Special Event Policy - Non Competitive Bike Events


The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) supports bicycling as a viable form of transportation and as such encourages safely operated non-competitive bicycle events. The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines that assist non-competitive bicycle event organizers in hosting events that are successful and safe for all roadway users. This is a dynamic document and reflects WSDOT’s commitment to the safe use of state highways for all users.

WSDOT believes that establishing on-going cooperative relationships with event organizers is the most effective way to:

  • Address logistical and route determination issues
  • Coordinate with WSDOT construction and maintenance activities
  • Notify the Washington State Patrol (WSP), local law enforcement, and local agencies

Policy and Supporting Legislation

WSDOT works with event organizers to provide guidance and available support for special events that take place within the highway right-of-way. Early contact with WSDOT assures adequate time for review and coordination. Events that will not impact highway operations, where all participants will follow all Rules of the Road at all times, and where no traffic control is needed are not required to contact WSDOT. However, those events can also benefit from the services that WSDOT offers and are encouraged to make contact to ensure coordination with WSDOT projects and with the WSP. Rules of the Road pertaining to non-competitive bicycle events taking place on state highways are outlined in RCW 46.04, RCW 46.37 and RCW 46.61.

WSDOT administers special events on state highways (including non-competitive bicycle events) through the Regional or Headquarters (HQ) Traffic offices. Event organizers are asked to contact the Regional Traffic office (or the HQ Traffic office for multi-Region events) 60-90 days before the event to allow adequate time for review and coordination. The Regional or HQ Traffic Office will respond to event organizers within 10 working days to begin the review and coordination process. For reoccurring events with no major changes since the event was last held, a 45 day notice to WSDOT by event organizers is requested. Examples of major changes include altering the route or the type of traffic control needed.

In reviewing an event request, WSDOT will:

  • Conduct a traffic engineering analysis of the impact of the proposed event
  • Consult with regional Construction and Maintenance offices to determine if there are Construction or Maintenance operations conflicts with the proposed route
  • Contact the WSP to coordinate the event per the WSDOT/WSP Memorandum of Understanding, “Events on State Highways” dated 12/2000.
  • Review submitted traffic control plans
  • Identify alternative routes if needed

Additionally, WSDOT can: 

  • Post information about the ride on the WSDOT website
  • Provide use of Changeable Message signing and Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) systems where available and appropriate
  • Suggest other specific signing to provide event information for all roadway users
  • Provide Washington State Bicycle Maps to assist event participants.

Upon completion of the traffic analysis and event review, WSDOT will issue either a Letter of Acknowledgement, a Letter of Agreement, or if circumstances warrant, a letter of denial. In those cases WSDOT will work with the organizers to seek possible solutions to the issues causing the denial. Event organizers have the opportunity to appeal a denial through the appeal process outlined in this policy.

Letter of Acknowledgement

A Letter of Acknowledgement (pdf 312 kb) will be used when all riders will follow the Rules of the Road at all times, when no traffic control devices will be placed on the roadway, and no special traffic control is needed. The Letter of Acknowledgement may also note any use of Changeable Message signs or a Highway Advisory Radio System, as well as operational restrictions on specific roadway sections due either to conflicts with construction or maintenance operations or to roadway conditions.

Examples of when a Letter of Acknowledgement is appropriate:

  • A group of 80 people intends to take a thirty-five mile ride including a segment on a state highway, where all riders will at all times conform to the Rules of the Road
  • A ride of 1200 people uses a filtered start over several hours and riders are spread out along state highways and local roadways. Riders are required to cross the highway at intersections in a legal manner and follow all other Rules of the Road.

Letter of Agreement

A Letter of Agreement (pdf 145 kb) will be used when event participants are not able to follow the Rules of the Road at all times, where traffic control is needed, where the event impacts highway operations, or if the use of state forces or materials is required. The Letter of Agreement includes a liability section which contains “hold harmless” and liability insurance coverage information. The Event Coordinator is asked to provide proof of insurance and indemnification of WSDOT, and provide a traffic control plan where needed. The Letter of Agreement may also address other arrangements needed to ensure the safety of the riders and other roadway users.

Specific roadway situations or event circumstances may indicate a need for traffic control or special event conditions. Examples of those situations are:

  • When the number of participants may cause delay of 5 or more vehicles, thus impacting roadway operations in some situations
  • When combined outside lane and shoulder width is less than 14 feet, causing vehicles to move into the opposing traffic lane to pass event participants
  • Where there are significant sight distance issues, such as no pass zones on over half the proposed route, impacting passing movements by other vehicles
  • When the event occurs during peak traffic volumes for that roadway and time
  • Where events with mass starts begin on state routes or where, because of course design, large numbers of riders enter the state route together.
  • Where an event proposes to use a highway section where bicycling is prohibited
  • When the event is routed through intersections or interchanges where traffic control is required*
  • Where, at the request of the Event Coordinator or the determination of the WSDOT, road closure or special traffic control is required.*

    * Traffic control shall be in accordance with WSDOT Specifications as found in the Bicycle Racing Guidelines. Traffic control devices must conform to the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Certified flaggers or law enforcement officers are required to implement the Traffic Control Plan. If traffic control is required at a signalized intersection, the signal shall be turned to all-red flash or to off and a uniformed law enforcement officer or certified flagger shall direct traffic.

Examples of when a Letter of Agreement is appropriate:

  • When a ride needs local police control at a state highway intersection, so that riders can make a left turn or cross the roadway, while on-coming traffic stops
  • When a ride of 4500 people intends to ride around Bainbridge Island and Kitsap County with a full contingent of support vehicles, coning of rest stop pull-outs, and traffic control at key intersections etc.

Bike Event Pavement Markings

WSDOT allows placement of directional markers on the pavement to adequately mark the event route. These directional markers, commonly called “Dan Henrys”, should be placed before, at, and after the key directional decision-making points. The markings shall use non-permanent, chalk based or “fade-away” paint; permanent paint is prohibited as it does not wear off.“Dan Henrys” must be placed to the right of the fog line if riders will be on a good rideable shoulder, and otherwise in the ordinary line of reasonable riding. The markings should be visible to bicyclists but placed so they are unobtrusive to others. A guideline is to make “Dan Henrys” the size of an 8 ¼” paper plate. The markings must be placed away from traffic control devices and survey markers. 

Post Event Review

After the event WSDOT staff may conduct an evaluation to assess the event operation. Discussion with the event coordinator, law enforcement (WSP and local agencies), WSDOT Area Maintenance and other affected groups can identify ways to improve the bicycle event, roadway operations and public safety. WSDOT will document any concerns and needed changes in writing, and will ask that they be addressed the next time the event is held.

Appeal Process

WSDOT has an appeal process for cases where a Special Event has been denied on a state highway. Appeals are to be made to the State Traffic Engineer within 30 days of the denial of an event, or a minimum of 14 days before the event. The State Traffic Engineer, in consultation with the State Bicycle Program Coordinator, will have 7 days to review the appeal and will notify the event coordinator by certified mail within 7 days of the State Traffic Engineer’s decision.