Traffic Laws & Safety

The safety of bicycle riders is a responsibility shared by both cyclists and motorists. Every bicycle rider has the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle driver. Bicyclists’ and motorists’ actions are more predictable and safer when everyone follows traffic laws.

Same Roads, Same Rights – Same Responsibilities

A bicyclist shares the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist (RCW 46.61.755). Traffic laws apply to all who bicycle on public roads or on multi-use bicycle paths. Bicyclists who obey the laws, ride safely and predictably, and communicate their intent with other users reduce risk for harm.
Information Box of a boy and his helmet how to make sure your helmet is fit properly.

Ride Safely

  • Use your head – Wear a helmet. Wear a properly fitted helmet to substantially reduce your risk for serious head injury. Adults can model safe behavior by always wearing a helmet when riding with children.
  • Wear reflective clothing. Be seen when riding in low light conditions.
  • Be alert. Use all your senses to know who is approaching you from all directions at all times. Wearing headphones or using an electric device is distracting and contributes to accidents.
  • Maintain a predictable straight line of travel. Always scan ahead for possible dangers. Avoid sudden swerving around parked cars or other hazards.
  • Take the space you need. Before a road narrows at bridges or at other constrained locations, signal a left turn, and assume more riding space in the travel lance. Return to the right side of the lane when it is safe to do so.
  • Use caution riding over train tracks and storm grates. Approach tracks at a 90-degree angle. Avoid riding over storm gram grates that can trap tires. Metal surfaces can be slick when wet.
  • Roundabouts: You have a choice. Riders can travel through a roundabout like a motor vehicle or use sidewalks and crosswalks.
  • Maintain all bike components in good working order. Brakes must be fully functional and tires should be properly inflated.

Obey all traffic laws

  • Always ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Obey traffic lights, stop signs, and all other traffic control devices.
  • Signal before making turns, changing lanes, slowing down, or stopping.
  • Cycling two abreast is legal, but blocking the flow of traffic is not.
  • Ride as far right as is safe and practical except when turning and passing. Shoulders and bike lanes are sometimes blocked or present hazards. It is legal to ride in the general purpose travel lane.
  • When overtaking other vehicles, always pass on the left. You may pass vehicles on the right only when using a bike lane.
  • Adults are responsible for their children obeying traffic laws. Coach and reinforce traffic safety skills to children.
  • Lights are required when riding during hours of darkness. You must use a front light (visible for 500 feet from the front) and a rear red reflector. Combining a rear red light with the reflector increases your visibility.
  • Avoid riding on sidewalks. If you must ride on a sidewalk, lower your speed and ride with caution as motorists may not expect a bicyclist when turning into driveways and intersections. Always yield to pedestrians. Always walk your bike on crowded sidewalks.
Be Courteous on Trails

  • Keep right. Pass on the left. Follow this rule to keep people safe and extend courtesy to other trail users’ experience.
  • Communicate your approach. Ring your bell or announce “passing on your left” or another greeting to notify others of your intent to pass.
  • Adjust your speed around vulnerable users. Some trail users are unable to move swiftly out of your path. Use caution riding around young children, pedestrians, elders, and people on horseback.
  • Pets must always be under an owner’s control. Don’t let your pet become a victim or cause someone else to become one.
  • Keep our trails and our environment clean. Clean up your pet’s waste. Pack out trash when a garbage container is not available.
Trail rider in Capitol State Forest waving while stopping to have a drink from his hydration pack.

Tips for Motorists

  • Yield to bicycles in a bicycle lane.
  • Do not drive in a bicycle lane except crossing over when making a turn.
  • If parked on street, look before opening a car door. Your door may be in the path of a cyclist.
  • Look carefully for cyclists. Scan intersections before entering or turning and yield to bicycles as you would for any vehicle.
  • Pass a bicycle the same way you would a car, or any other vehicle, allowing at least 3 feet of space between your vehicle and others.
  • Motorists must stop for bicyclists in a crosswalk. There is a crosswalk at the intersection of any 2 streets, whether painted or not. Bicyclists should dismount if using a crosswalk to cross the street.