Abandoned bicycles growing concern for Coast Guard, Washington State Ferries

Submitted by the U.S. Coast Guard 13th District Pacific Northwest

Bicycles left on Washington State Ferries significantly impact ferry and U.S. Coast Guard operations. When passengers leave their bicycle on ferries, it’s the duty of U.S. Coast Guard and ferry personnel to treat them as potential distress situations until bicyclists can be confirmed safe.

More than a dozen U.S. Coast Guard employees respond when a bike is left on a ferry and it can take hours to verify that no one is in danger. This wastes tens of thousands of tax-payer dollars and could impact the response to an actual distress situation.

There have been 12 cases of bicycles left aboard ferries in the last 18 months, three of which were ride-share bikes. Each individual response can require helicopters, boats and other specialized crews to endanger themselves to search for nonexistent victims.

The resulting search is costly to the Coast Guard and WSF, causing a significant drain on limited resources and negatively impacting those who depend on the ferry. Additionally, the search reduces response capabilities, risking the lives of those who genuinely need help.

Recently, a ride-share bike was left of the ferry resulting in more than $17,000 in helicopter and crew costs associated with a search along the ferry route. No person had fallen overboard.