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How much space must a driver allow a bicyclist in Washington State?

You must give a cyclist in Washington State enough room that you would clearly avoid coming into contact with the rider, per RCW § 46.61.110. While there is no specific distance required by law, the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) suggests that drivers give bicyclists a minimum of three feet when traveling slowly.

Is there information on space for bicyclists in addition to the Washington statutes?

The DOL provides the following guidance on drivers allowing space to bicycles:

  • Cars must yield to bicycles traveling in a bicycle lane. It is not a matter of the amount of space to be given to the bicycle within the bike lane.
  • Cars are not allowed to drive in bicycle lanes. Cars are only allowed to enter bicycle lanes when turning, getting into a parking space, or entering the roadway. Cars are never allowed to park in a bicycle lane.
  • If a bicyclist is crossing the road on a painted or unpainted crosswalk, drivers must stop for the bicyclist until the bicyclist is on the other half of the roadway. This is the same rule as for pedestrians.
  • If a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk, a driver must yield right-of-way when driving across the sidewalk. When a bicycle is traveling on a sidewalk, the bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian.
  • A driver may not drive on the left side of the road if there is an approaching bicyclist and there is not enough space for the bicyclist to be safe. For example, a car driver wants to pass another car, but it is a two-lane road, and there is a bicycle in the left (oncoming) lane. The driver must wait until the bicyclist has gone by before initiating the overtaking of the other car.
  • Bicyclists are allowed to ride on the roadway, in a bicycle lane, on the shoulder of the road, or the sidewalk, unless signs prohibit this. It is the choice of the bicyclist, not of a driver. Drivers are not allowed to force bicyclists off the road to the shoulder. They must allow them space in a lane of the roadway.
  • If a bicyclist is traveling on the road and is going slower than the flow of traffic, the bicyclist must ride as close to the right side of the roadway as he safely can. Regardless of whether she is traveling at the speed of traffic, the bicyclist may move to the left before and during turns. Cars must keep a safe distance during these turns.
  • A bicyclist may ride in traffic lanes either singly or two abreast. When bicycles are traveling two abreast, they are entitled to the entire width of the lane. A car may not enter the lane until it has safely passed both bicycles.

Are there any other laws bicyclists need to know?

Yes. While drivers should give bicyclists the suggested three feet of space, there are laws that bicyclists need to know to keep themselves safe and protect their rights. All bicyclists should remember these four important bicycle laws:

  • Bicyclists are motorists under Washington State law. This means that they have the same rights and responsibilities of drivers.
  • All King County residents must wear helmets when operating a bicycle. (Washington State does not have a bicycle helmet law, but King County adopted the law in 1993.)
  • All bicyclists must signal their turns. (This video from The League of American Bicyclists demonstrates how to signal all turns.)
  • Bicyclists do not have the right-of-way on sidewalks. They must always yield right-of-way to pedestrians.

Max Meyers Law PLLC: Your Kirkland Bicycle Accident Lawyers

Unfortunately, many drivers do not give bicyclists the three feet suggested by the DOL. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in a bicycle accident that was not your fault, we can help. Call Max Meyers Law PLLC today at 425-242-5595 to set up your free consultation.

Max Meyers
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.