Public urination ban takes aim at bicyclists

Cyclists might want to delay their relief a little longer on future group rides in unincorporated King County until they find restrooms, port-a-potties, sani-cans, or “blue rooms”.

The King County Council is considering an ordinance to make public urination an infraction punishable with a fine.

King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert proposed the ordinance last month after hearing complaints from her constituents in the Snoqualmie Valley about bicyclists urinating on people’s property during the Flying Wheels bicycle ride.

The Cascade Bicycle Club, which sponsors the annual century ride, also heard plenty of complaints. In an item “What happened at Flying Wheels” posted on the bike club’s blog after the event, “urinating on private property” was just one of the issues. Other problems dealt with sharing the road with traffic.

Lambert told KIRO7 News that “I don’t think people living in unincorporated areas should expect guests to come to their home to leave a mess from everything from regular garbage to human waste.”

I contacted Cascade spokesperson M.J. Kelley about the issue. She said the event director will review whether to increase the number of toilets available next year.

“The fact is there were will likely always be a line to go to the bathroom. I participate in a number of recreational races, fun runs, bike rides, and waiting for toilets is a fact of life. Unfortunately on any kind of recreational event, there are some people who don’t care to wait. We’ll be messaging that more directly next year.

“Flying Wheels has been happening for 27 years, and numbers have been steady for at least the past five years, hovering around 3500. We are committed to keeping it a safe, enjoyable ride in the Snoqualmie Valley.”

The law

Public urination already is against the law in 17 jurisdictions in King County. The proposed ordinance would widen that to unincorporated areas.

The law would apply to urinating in a “public place” — any area that’s visible to the public. Although “hiking trails” were removed from the proposed ordinance as “public places,” the ordinance would still consider bike trails, streets, driveways, parking lots, parks, vacant land, and grounds surrounding dwellings.

A violation would be considered an infraction and punishable by a civil fine or forfeiture not to exceed $250. Subsequent violations could results in misdemeanor charges.

Vexing problem

Finding a place for relief is always an issue for bicyclists, whether on a group ride or solo. We know to keep hydrated, but sometimes all that water is just bursting to get out.

It’s not just recreational bicyclists who suffer this problem. At the Tour de France and other races, pro riders will slow down while a whole group pulls off the road for a “natural break.” In the heat of competition, some riders just take care of it on the fly.

Bicyclists on large group rides, such as the 10,000-strong Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, will experience long delays at rest stops to use the portable toilets. I remember waiting in line for 25 minutes at one STP. Later on, I just stopped at any park — even a roadside construction sites — to use the facilities, whether I had to go or not.

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  1. Interesting. Public urination laws are usually used in efforts to criminalize poverty and homelessness. King County will require public facilities to open their restrooms for public use in exchange for this ban, right? [ he facetiously asks ]

  1. […] Breaking the law […]

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