Opinion

SR-305 needs more police presence to slow traffic

It’s surprising that there aren’t more bicycle-vehicle collisions on Bainbridge Island’s seven-mile stretch of State Route 305 when considering the thousands of vehicles and hundreds of two-wheelers that race to and fro the ferry terminal each day. Collisions are common on a busy road that is generally an accident looking to happen, but the last major bicycle-vehicle accident occurred nearly four years ago when a car driven by a Bremerton woman – distracted by a cell phone – struck and threw an island man 85 feet. Chris Stanley was seriously injured but miraculously lived to tell about it.

But on Tuesday afternoon another violent collision occurred. A Poulsbo woman – distracted, police say, by alcohol – battered an island bicyclist with her Dodge Ram as he was attempting to make a left turn off 305 at Hidden Cove Road. Despite being run over by the vehicle’s right-rear tire and his helmet smashed to pieces, the bicyclist – again, extraordinarily – suffered only a concussion, scrapes and bruises.

It’s providential that both men escaped death, but isn’t it about time for the community to address the danger that exists because of the speedway running north-south through the middle of the island? One of the problems is that the state, which has jurisdiction over the road and provides the cynosure (ferries) for many of the people who travel it, shuns responsibility for what the road has become. Basically, the state has shrugged its collective shoulders whenever the community has sought relief, including four years ago when the community held meetings on road safety. Local police continue to be diligent in patrolling the road, but there should be an increase in the presence of law enforcement, namely, state police.

The Washington State Patrol leaves the primary enforcement of traffic laws on 305 to our local police department because the road is a “limited area,” stretching only seven miles between Agate Pass and Eagle Harbor. WSP has officers and their dogs looking for terrorists in the ferry loading area, but, unless the city seeks assistance, troopers ignore 305. In other words, while it is one of the busiest – and dangerous – two-lane stretches of road in the state, it’s just too small for WSP to patrol. Besides, a trooper said, the city’s doing a great job.

No doubt, but with only two cruisers patrolling the island at any given time, it’s difficult for Bainbridge Police to focus on 305 because of the size of the island. Plus, the road belongs to the state and it’s in the best interest of the owner to keep that stream of vehicles flowing in and out of little old Bainbridge as expediently as humanly possibly so there’s no hiccup in ferry operations. It would be nice to see more speed traps, but it seems that there will be no yellow caution flags slowing traffic on this raceway.

Wisely, most islanders try to avoid SR-305, but because of the road’s orientation on the island it’s always lurking around the next corner. Some bicyclists say 305 is an improvement over many island roads because the sight lines and bike lanes are generally safe except for a couple of choke points near Agate Pass. Still, there’s interminable peril approaching from the rear because drivers occasionally become inattentive while traveling the mostly straight road, and they tend to accelerate when either escaping or approaching the ferry terminal. The speed disparity, said one bicyclist, between a large vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour and a small object moving slowly on the narrow road’s shoulder can result in the bicyclist not being registered on the motorist’s radar.

Speed and carelessness can be a deadly mix.

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