Sullivan: Sweeping bus-only lanes, what’s the right move?

Mar 19, 2024, 5:30 AM | Updated: 5:37 am

There's a right way and a wrong way to turn into traffic with a bus lane. (Graphic: Bill Kaczaraba,...

There's a right way and a wrong way to turn into traffic with a bus lane. (Graphic: Bill Kaczaraba, MyNorthwest)

(Graphic: Bill Kaczaraba, MyNorthwest)

I received a ton of feedback from my story on lane sweeping last week.

It highlighted the importance of following the law on turning and Washington’s law is clear — you must turn into the closest lane. It’s pretty simple.

More from Chris Sullivan: Lane sweeping is all too common and needs to stop

But lane sweeping is a huge problem and it’s dangerous. It’s when drivers sweep into a second or third lane when they should be turning directly into the closest lane.

A lot of listeners reached out to me, raising a very specific situation. It’s something that KIRO Newsradio’s Heather Bosch brought up too.

What happens when you are turning and the closest lane is restricted in some way? For example, the closest lane is designated as a bus-only lane. Do you turn into that closest lane and then merge to the left, or do you turn into that second lane, avoiding the bus-only lane entirely?

More Chokepoints stories: Sound Transit parking changes on the way

This is not specifically covered in the RCW or in the City of Seattle code. Local jurisdictions can make these kinds of changes for restricted lanes.

I spoke with Seattle Police and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Though a bus-only lane is a restricted lane, drivers can turn into it at an intersection and then merge over a lane.

Here is some more detail from SDOT: It is illegal to block the bus lane, so drivers should not turn into the bus lane unless the next lane over is clear enough to quickly and safely merge over. It is not legal to use the bus lane to pass other cars stuck in traffic or travel in it for longer than necessary to safely make a turn.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as TwitterHead here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X.


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Sullivan: Sweeping bus-only lanes, what’s the right move?