A flashing “Watch for Bikes” sign on State Route 150 on Lake Chelan’s north shore uses radar to detect when bicyclists are using the winding, shoulderless road.
The sign has amber beacons that begin blinking when a bicyclist passes by, warning motorists driving along Rocky Point that a bicyclist is ahead in the road.
In the summer, the two-lane road between Chelan and Manson can get heavy tourist traffic, including bicyclists. The Washington Department of Transportation says it started studying the problem after a Manson resident contacted the agency in 2011.
The state determined that a beacon system would make the road safer. A solar panel and timer was installed to power the warning system.
Similar warning signs are posted elsewhere in the state, but this is the first to detect bicyclists with radar. The state says the radar can tell the difference between bicyclists and pedestrians or motorcyclists who also may be using the road.
The sign was installed this spring and the adjustments were completed just before Memorial Day.
Usually, bicyclists must stop to manually activate similar warning beacons elsewhere in the state.
One of those is located along US Highway 101 entering the Olympic National Park. The highway is four lanes with a wide shoulder until it gets to Lake Crescent, where it narrows to two lanes with little or no shoulder.
For a fighting chance against logging trucks, Winnebagos and SUVs pulling boat trailers, bicycle riders are encouraged to press the button below the sign, which activates the flashing lights on the bicycle sign at left.
The light flashes for an hour, giving most cyclists time to traverse the 12-mile lakeside route, unless they stop to take pictures or enjoy a picnic lunch.