Bicycle Laws in Washington State Explained

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Bicycle Laws in Washington State Explained image

Riding bicycles is popular in Washington for many reasons. Whether it’s a response to the prices at the gas pump, a desire to stay mentally and physically fit, or an effort to reduce your negative impact on the environment, cycling is a fun and efficient means of commuting or enjoying some leisure time.

However, all cyclists should be aware of the dangers inherent in taking a bike out on the road. A collision with an inattentive driver can lead to life-threatening injuries, overwhelming hospital bills, and long-lasting emotional trauma. A thorough knowledge of Washington’s bicycle safety laws can help protect you on the road. It can also help you understand your rights and options if you are involved in a collision.

Traffic Laws for Bicyclists in Washington

When traveling on the road, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle drivers. For example, bicyclists must:

  • Ride with the flow of traffic, on the right side of the road
  • Obey all traffic signals, such as red lights and stop signs
  • Yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks

Cyclists who disobey these laws may receive traffic citations.

Where Cyclists May Ride 

Washington law permits bicyclists to ride on the road, shoulder, bike path, or sidewalk, according to their safety needs. Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • When riding on the road at the same speed as traffic, you should ride in the middle of the lane.
  • When vehicle traffic is moving faster than you, you should move as far to the right as is safe and practicable.
  • Riders may cycle side by side, but must not ride more than two abreast.
  • If riding on a sidewalk, you must give the right of way to pedestrians. You must also provide an audible signal before passing pedestrians on the sidewalk. Furthermore, some local ordinances may restrict or prohibit riding on sidewalks in certain areas, such as business districts.
  • Bicyclists must not ride on designated areas of the state’s limited access highway system. Furthermore, cyclists must not ride on interstates. 

Helmet Laws in Washington

While no statewide laws require bicycle helmet use in Washington, many local governments have made helmets legally mandatory for all riders. These locations are as follows:

  • Aberdeen
  • Bainbridge Island
  • Bellevue
  • Bremerton
  • DuPont
  • Eatonville
  • Fircrest
  • Gig Harbor
  • Kent
  • Lakewood
  • Lynnwood
  • Milton
  • Pierce County
  • Port Angeles
  • Port Orchard
  • Puyallup
  • Renton
  • Snohomish
  • Spokane
  • Steilacoom
  • University Place
  • Vancouver

Helmet use is compulsory for riders under 17 in Orting and under 18 in Poulsbo. Helmet use is also mandatory for riders of all ages on all Washington military installations.

Impact of Helmet Use on Injury Claims

While wearing a helmet is crucial for preventing severe head injuries in the event of a bicycle accident, helmet use can also impact potential injury claims and the compensation an injured cyclist may be able to recover. In Washington, the lack of a universal state helmet law for adults means that not wearing a helmet generally cannot be used as evidence of negligence on the part of the injured cyclist.

However, if the case goes to trial, the jury may consider helmet use as one factor in determining damages. If a driver can show that wearing a helmet would have prevented the cyclist’s head injuries, this could potentially reduce the compensation awarded for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages related to those head injuries.

That said, even if a cyclist was not wearing a helmet, they may still have a strong case and be able to recover significant compensation if the motorist was clearly at fault in causing the accident through their negligence. An experienced bicycle accident attorney can assess the full circumstances of the case and build the strongest argument for maximum compensation.

Other Safety Equipment Required in Washington

Washington law requires all bicycles to have a white front light (not a reflector) when riding at night. It must be visible from a distance of at least 500 feet. Cyclists must also have a red rear reflector and may additionally use a red rear light.

Washington Bicycle Laws for Motorists

Motorists who share the road with cyclists have a role in upholding bicycle safety. According to state laws, drivers must:

  • Stop for Bicyclists and Pedestrians in Crosswalks – Remember that Washington considers all intersections crosswalks, whether marked as such or not.
  • Pass Bicyclists at a Safe DistanceThe law requires motorists to move entirely into another lane or give at least three feet of buffer space to pass a cyclist when passing.
  • Check for Approaching Cyclists Before Opening Vehicle Doors – Motorists who fail to check for approaching traffic can be held liable for resulting dooring accidents.

Drivers who fail to follow these laws may receive traffic citations and fines. Furthermore, injury victims can hold motorists liable for accident-related losses.

How an Attorney Can Help You

Bicycle Laws in Washington State Explained image

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident in Washington state, an attorney experienced in handling cycling accident cases can be a valuable advocate in helping you recover the compensation you need and deserve. A skilled lawyer can:

  • Thoroughly investigate the accident to gather evidence and determine liability
  • Interview eyewitnesses and consult with accident reconstruction experts if needed
  • Handle all communications and negotiations with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Ensure that your injuries and losses are fully assessed and documented
  • Build the most robust case to prove the motorist’s negligence and liability
  • Negotiate aggressively for a favorable settlement that covers all your losses
  • Take your case to trial and fight for your rights in court if a fair settlement cannot be reached 

Contact Tamaki Law for a Free Consultation

Even if you obey all of Washington’s bicycle safety laws to the letter, a collision with an inattentive motorist can instantly turn your life upside down. The experienced Washington bicycle accident attorneys at Tamaki Law understand the challenges you are facing at this time.

Our team has been fighting on behalf of injured individuals since 1994, and we are ready to put our skills and resources to work for you. With us on your side, you can maximize your chances of recovering the compensation you deserve. Call us today at (800) 801-9564 or contact us online for a free consultation with one of our bicycle accident lawyers in Washington.