KIRKLAND — Like a shark fin in the water, the warnings appear quietly before an impending crunch.

“Low bridge ahead,” one sign warns drivers on the Kirkland street. Getting closer, another cautions “11′-6″” — the height of the bridge. Even closer now, “OVER HEIGHT MUST TURN RIGHT.”

Once the painted banner of a shark with the message “I eat trucks” comes into view, it’s probably too late. A screech of brakes, a chomp of crunching metal, and Kirkland’s infamous “truck-eating bridge” claims another victim.

The bridge over Kirkland Way, known for its low clearance and frequent incidents involving too-tall trucks, has amassed a following among residents who create their own signs and artwork to warn drivers and log each incident on social media, including multiple Facebook pages dedicated to the landmark.

With a vertical clearance of about 11.6 feet — at least 2.4 feet lower than standard bridges now — the bridge has long been a headache for delivery trucks, U-Hauls and SUVs with equipment stacked on top. But in the past four years, incidents have been more frequent. A crash is reported on average about every month or two, according to city officials, that they know of — residents say far more occur that are never recorded.

No one can point to a single factor behind the increase, but city officials and residents have some guesses. More newcomers or commuters pass through the city unaware of the low-clearance hazard. Some might not realize they’re too tall. An oft-cited reason: drivers’ reliance on GPS navigation through Apple Maps or Google Maps, apps that don’t take into account whether the vehicle can make it through unscathed.

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“You’re coming around a very long curve, and there are houses, cars, trees, and you still can’t see the bridge,” said Angela Beegle, a Kirkland resident. “When you finally do see it, it looks like a wall, and it blends in because it’s gray concrete. Then you come around a little bit further, boom. There’s a bridge.”

The bridge was built as a crossing for a railroad, and converted to a trail as part of the Cross Kirkland Corridor, a nearly 6-mile pathway across the city.

Replacing the bridge would cost millions of dollars and falls low on the list of the city’s competing priorities, said Julie Underwood, Kirkland’s director of public works. Of the 50 reported incidents from January 2017 to mid-August 2022, one has resulted in an injury, involving a westbound driver in 2019.

“It’s been around a long time, it’s been hit for a long time, and it’s the sort of thing where, thankfully, we aren’t seeing people getting hurt,” Underwood said.

Meanwhile, removing the bridge entirely would force people on the trail to cross a busy street, creating a potentially more dangerous scenario, said Kirkland City Councilmember Toby Nixon.

“Exchanging trucks running into the bridge to trucks running into people is not on my agenda,” Nixon said.

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In the dozens of Facebook posts about trucks stuck under the bridge, the general tone is more about the bridge itself and less poking fun at the drivers on what will definitely be a bad day.

“We don’t know if this is a truck driver and this is going to affect their livelihood, or if they have a U-Haul truck and can barely afford to live,” Underwood said. “That’s not the tone we want to set.”

Nixon is often the city official tagged with questions or suggestions about what the city should do. Nixon rehashes similar answers and explanations: In 2020, the city did add more signs in both directions. Height guard clearance bars work in parking garages or drive-thrus, but not on streets with cars going 30 mph. Residents have asked why the city “can’t just call Google. They’re in Kirkland, right?” Nixon recalled. Underwood reached out to Apple a few years ago, she said. But she never heard back.

Residents like Beegle instead brought in their own guerrilla art, like the shark banner, which Beegle said she painted thinking drivers would react to a mouthful of teeth differently from just yellow signs. Last month, she added a small A-frame sign next to an official warning, painted with a tinier mouth. She named it “baby shark.”

“There hasn’t been a strike since I put the sign up,” she said. “The more it goes on, the more I’ll think it’s because it’s on the ground.”