Few other places in the United States are as bike-friendly as Washington State. With a focus on ecological and environmental sustainability, Washington prides itself for paying special attention to alternative transportation. Washingtonians, also, like to hit the road on a bike to take in the lush beauty of our unique landscape. With sky-high mountains, lush rainforests, and more rivers than you can throw a stone at, Washington is a paradise for the bike enthusiast.
By having so many bikes on the road, though, knowledge of Washington bike laws is an absolute must for anyone who travels on our state’s roads and highways. The following are the most important bike laws every Washington commuter should be aware of.
Right of Way
In the eyes of Washington State law, bicycles are largely considered to be as much a vehicle as any other car or truck. Bicyclists are required to follow the same laws and are afforded many of the same protections as automobiles. Likewise, if a bicycle is operating on a sidewalk or inside of a crosswalk, the bicyclist is effectively a pedestrian in the eyes of the law.
Unless explicitly prohibited, bicycles are legally allowed to ride in the driving lane of most roads in Washington. Surrounding traffic should yield to bicyclists they encounter on the road as if the bicyclist was just another type of automobile. Bicyclists, in turn, should yield to vehicles on the road and allow them to pass when they are legally able. Bicyclists should also avoid riding more than two abreast and should stay as far to the right of the driving lane as possible. Remember, safety first.
Most bicyclists are unaware that they are required by law to use hand signals whenever they ride bicycles on Washington roads. The three most important hand signals when riding a bike are left turn, right turn, and stopping/slowing down. Bicyclists should get in the habit of using such signals since making sudden turns can potentially be dangerous, especially with so many distracted drivers on the roads these days.
Bike Helmet Laws
Surprisingly, Washington law does not require bicyclists to wear helmets whenever they ride. A number of counties and municipalities, however, do have strict helmet laws on the books. King County, for example, first enacted a helmet law for all bicyclists, regardless of age, back in 1993. Violators could face stiff penalties or even have their bicycles impounded if caught riding without a bike helmet. Again, safety first.
Other Important Bicycle Laws
Below are a number of other important bike laws Washington riders should pay attention to:
- If you ride at night, make sure your bike is properly equipped with lamps and rear reflectors
- Only one person should ride a bicycle at a time, so this means no riders on handlebars or pegs
- Parents or guardians are responsible for making sure their children ride safely and follow all laws
The best way to enjoy the scenic views of Washington State from the perch of a bicycle is to carefully follow all of its bike laws and ride as safely as possible. For more information, visit the website for the Washington State Department of Transportation.