Bicycling is a fun and freeing form of transportation that’s not only better for your fitness than driving a car but also better for the environment. It’s a wonderful way to de-stress during your work commute or to enjoy nature on weekend rides on bike trails. Riding a bike is a great economic and eco-friendly choice, but before you strap on your helmet and pedal away, it’s important to understand the laws regulating bike riding in Seattle and throughout Washington.
Washington codes consider a bicycle a “human-powered device” with two wheels of at least 16 inches. Washington, like most states, allows cyclists to ride on most sidewalks. The law specifies that it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk “carefully and prudently.” This means if a sidewalk is crowded with pedestrians it may be best to avoid it and choose a bike bath or the roadway instead. A cyclist on the sidewalk and on crosswalks has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian. Seattle requires motor vehicles to yield to bikes in crosswalks, however, the city codes also specify that cyclists must not enter crosswalks so abruptly that drivers don’t have ample opportunity to yield.
Seattle considers bicycles as pedestrians on sidewalks but as vehicles on roadways.
Cyclists on the roadways must follow all traffic laws, including stopping at stop signs and traffic lights and using turn lanes. Legally, cyclists may ride two abreast on roadways. On bike trails, there are no specifications for how many cyclists can bike side by side.
Within Seattle, city codes allow cyclists on the roadway to pass cars on the right when it’s clear and safe. In other areas of Washington, state rules may differ but allow passing on the right in certain situations and municipalities. Cars are also allowed to pass cyclists with a specified duty to stay to the left at a distance safe enough to ensure no contact with the cyclist (at least 3 feet) and remain to the left until they are clearly a safe distance past the cyclist.
Also, Seattle drivers are not allowed to cross over the center line to pass a car or a bike if a cyclist is approaching in the oncoming lane unless the roadway is wide enough to provide ample space to ensure a safe distance between the car and bicycle.
Washington does not have a state-wide law requiring cyclists to wear a safety helmet. However, King County’s Board of Health Code states that anyone riding a bicycle on a public roadway, bike path, right-of-way, or within state facilities must wear a protective bike helmet.
Seattle’s laws for bicycles include several other important regulations including the following:
By familiarizing yourself with state and city bicycle laws, you can minimize risks and avoid fines. You can also help prevent the chance of a Seattle bicycle accident. Knowing the laws not only helps to keep cyclists safe but also ensures the most enjoyable and efficient bike riding experience.
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