Washington Bicycle Laws: What You Need to Know

In 2017, 783 bicyclists died in automobile-related accidents. And that number is not a fluke for bicycle accident statistics, which has been on the rise since 2009. That is where Washington bicycle laws come into play.
Whether you are a casual cyclist or considering trading in your car keys to become a commuter biker, staying safe and knowing your rights is important. That’s especially true if you find yourself involved in a bicycle accident.
Every state has its own particular set of bicycle laws, which means it’s important to know the laws that impact you directly. If you live and bike in Washington, we can help. Here’s an overview of what you need to know about Washington bicycle laws in the state.

Washington Bicycle Laws

Not all states and cities in the country are bike-friendly. But according to a 2017 survey by the League of American Bicyclists, Washington ranked number one in bike-friendliness.
One of the big reasons it ranks so high is because of the funding it puts toward safe biking projects. This includes building bike lanes and making it easier to do so throughout the state. That also means they give thought to the design and ease of access for bicyclists.
This is encouraging information to know if you like to bike. But it’s also your responsibility to know the laws you have to comply with when operating a bike, and what that means if you experience a bicycle accident.

Helmet Laws

There is no state-wide law requiring bicyclists to wear helmets when they ride. That’s not necessarily true outside the state of Washington. Some cities and states make this a mandatory part of bicycle safety etiquette.
You can find a list of cities in Washington that do require helmet use at all times. Here are the locations that require all bicyclists to wear helmets—regardless of age: Aberdeen, Bainbridge Island, Bellevue, Bremerton, DuPont, Eatonville, Fircrest, Gig Harbor, Kent, King County, Lynnwood, Lakewood, Milton, Pierce County, Port Angeles, Port Orchard, Puyallup, Renton, Spokane, Steilacoom, Tacoma, University Places, and Vancouver.
Other communities like Orting and Poulsbo only require riders under the age of 17 and 18, respectively, to wear a helmet.

Road Rules for Cyclists in Washington

It may be tempting to give yourself a pass if you’re on a bike. But the fact is even though you’re only on two wheels, you’re still operating what the state considers a vehicle.
That means you must abide by all the rules that automobile drivers observe. You are not exempt from obeying traffic lights and signals or yielding to pedestrians.
You can be ticketed if you don’t comply with general road regulations and other specific laws related to bicyclists. This can be true when you ride a bike on a highway or even on a bike path.
Here are a few important specifics to know and follow in order to avoid a fine or ticket.

  • If you’re a parent or guardian of a child, you must make sure he or she does not violate any bike traffic rules while riding a bike.
  • Some roads are off limits to bicyclists and that may include sidewalks.
  • You can ride with another cyclist by your side on the road, but no more than two riders side-by-side are allowed.
  • You must always ride in the right lane except when safely making turns or passing other cyclists.
  • On one-way roads or highways where there are at least two lanes, you are permitted to use the left lane. But you must do so in a safe manner.
  • If there’s no bike lane on a road, you can use the shoulder.
  • Your bike must have working brakes.

Restrictions at Night

Many car accidents happen at nighttime. Data shows that 48% of deaths related to car collisions occur at night. Visibility at night is an issue for motor vehicles, and it can be an even bigger concern to bicyclists.
In order to avoid a bike crash at night, it’s important to ensure you have the proper lamps and lights in place. The state of Washington makes it mandatory for a bike to have a white front light and red rear reflector.
The front light must be visible from at least 500 hundred feet away. The rear reflector should be visible up to 600 hundred feet away.

Knowing Your Rights as a Bicyclist in Washington

The Washington State Department of Transportation says that in the last 10 years bicycling commuting has increased by 75%. There are many positive aspects of this trend. It’s a more eco-conscious choice, helps people stay active, and eases road traffic congestion.
But there is always a risk of a bicycle accident, no matter the time of day.
If you are injured in a collision with a motor vehicle, you have just as much right to take legal action as an automobile driver. And even if you did violate a traffic law, but you incur an injury, there’s a chance you can still receive damages for your injuries.
If you are a bike commuter or frequent cyclist, you can also take the extra precaution of purchasing insurance coverage. Personal Injury Protection and Under-insured Motorist coverage can help cover losses due to injury in a bicycle accident or damage to your bike.
This is all information you can seek from qualified accident lawyers specializing in bike accidents. But before that ever happens, safeguard yourself with safe cycling practices and understanding state bike traffic laws.

What to Do If You’re in a Washington Bicycle Accident

If you do experience a bike crash, it’s understandable to feel shocked and uncertain of what to do next. It is important to act quickly, however, especially if another party is at fault.
You may be tempted to wait to seek medical attention or hesitant to move forward with a claim or case. We understand. But working with a bicycle accident attorney can help you work through all those questions.
Contact us today for a free consultation about your situation. We’re here to listen and assist you with your case.


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