 11, and we’ve spent the last several months preparing for a unique and challenging session. This will be a predominantly virtual session, with tight budgets and huge community needs.

Despite these challenges, we see several exciting opportunities to advance policy and funding to make it safer for people who bike, walk or roll.

Washington Bikes 2021 Legislative Priorities:
  • Grow bike and pedestrian funding in the multimodal account in the transportation budget. Washington Bikes supports new, flexible revenue sources to support active transportation. The multimodal transportation account dedicates funds for rail, ferries, transit, biking, and walking. These investments include the Safe Routes to School program and the Pedestrian and Bicycle grant program and projects. We are working to grow this dedicated funding to ensure that all Washingtonians, especially those who rely upon active transportation because of cost or ability, can get around safely and easily. Washington Bikes supports the additional $20 million investment in the Pedestrian and Bicycle grant program ($15M) and the Safe Routes to School Program ($5M) funded in the governor’s 2021-2023 transportation budget.
  • Protecting and connecting trails statewide. Trails are the backbone of many biking and walking networks statewide. Washington Bikes supports the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s (WWRP) $140 million funding request in the capital budget. WWRP projects include improving outdoor recreation opportunities, trail development, and enhancing state parks.
  • Support policies and funding to address inequities in transportation and policing. Washington Bikes will advocate for active transportation funding investment that prioritizes low-income communities, communities of color, and areas of historic under-investment. These locations regularly align with high incidents of crashes, according to traffic injury and fatality data. Additionally, as part of our commitment to racial equity, we are working in coalition to support policies such as decriminalization that emerge, leveraging the active transportation equity analysis, and ensuring funding is prioritized in racially equitable ways.
  • Support measures that will incentivize or lower the barrier to electric bike ownership. E-bikes provide an efficient way to bike due to the pedal-assist that allows for longer rides, ease of traversing hills, and carrying groceries or children. 76% of trips taken by e-bike owners would’ve been car trips prior to owning an e-bike. More people e-biking means fewer people in cars, which helps meet Washington’s transportation congestion and climate goals. Washington Bikes support measures that will incentivize or lower barriers to e-bike ownership.

Washington Bikes will work over the 105-day session to help create healthier communities and thriving economies by making streets safer for active transportation, and by working to connect and grow bicycle and trail networks throughout Washington. Stay in touch by signing up for Washington Bikes’ alerts.

Join us tomorrow, Jan. 7 at noon for a deep-dive into our legislative priorities. We’ll share how we can collaborate to advocate for funding and policies that will create easily accessible, connected bike routes, bolster Washington’s local economies and tourism industry, and ensure streets are safe for all.

RSVP here and we will send the Zoom link

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Washington Bikes 2020 General Election Outcomes + Announcing our 2021 Legislative Agenda

Washington Bikes is excited to begin collaborating with newly elected and re-elected public leaders to build connected and safe bike/walk routes that get people where they need to go, and advance policies that make our streets safer for all.

Last week, Washington voters turned out in force, breaking records for the most turnout ever in the state. Almost all of Washington Bikes’ endorsed candidates won their race, securing seats in elected office to work towards our shared goals of safer biking, walking, and rolling. Voters demonstrated overwhelming support for local transportation investment ballot measures and elected officials who support healthier and safer communities through better bicycling. 

Your continued support and engagement with Washington Bikes and voting on Election Day made these election wins possible. We plan to work with these new and re-elected leaders starting from their first day in office, and holding them accountable to commitments to safe biking and walking infrastructure, active transportation funding, and support for bike tourism in order to secure our endorsement. Thank you for making your voice, in support of safe biking and walking, heard at the ballot box! 

Election night impacts:

  • In Seattle and Bellingham, voters overwhelmingly chose to approve ballot measures that raise money for increased transit service and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements.
  • At the executive level in Washington, we look forward to continuing to partner with Governor Jay Inslee on transportation priorities and with Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on outdoor recreation and trail-related priorities.
  • 85 percent of the bipartisan slate of state legislative elected officials who have championed WA Bikes’ priorities in recent years will return to Olympia this coming session.
  • Washington Bikes endorsed Senator-elect T’wina Nobles will soon represent the 28th legislative district (Lakewood, University Place, JBLM). This election is notable as the 28th senate seat has been held by a Republican since the 1960s. Additionally, Senator-elect Nobles will be the only Black member of the Washington State Senate, and the first Black member of the Senate elected since 2010

Thank you to all of the elected officials and candidates who chose to run for office in a truly unique, maybe once in a lifetime, type of campaign cycle. The real work starts now. Washington Bikes is excited to begin collaborating with newly elected and re-elected public leaders to build connected and safe bike/walk routes that get people where they need to go and advance policies that make our streets safer for all. Among our priorities for the coming year:

  • Protect and secure transportation funding for biking, walking, rolling, and trails
  • Pursue measures to make e-bikes more affordable/accessible
  • Work with a coalition to end discrimination in transportation policing 

To pass these priorities and ensure our success in the coming legislative session, we rely on the generous support of Washington Bike donors, who help us hold officials accountable and continue to serve as the statewide voice for better bicycling. Please make a gift today to see this work continue. Donate here.

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Highlights from the 2020 Bike, Walk, Roll Summit!

We had a blast at the inaugural Bike Walk Roll Summit presented by Amazon this October. Refresh your memory, or learn anew what the Summit held — and how you too can now experience the presentations, panels, and keynote addresses.  

This October, Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes co-hosted our first ever virtual Summit – The Washington Bike, Walk, Roll Summit Presented by Amazon. The Summit is in its fifth year, and 2020 was our most successful Summit, by many metrics – including registration, engagement, and attendee feedback on content. During the five day event, over 600 attendees tuned in to 15 sessions on issues from racial justice in the cycling community to the technical skills needed to make active transportation infrastructure that works for all ages and abilities. We also heard from two expert keynote speakers, Charles T Brown and Anna Zivarts, on issues of Arrested Mobility and disability rights advocacy.


Highlights from the Summit Sessions:

During the Monday keynote session, Charles T Brown explained his body of work around Arrested Mobility, discussing the ways in which Black people and communities of color are policed in public space, as well as the ways in which we must address the impacts of policing on these communities. He also participated in a follow up keynote debrief, along with experts and community leaders Dr. Destiny Thomas, Dr. Edwin Lindo, and Yes Segura, on the ways in which we can achieve mobility justice in our communities.

YouTube link to Charles T Brown Session

On Wednesday, we were joined by disability rights advocate Anna Zivarts, who leads the Disability Mobility Initiative Program at Disability Rights Washington. Anna shared her personal experiences as well as professional expertise in disability justice. She discussed the ways in which we must move away from car dependency in our transportation systems, and how we must center equity and accessibility in our communities.

YouTube link to Anna Zivarts session 

Check out some more highlights! 


tweets from the summit

tweet from the summit

tweet from the summit

tweet from the summit

2020 has been an incredibly tumultuous and transformative year, as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the national reckoning and uprising against systemic racism and police brutality. The Washington Bike, Walk, Roll Summit presented by Amazon provided a space for advocates and professionals in the active transportation community to come together and reflect on how we can address our past failings, and step up to address the current moment and plan a more equitable future.

Our sessions included conversations about how we address and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through equitable community engagement, organizational reform and redirection, and potential revenue streams for transportation funding into the future. Our expert speakers also discussed the need for racial equity in the cycling community, bringing together key voices in the active transportation community to speak to these issues and methods. 

The next Washington Bike, Walk, and Roll Summit will take place in Autumn 2021, and we hope to meet in person in Spokane. We are excited to continue the conversations we had at the 2020 Summit about racial equity, community engagement, mobility equity, and accessibility, and the ways in which we make systems that work for everyone biking, walking, and rolling. 

PS: If you missed the Summit, fear not! You can access each session recording here:  Summit session YouTube recordings

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The Safety Stop: Why it Improves Safety, and When You Must Still Stop

The “Safety Stop” law that went into effect on Oct. 1 allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs, allowing them to roll through an intersection if the coast is clear. The new law was lobbied for by Washington Bikes. Read our news release.

The Safety Stop is a simple, intuitive law that gives people bicycling the right to safely yield at a stop sign-controlled intersection. This is sometimes described as a rolling stop.

Complete stops are still required when approaching a stop sign on a school bus, and for stop signs located at railroad crossings.

The Safety Stop allows a person bicycling to get ahead of motor vehicles behind them, creating space and diminishing the likelihood of collisions. Additionally, people riding bikes typically wait on the right side of the road near the stop sign. This is a frequent blind spot for people driving, leaving the person bicycling vulnerable and at risk, especially for drivers making right turns.

The Safety Stop encourages the use of streets regulated by stop signs, which are typically calmer and move at slower speeds. This lessens the amount of time people bicycling spend on busy, fast-paced streets, and also lessens the amount of time that bicyclists are exposed to risks in intersections, where the majority of serious crashes occur.

The Safety Stop legalizes typical riding behavior. People on bikes have no blind spots, unlike people in cars, and they can easily see if the coast is clear, which is why it is safe and intuitive for people on bikes to roll through intersections.

When a person on a bike stops, it takes multiple pedal revolutions to get back up to speed, which lengthens the time that a person riding remains in the danger zone. Stopping also slows down automobile traffic behind the bike rider. The Safety Stop allows a person bicycling to clear the intersection faster, enabling them to get ahead of motor vehicles behind them. This creates a smoother traffic flow.

The Safety Stop is not only safer, it is more user-friendly for people riding bikes and for people driving cars.

Washington is the fifth state, along with a number of municipalities, that have passed a Safety Stop law, improving safety and bicycle usability:

  • Idaho passed a Safety Stop law, called the Idaho Stop, in 1982. The year following enactment of the law bicycling injuries declined by 14.5%. Since then there have been no negative safety impacts documented.
  • Delaware passed a Safety Stop law in 2017, and in the 30 months since the law passed personal injury crashes involving bicycles fell by more than 20% compared to the previous 30 months.
  • Arkansas, Delaware, Oregon and a number of municipalities in Colorado have followed Idaho in passing similar laws.
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Washington Bikes & Votes: Vote for these bike-friendly candidates and ballot measures by Nov. 3

Washington Bikes announces 2020 general election endorsements

Endorsing Candidates for Elected Office

Our criteria: Washington Bikes endorsed legislators who have led or partnered on efforts to create safer streets, increase accessibility to trails, improve healthy communities and health outcomes, and contribute to the economic vitality of Washington’s communities. Additionally, Washington Bikes has endorsed first time candidates who share our vision for lowering the barriers to bicycling for all ages and abilities.

Washington Bikes works to secure funding for bicycle infrastructure and policies that increase access and safety. To make that happen, it matters who Washington’s elected leaders are and that’s why Washington Bikes spends time connecting with candidates and making endorsements.

Ballot Measure Endorsements

Washington Bikes and its affiliate, Cascade Bicycle club, have endorsed two local ballot measures, one in Seattle and one in Bellingham. The Seattle Transit Benefit District, or Proposition 1 on your ballot, will renew revenue sources that are set to expire in 2020; $50 million are raised annually though portions of sales tax and car registration to improve transit availability and access. At a time when vulnerable communities are already being left behind due to COVID-19, we cannot let people’s access to transit disappear due to cuts in funding. 

In Bellingham, the Transportation Fund, or Prop 2020-14, is on the ballot for renewal. The Bellingham Transportation Fund appropriates a portion of sales tax for citywide transportation projects. The revenue source was established in 2010 and is set to expire this year. The revenue funds street projects including, street paving, sidewalks, bike lanes and bus service. More Bellingham residents are biking than ever before, and this renewal will keep us walking, biking, and riding. 

The Washington Bikes endorsement speaks to thousands of engaged Washingtonians statewide who care about a range of issues. From wanting more connected trails, to safer neighborhood streets, to more opportunities for physical activity, Washingtonians are looking for leaders and policies that will advance these priorities. Check out the cheat sheet below. 

With just a few weeks until Election Day, we are in the final stretch! Are you ready to vote? Register if you are new to WA or have recently moved through the Washington Secretary of State’s office. If not, you have until eight days ahead of Election Day to register online or by mail

Curious what will appear on your November ballot? Check out your sample ballot at Ballotpedia. Lastly, Washington is a vote-by-mail state, so expect your ballot in the mail in roughly two weeks. 

Because turnout is expected to be high this election, we recommend you drop off your ballot or mail it in as quickly as possible to ensure you are counted! 

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Washington ‘Safety Stop’ Law for People Riding Bikes Goes Into Effect Oct. 1

  • People riding bikes can treat a stop sign as a yield if the coast is clear
  • Priority legislation for Washington Bikes, the law makes intersections–one of the most dangerous places for people riding bikes–safer

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Sept. 28, 2020) — A new law aimed at making intersections safer for people riding bicycles goes into effect on Thursday (Oct. 1).

The “Safety Stop” law allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs, allowing them to roll through an intersection if the coast is clear. The new law was lobbied for by Washington Bikes, a statewide bicycle advocacy organization affiliated with Cascade Bicycle Club. This change is important because people on bikes face the most danger at intersections, where they are vulnerable to being struck by inattentive drivers.

Washington is the fifth state to legalize the Safety Stop, following Idaho, Delaware, Arkansas, and Oregon. Unlike Oregon, which passed this law in 2019 after multiple attempts, 2020 was the first year that the Safety Stop was introduced in the Washington State Legislature.

“The bill’s swift passage underscores the bipartisan support for biking, and Washington Bikes’ ability to pass practical, safe and smart legislation,” says Vicky Clarke, policy director for Washington Bikes.

The law, which was sponsored by Sen. Andy Billig (D-3rd) and Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34th), requires people on bicycles to slow down to a reasonable speed that would allow them to stop if necessary. As is already the case, people riding bikes must yield to any vehicle already in the intersection. Also known as the “Idaho Stop,” named for the first state to pass the law, bicycling injuries in Idaho dropped by 14 percent in 1982 following enactment of the law.

“There’s a reason this law received huge support from both sides of the aisle in Olympia–it makes sense and it makes the roads safer,” says Alex Alston, Washington Bikes’ state policy director and lead lobbyist in Olympia.

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The Legacy of Cooper Jones: How a Family’s Loss Led to Washington’s ‘Share the Road’ License Plates

David Jones got the call he will never forget in the early evening of June 24, 1997, from an acquaintance who raced on the local bike club with his son, Cooper.

“You need to go to the hospital right away. Cooper has been hurt,” the caller said.

“Did he break his arm?” Jones asked.

The caller wouldn’t say. Jones and his wife, Martha, raced to the hospital, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

The events of the weeks and months that followed would forever change their lives–and make an indelible mark on Washington state’s bicycle safety laws. This is the story of a boy who loved racing bikes, the parents who fostered that passion, their quest to make the roads safer for people riding bicycles, and the creation of Washington’s Share the Road license plates.

Cooper Jones took up bike racing in 1996 at the urging of his parents, who had watched him progress from speeding around their neighborhood to dropping them on long rides down the Centennial Trail in their hometown of Spokane. One day, they bumped into some members of the local Baddlands Cycling Club, and Martha convinced them to accept Cooper into their group.

“They were so kind to Cooper,” David Jones says. “Imagine being 11 or 12 and going on rides with adults who aren’t your parents and who think you are cool. He really got into it after that.”

Cooper was excited for the race on June 24, 1997, a time trial near Cheney, Wash. After only a year of racing he was among the points leaders on the team. David or Martha typically attended Cooper’s races, but this would be the first time he would compete without them.

Twenty-three years later, the anguish remains fresh in David Jones’ mind. “It’s still very hard to accept,” he told Cascade in an emotional interview.

According to Jones and media reports from the time, Cooper was pedaling westbound along Highway 904 when the driver of a Cadillac passed a group of bike racers, then slammed Cooper from behind. He smashed into the windshield, and when the driver hit the brakes, Cooper slid off the hood and was run over, pinning him underneath the car.

The driver, a 66-year-old woman, had poor eyesight and other health problems, according to David Jones. “I don’t think she knew what had happened.”

Cooper was eventually extracted from underneath the vehicle, allowing first responders to perform CPR and transport him by helicopter to Deaconess hospital in Spokane.

That’s when David Jones got the call.

Mother and father arrived at the hospital to find Cooper unconscious and hooked to life support in the trauma unit. Cooper never regained consciousness. A week later, on July 2, 1997, his parents made the heartrending decision to remove Cooper from life support. “There was no hope that he would ever recover,” David Jones says.

Their grief was compounded in the months to follow, when, after a three-month investigation, the Washington State Patrol declined to criminally prosecute the driver, instead determining that she was guilty of second-degree negligent driving. The fine: $250.

The Jones family decided against suing the driver. “I have empathy for her, but you just think, there has to be a bigger repercussion for negligently causing a death. It’s still incomprehensible.”

In the aftermath of Cooper’s death, there was concern that the state would cancel all bike racing–and even large group rides such as Cascade’s Seattle to Portland. “There were no protocols in place,” says Phil Miller, a transportation planner at the University of Washington and a certified bike racing official who was involved in discussions at the time.

The Jones family worked with the bike racing community to bring state agencies to the table in 1998 to create the Washington State Bicycle Racing Guidelines, which enabled bicycle events such as STP and other Cascade major group rides and events to continue.

Updated in 2010, these guidelines remain in effect today. “They have become a national standard,” says Miller, noting that at least six states have replicated Washington’s guidelines. “It’s much safer today.”

Hoping to prevent other families from suffering the same grief, the Jones family teamed up with the Bicycle Alliance of Washington (now called Washington Bikes) and convinced legislators to introduce a bill that was signed into law in 1998. The Cooper Jones Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Education Act, among other things, mandated that any driver at fault in a fatal crash must be re-tested by the Department of Licensing to ensure they are capable of driving safely. The driver who struck Cooper was “the poster child for someone who shouldn’t have been driving in the first place,” David Jones says.

The Cooper Jones Act also created a state commission, then known as the Cooper Jones Bicyclist Safety Advisory Council, to recommend safety and educational improvements to make the roads safer for people riding bikes.

The only problem: there was little to no funding for the commission, which remained largely toothless for many years, even taking a six-year hiatus until 2013 when it was reconvened. Today, it is known as the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council, and it advocates for the safety of people biking and walking.

“The Legislature was not very friendly to bicycling back then,” says Cascade member Don Martin, who is credited with coming up with the idea for Washington’s Share the Road plates. He had heard about Florida’s Share the Road license plates and felt they would be popular here. In the early 2000s, he convinced a state senator to introduce a bill to create a similar plate in Washington as a way to generate revenue for bicycle safety and to create a visual reminder for people driving to be alert for bikes on the road.

“Because of that terrible incident, and the fact the driver got away with it, I thought something had to be done,” Martin, now 92, says. “Nobody in the Legislature or the State Patrol had any idea how many bicycle riders there were in Washington, and we needed something to identify who we are.”

The bill failed to pass in multiple legislative sessions due to financial concerns. In 2005, a compromise was reached whereby supporters posted a bond to cover the costs of creating the Share the Road plate program, and in 2006 the plates went on sale–inspiring many other states to create bicycle advocacy plates.

Today, about half of U.S. states offer Share the Road license plates.

While demand was initially high, sales have waned in recent years.

Approximately 2,800 Share the Road plates were registered in Washington in August of 2020. Costing $77.25 for a passenger vehicle, each plate generates $28 for Cascade, which spends the money on safety, education, and policy measures meant to reduce collisions between people driving automobiles and people walking and bicycling. Last year, Cascade received about $85,000 from Share the Road plates.

The need for road safety and zero traffic fatalities of walkers and bicyclists remains great. Nearly a quarter of all traffic fatalities, and 20 percent of all serious traffic related injuries, were to people walking or biking, according to the 2019 Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council annual report, which notes that the number of people killed while walking or biking was at its highest number in more than 30 years.

In light of these statistics, Cascade, as well as the Jones family, is urging its members and supporters, and everyone who rides bikes, to consider purchasing a Share the Road plate. Cascade hopes to double sales of the plates to boost revenue for its advocacy programs.

“We have them on all three of our vehicles,” David Jones says. One of those vehicles is a camper van that Cooper inspired his parents to buy. “His dream was to get a car that he could sleep in, so he could go to bike races,” Jones says. The van’s license plate carries the enthusiastic phrase that Cooper, the boy who “had it all,” wanted to have on his own vehicle: GOTITAL.

David Jones, now 70 and recently retired, looks forward to hitting the road in the camper van, exploring new places by bike as Cooper hoped to do.

“Things are better now but you never truly get over it,” David Jones says. “We see people that Cooper went to school with who are now in their mid-30s, and who have families of their own. It’s a constant reminder of what should have been.”

Cooper’s legacy lives on in the Cooper Jones Act, landmark legislation that, in addition to leading to the creation of the Share the Road plates, opened the door to many other initiatives that continue to protect vulnerable street users to this day, including:

Adding bicycle and pedestrian safety into the state’s drivers’ education curriculum;

  • Institutionalizing the Safe Routes to Schools program;
  • Elevating texting and cell phone use while driving to a primary traffic offense;
  • Passage of the Vulnerable User and Neighborhood Safe Streets bills.

In 2017, Washington Bikes pushed legislation that included dedicated funding for the Cooper Jones council, which was approved. Washington Bikes has a seat on the Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council, and continues to push for stronger safety laws that protect people bicycling and walking.

“The legacy of the Cooper Jones Act is large,” according to Miller, who says it helped cement the “right to the road” for people on bikes. “It also established that providing safe personal mobility was part of the state’s responsibility. The Jones family never lost focus on making some good out of their pain.”


Order your Share the Road plate.

2019 Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council annual report, which cites that in 2018 16 people on bikes and 103 people walking were killed by motor vehicles.

Link to an essay Cooper Jones wrote the year before his death, where he describes his desire to become an Olympic bike racer.

At least 24 states now offer Share the Road plates, according to a 2017 Bicycling story.

In 2019, the Legislature created Target Zero, which establishes that people who walk or ride bicycles are one of the highest priority populations for traffic safety. The Cooper Jones Active Transportation Safety Council and Washington Bikes are working to achieve Target Zero, which dictates that no deaths are acceptable on the state’s roadways.

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Dispatch from Olympia: Budget Shortfalls Could Impact Active Transportation Projects, Delay Scenic Bikeways Program

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2020 session in the beginning days of the emergent COVID-19 pandemic. The three months that have followed have been challenging in myriad ways. Here is an update on the impacts to active transportation that we are aware of based on budget shortfalls projected due to COVID-19.  

Washington State Revenue Forecasts & Budget Shortfalls

Forecasted shortfalls for the next three years will impact every Washingtonian. Beyond the operating budget, the transportation budget shortfalls spell potential trouble for vulnerable road users. A 2021 transportation revenue package could provide relief.

Significant losses in the state operating budget revenue are anticipated for at least the next three years. That likely means cuts to services, education, healthcare, natural resources and other programs funded via the operating budget. Transportation, despite not being funded in the operating budget, will not be spared.

Due to reductions in anticipated transportation revenue including gas tax, ferry revenue, rental car tax and toll revenues, the transportation budget has a forecasted shortfall as well. The June Transportation budget forecast reflects the impacts of I-976 (the Tim Eyman initiative for $30 car tabs which passed at the ballot last November, although is currently being contested in court) and the COVID-19 shutdowns resulting in lower demand for the transportation services that generate revenue.

Work on a potential 2021 transportation revenue package has already started, largely in the form of a Statewide Transportation Needs Assessment, which shows that there is not enough money to fund Washington’s current transportation system. Also of note, the transportation needs assessment was conducted without factoring in the impacts of I-976.

There is a possibility that the Washington State Legislature will convene a special session in late 2020 to address the operating budget revenue shortfall. However, Gov. Jay Inslee has said the state will be able to maintain current appropriation levels until January 2021 when the Legislature is scheduled to return. There will be more to come as the recession and budget scenarios play out. Washington Bikes will continue to advocate for funding that supports people who bike, walk or roll. Amidst the global pandemic, Washingtonians are choosing to bike and walk more frequently. We want to ensure there are safe, comfortable places and routes to do so. 

New Scenic Bikeways Program Faces Potential Delay

Due to COVID-19 impacts on the state budget, state agencies were asked to come up with a 15 percent reduction to their individual budgets, and many new programs that had yet to be implemented have been identified for delay. In response to the budget crisis, State Parks has proposed delaying the implementation of the state Scenic Bikeways program that was created in the 2020 session. We understand the need to conserve state resources at this unprecedented moment in time. However, this potential change can not be solidified until the Legislature convenes and amends the timeline. Meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts about what trails and routes you’d like to see designated scenic bike routes!

Safety Stop Legislation to be Enacted Oct. 1 

We are excited that Washington Bikes’ priority legislation in the 2020 legislative session, the Safety Stop, is just months from becoming law. The date people bicycling will legally be allowed to treat a stop sign as a yield is Oct. 1, 2020. Check back here for more information as we approach the Safety Stop enactment date!


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