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A Guide to Bike Accident Law in Washington

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How Common Are Bicycle Accidents in Washington State?

Cycling is a popular mode of transportation in the state of Washington, particularly in the city of Seattle where nearly 40% of the city’s residents regularly bike for work or recreation. Unfortunately, however, with so many bikers on our roads, there is a large number of bicycle accident victims in the state. In one recently recorded year, there were over 1300 bike accidents, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicycle accident fatalities are on the rise across the country.

There is no 100% foolproof way to protect yourself as a bicyclist sharing the road with motor vehicles. However, there are ways to limit the chances of accidents happening and protect your life and limb if an unfortunate accident occurs: knowing and following the state’s bicycle laws, which are there to protect cyclists and others on the roads.

Can Bicyclists Ride on the Road?

In some cases, a bicycle is treated as a vehicle. In such situations, a cyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicle drivers on the roadways of Washington state. Cyclists who violate the rules of the road may be ticketed just the same as any other driver. There are situations where bikers are afforded different rights not given to other drivers.

Cyclists are allowed to ride side by side on roadways, sharing a lane. Larger groups of bicyclists can only share a lane if that lane is exclusively designated for bicycles.

In Seattle, bicycles are allowed to use ‘bus only’ lanes, a right not afforded to other civilian vehicles. Also in Seattle, bicyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks. However, bicyclists must operate with care and slower speed when on sidewalks, paying extra attention to their surroundings. Every cyclist on a sidewalk must yield to the right of way of a pedestrian. Other cities may also allow bikes on the sidewalks.

Because bicycles are not large enough to activate sensors at some traffic lights, cyclists occasionally have the right to run a red light.

There are, however, certain highways where bikes are not allowed. Many interstates prohibit bicycles and other slower modes of transportation. If a bike were to share the highway with other faster-moving vehicles, they may become a hazard to themselves and others. If you must consider using a highway, first consult available maps from the Washington State Department of Transit. Where possible, look for bike trails that provide safer travel.

What Are the Bicycle Helmet Requirements?

The state has no bicycle helmet laws. However, different cities and counties have their own bicycle helmet laws.
Bike helmets are required for all ages in:

  • Aberdeen.
  • Bainbridge Island.
  • Bellevue.
  • Bremerton.
  • DuPont.
  • Eatonville.
  • Fircrest.
  • Gig Harbor.
  • Kent.
  • Lynnwood.
  • Lakewood.
  • Milton.
  • Pierce County.
  • Port Angeles.
  • Port Orchard.
  • Puyallup.
  • Renton.
  • Seattle.
  • Snohomish.
  • Spokane.
  • Steilacoom.
  • University Place.
  • Vancouver.

In Orting, bike helmets are only required for cyclists under the age of 17. In Poulsbo, only bikers under age 18 must wear helmets.

Do Cyclists Have to Signal Before They Turn?

Under the law, cyclists must signal for every turn. Usually, bike signals are done with the left hand, if available.

When turning left, a biker should hold their arm out to the side, making it parallel with the pavement. All fingers should be extended, or you may point with your index finger.

When turning right, bicyclists must hold their arm out at a 90° angle, with the hand pointing upward. Using the right hand to indicate a right turn is also permitted. To use the right hand for a right turn signal, hold your arm out straight to the side with all fingers extended or pointing an index finger.

When coming to a halt, cyclists should hold either arm out sideways, at a 90° angle, with the hand pointing downwards.
Failure to signal may be taken as a violation of the rules of the road, and a bicyclist may risk being ticketed by a law enforcement officer.

Who is Responsible for Bike Accidents?

Bike accidents in Washington are often the result of other drivers on the road. However, Washington accident law operates under a comparative fault rule, meaning that multiple parties could be determined to be at fault. In some limited cases, bicyclists are partly responsible for bike accidents. Under comparative fault, the percentage of fault that the bicyclist shares will be deducted from the amount they would otherwise hope to recover with their bike accident claim.

If you and your lawyers are able to establish that fault rests on the shoulders of the other parties, you could recover compensation for medical bills, property damage, lost wages, emotional distress, and wrongful death.

Contact Us to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation

If you’ve been in a bike accident, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. Please contact our law firm to discuss your case with our legal team. Khan Injury Law Has years of experience helping clients with their personal injury cases. We have a complete understanding of the state’s bicycle laws and safety requirements. We are happy to provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of bicycle laws in Washington.

We have law offices across the Seattle area, including Kent, Tacoma, Tukwila, and 4th Ave. in Seattle. To schedule your free consultation, please get in touch with us by contacting our law firm at 206-900-9900.

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