Bicyclist laws & safety

Learn about bicyclist-related laws, safety tips and the rights and responsibilities you have as a bicyclist.

A bicycle is a legal vehicle, just like a car. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.

Laws to be aware of whether you are biking or driving a motor vehicle:

  • Riding on the road - When riding on a roadway, a cyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver (RCW 46.61.755). Bicyclists who violate traffic laws may be ticketed (RCW 46.61.750).
  • Roads closed to bicyclists - Some designated sections of the state's limited access highway system may be closed to bicyclists. See the permanent bike restrictions map for more information. In addition, local governments may adopt ordinances banning cycling on specific roads or on sidewalks within business districts.
  • Children bicycling - Parents or guardians may not knowingly permit bicycle traffic violations by their ward (RCW 46.61.700).
  • Riding side by side - Bicyclists may ride side by side, but not more than two abreast (RCW 46.61.770).
  • Riding at night - For night bicycle riding, a white front light (not a reflector) visible for 500 feet and a red rear reflector are required. A red rear light may be used in addition to the required reflector (RCW 46.61.780).
  • Shoulder vs. bike lane - Bicyclists may choose to ride on the path, bike lane, shoulder or travel lane as suits their safety needs (RCW 46.61.770).
  • Bicycle helmets - Currently, there is no state law requiring helmet use. However, some cities and counties do require helmets.

Bicycle helmet requirements

Currently, there is no state law requiring helmet use. However, some cities and counties do require helmet use with bicycles. Here is a list of those locations and when the laws were enacted:

Location name

Who is affected

Effective date

Aberdeen

All ages

2001

Bainbridge Island

All ages

2001

Bellevue

All ages

2001

Bremerton

All ages

2000

DuPont

All ages

2008

Eatonville

All ages

1996

Fircrest

All ages

1995

Gig Harbor

All ages

1996

Kent

All ages

1999

King County

All ages

1993, 2003 updated to include Seattle

Lynnwood

All ages

2004

Lakewood

All ages

1996

Milton

All ages

1997

Orting

Under 17

1997

Pierce County
(unincorporated)

All ages

1994

Port Angeles

All ages

1994

Port Orchard

All ages

2004

Poulsbo

Under 18

1995

Puyallup

All ages

1994

Renton

All ages

1999

Snohomish

All ages

1999

Spokane

All ages

2004

Steilacoom

All ages

1995

University Place

All ages

1996

Vancouver

All ages

2008

All military installations

All ages

N/A

 

Bicyclist safety tips

  • Obey traffic signs and signals - Bicyclists must follow the rules of the road like other vehicles.
  • Never ride against traffic - Motorists aren't looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the road. State law and common sense require that bicyclists drive like other vehicles.
  • Follow lane markings - Don't turn left from the right lane. Don't go straight in a lane marked “right-turn only.”
  • If riding on a limited access facilities where bicycling is permitted use the off and on ramps at interchanges.
  • Don’t pass on the right - Motorists may not look for or see a bicyclist passing on the right.
  • Scan the road behind you - Learn to look back over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving. Some riders use rear-view mirrors.
  • Keep both hands ready to brake - You may not stop in time if you brake one-handed. Allow extra distance for stopping in the rain, since brakes are less efficient when wet.
  • Wear a helmet and never ride with headphones - Always wear a helmet. Never wear a headphone while riding a bike.
  • Dress for the weather - In rain wear a poncho or waterproof suit. Dress in layers so you can adjust to temperature changes. Wear bright colored clothing.
  • Use hand signals - Hand signals tell motorists and pedestrians what you intend to do. Signal as a matter of law, of courtesy, and of self-protection.
  • Ride in the middle of the lane in slower traffic - Get in the middle of the lane at busy intersections and whenever you are moving at the same speed as traffic.
  • Choose the best way to turn left - There are two choices: (1) Like an auto: signal to move into the left turn lane and then turn left. (2) Like a pedestrian: ride straight to the far side crosswalk. Walk your bike across.
  • Make eye contact with drivers - Assume that other drivers don't see you until you are sure that they do. Eye contact is important with any driver which might pose a threat to your safety.
  • Use a mirror so you know when drivers are behind you.
  • Look out for road hazards - Watch out for parallel-slat sewer grates, gravel, ice, sand or debris and pedestrians on the shoulder. Cross railroad tracks at right angles.
  • Use lights at night - The law requires a white headlight (visible from at least 500 feet ahead) and a rear reflector or taillight (visible up to 300 feet from behind).
  • Keep your bike in good repair - Adjust your bike to fit you and keep it working properly. Check brakes and tires regularly. Routine maintenance is simple and you can learn to do it yourself.

14 fish passage projects were completed in 2020

improving access to 54.2 miles of upstream habitat.

11,959 incidents responded to

by WSDOT’s incident Response teams during second quarter of 2021, 15% more than same quarter in 2020.

41 Pre-existing Funds Projects Advertised

during the eighth quarter of the 2019-2021 biennium.