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Washington State Bike Laws

Colburn Law

As a cyclist, it’s important to be aware of the rules of the road. Knowing and following applicable bike laws can help you stay safe, avoid tickets, and reduce the risk of any accidents. 

Like all states, Washington state has several laws that apply to cyclists. Here are the rules that you should know when riding a bike in Washington.

Do You Need to Wear a Bicycle Helmet in Washington?

There is no statewide law that requires cyclists to wear helmets in Washington, but some cities and counties do make it mandatory. In fact, King County had a mandatory helmet law until February 2022, when the King County Board of Health voted to repeal the rule. 

While helmets may not be required, cyclists do need to have special equipment on their bicycles. For example, your bicycle must have a working brake. If it’s dark outside, your bike should be equipped with the following:

  • A rear red reflector that is visible up to 600 feet
  • A front lamp that emits a white light that is visible up to 500 feet

Can Bicycles Ride on the Road?

Unless local laws prohibit it, cyclists are allowed to ride on roads or sidewalks in Washington state. In these areas, bicycle riders have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. 

You must comply with traffic signs and signals. If you’re cycling slower than traffic, you will need to ride as far to the right side of the road as possible. You could also ride in a bike lane, on a bike path if one is available. You can also ride on the shoulder of the road and designated travel lanes. 

Washington State Bike Laws

Do Cyclists Need to Signal Before They Turn?

Hand signals are required when turning or slowing down on a bicycle. Before initiating the turn, you will need to make the following signal:

  • When you are slowing down, extend your left arm downward.
  • When turning left, extend your left arm horizontally beyond the side of the bicycle.
  • When turning right, extend your left arm upward, or extend your right arm horizontally to the right.

Are Cyclists Required to Carry Insurance?

As a fault accident state, Washington requires motor vehicle drivers and motorcyclists to carry liability insurance. However, this law does not apply to cyclists.

You do not need to carry insurance coverage to ride a bicycle in Washington state. Additionally, you don’t have to register your bike or obtain a license to ride it.

What Happens If You Are Injured in a Bicycle Accident?

Washington is a fault-based accident state, so anyone who causes an accident is financially responsible. If you are hurt in a bicycle accident, you could file an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver and recover a settlement.

There are a number of damages you could recover through your claim:

  • The cost of medical care for any injuries that you sustained
  • Damage to any property in the accident, including your bike
  • Wages lost while recovering from or treating your injury
  • Pain and suffering, such as chronic pain or emotional distress

If you plan on filing a claim, a bicycle accident lawyer can protect your interests and help you recover the compensation that you deserve. An attorney can gather evidence, negotiate with insurance representatives, and build a strong case for your right to a fair settlement.

After your accident, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Then, contact a Seattle bicycle accident attorney to discuss your next steps.