Before your next ride, make sure you understand which rules of the road apply to you. For your own safety, it’s important that you follow the law when riding.

Which traffic laws apply to bicyclists?



Bicycle riding in bike lane with cars next to himIn the state of Washington—unlike in some other jurisdictions—bicycles are permitted on sidewalks, but must yield to pedestrians. When a bicyclist decides to ride on the road, however, he is obligated to follow the same traffic laws as drivers. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, a bicycle is considered part of traffic when ridden in the road and is therefore subject to the same traffic laws as cars.

Tips for Sharing the Road With Cars

In 2013, more than 48,000 bicyclists were injured and 743 were killed as a result of traffic accidents. Many of these injuries could have been prevented if bikers and drivers alike followed traffic safety laws. Unfortunately, whether the fault of the biker or driver, when laws are ignored and collisions occur, bicyclists will always bear the brunt of consequences. Therefore, before you strap on your helmet and pedal onto the road, it’s imperative that you know the following tips for safe riding:

  • Ride defensively. As a biker, you must never assume that traffic can or will stop for you. Rather than hoping other cars will obey the rules when you have the right of way, you still need to check your surroundings and stay cautious of surrounding traffic—just as you would if driving a car.
  • Ride like you drive. As a biker, you do not have the luxury of alternating between traffic and pedestrian rules. Washington affords certain leeway for bicyclists to choose whether they want to ride on the sidewalk, in the traffic lane, on the shoulder, or in the bike lane. However, no matter which lane you’re in, you must still obey traffic. Just because you’re on a bike doesn’t mean that you don’t have to stop at stop signs or that you can ignore or bypass traffic lights by swerving into a crosswalk—not only is this illegal, but it can confuse drivers as they expect you to comply with the rules of the road. Furthermore, if there is a “No Turn on Red” sign posted, do not turn on red. Remember, even though you’re on a bike, you’re still considered a vehicle.
  • Ride cautiously. As a biker, you don’t have the driver protection of a steel cage surrounding you. This means that, even though you may have the right of way, you can’t absorb the collision damage of a 2,000-pound vehicle when it strikes you. Therefore, you must always remain alert, and when in doubt, take the extra precautions you need to stay safe—signal every move, come to a complete stop when needed, approach intersections slowly, and yield to cars whenever possible.

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