Do You Know the Rules of Biking in Washington?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an explosion in bike riding. There’s been at least a 50% increase in bicycle sales and trails are much busier. A review of bicycle laws seems appropriate, particularly for those just returning to the activity.


Surprisingly, Washington State Law does not require bicycle riders to wear helmets, but some cities do. You can check the requirements for your city at: You are not required to wear a helmet in either Yakima or Kittitas Counties, but you would be smart to wear one. It is estimated that 74% of fatal bike crashes involve a head injury. An astounding 97% of those fatal crashes involve riders who were not wearing a helmet. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury by 70%. So, even though Washington law doesn’t require it, wear a helmet.

Same Rules as Those for Cars

In our state, bicyclists have the same responsibilities as those driving cars. Parents are responsible under Washington law to see that their children obey these laws. Cyclists can be ticketed for traffic violations just like car drivers. And the same rules apply to cyclists on bicycle paths.

Where to Ride

Bicycles can be ridden on nearly all public roadways. However, the Department of Transportation and local laws can prohibit bicycle riding in some areas. For example, Washington State does not prohibit riding a bike on sidewalks, but some local laws do. It is unlawful to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in the central business districts of Yakima, Sunnyside, and Ellensburg. If you ride your bicycle on a sidewalk, you should make sure that you reduce your speed and be extra cautious. Many drivers don’t expect bicycles as they are exiting parking lots. Additionally, cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians on sidewalks. Bicycle riders are required to ride on the right side of the lane whenever they are traveling at a speed less than the flow of traffic. Bicyclists are not required to ride on the shoulder or so close to the right side of the road that it is unsafe.

Motor Vehicles

Car drivers also have a special obligation when passing bicyclists. A law that went into effect in January 2020 now states that a car passing a bicycle “shall pass to the left at a safe distance to clearly avoid coming into contact with the pedestrian or bicyclists, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken pedestrian or bicyclists.”

Turning and Signaling

Bicyclists are required to signal any turn. The law allows bicyclists to signal a left turn by extending their left arm and to signal a right turn by extending their right arm. While not required by law, an arm extended downward with palm facing backwards signals the cyclist is slowing or stopping.

Lights Required at Night

If you plan to ride a bicycle at night, you need lights. You should have a white light on the front of your bike to mitigate any potential risks for collisions with other bikers, motorcyclists and automobiles.

Contact Bike Accident Attorneys in Yakima

If you’re facing the aftermath of a bike accident in Yakima, WA, let the Abeyta Nelson Personal Injury attorneys champion your case, ensuring you receive the justice and support essential for your recovery and peace of mind.

Call us at 509-588-0240 or send a message to start your consultation now.

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