Bicycle traffic laws

Washington state bicycle laws

The biggest thing that keeps bikers safe on the roads is remembering that:Cyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers. RCW 46.61.755 Key words there are rights and responsibilities. Now let’s check on some other bike topics and see what the rules of the road have to say about them:

  • Safety Stop
  • Electric Bikes
  • Sidewalks
  • Lane Positions
  • Pedestrians
  • Helmets
  • Lights
  • Turns 


Safety Stop

Authorizes a person operating a bicycle to treat a stop sign as a yield sign. SB- 6208 

Under the new law, a bicycle (human powered or electric-assisted) approaching a stop sign may
1.) stop as normal, or
2.) treat it as a yield sign if:

  • They have slowed to a reasonable speed, such as they could safely stop if needed, and
  • They yield to any vehicle or pedestrian already in the intersection or with the right of way.  

For everyone’s safety, people biking must still fully stop at: 

  • Stoplights, including stop lights in bike lanes 
  • Stop signs on school buses 
  • Stop signs at railroad crossings 

Click here to learn more or to see the safety stop in action


Electric Bikes

“Electric-assist bicycles permissible with no more than 1,000 watts of power and maximum speed of 20mph with or without assist.   46.04.169

Electric-assist bicycles allowed on sidewalks and trails but may be locally forbidden. 46.61.710

Fully electric powered bikes are not allowed on sidewalks or trails.    46.61.723”

*New in 2023*

Tax incentives for purchasing an electric bike will soon be available, including $300 for every purchase and $1200 for low-income e-bike purchasers. Additionally, the state is working to create an e-bike lending library. Learn more

Taken from 


“Whether one can ride a bike on the sidewalk depends upon where that sidewalk is, but contrary to popular belief, it’s generally allowed.

Seattle bicyclists may ride on any sidewalk provided they do so in a “careful and prudent manner. [SMC 11.44.120]

Bellevue bicyclists can ride on the sidewalk unless this would “unreasonably inconvenience pedestrians. [BMC 11.60.070]

Anywhere in Washington, unless otherwise locally legislated, “every person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk or crosswalk must be granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to a pedestrian by this chapter. [RCW 46.61.755(2)]”

Taken from Washington Bike Law


Lane positions

Ride as far to the right as is SAFE, except when preparing to turn or when passing another vehicle. Note, this does not mean you must hug the right side of the road, as it may be unsafe due to debris, grates, car doors and other hazards.

Ride no more than two abreast, and only when safe to do so. Occupy the center of a lane when the lane is too narrow to share or when it would be unsafe to ride to the right. 

Cyclists may ride on a path, lane, shoulder, or travel lane. RCW 46.61.770

Check out this video from the League of American Bicyclists for an explanation on lane positioning.



Always yield to pedestrians. RCW 46.61.261



Currently, there is no state law requiring helmet use. Helmets are no longer required by law in Tacoma and many parts of King County. Below are jurisdictions where helmets are required (via WSDOT)

Location and ages

Aberdeen, all ages

Bainbridge Island, all ages

Bellevue, all ages

Bremerton, all ages

DuPont, all ages

Eatonville, all ages

Fircrest, all ages

Gig Harbor, all ages

Kent, all ages

Lynnwood, all ages

Lakewood, all ages

Milton, all ages

Orting, under 17

Pierce County
(unincorporated), all ages

Port Angeles, all ages

Port Orchard, all ages

Poulsbo, under 18

Puyallup, all ages

Renton, all ages

Snohomish, all ages

Spokane, all ages

Steilacoom, all ages

University Place, all ages

Vancouver, all ages

All military installations, all ages


Use a white front light (visible for 500 feet) and a red rear reflector at night. A red rear light may be used in addition to the rear reflector. RCW 46.61.780

Always use a steady front white light instead of a blinking light. In the dark it is easier to tell how fast an object is moving when there is a steady light instead of a blinking light. 



Use hand signals (and look) before turning. RCW 46.61.758

Remember: even though hand signals are incredibly helpful, they are not mandatory. If you have to choose between feeling comfortable with your hands on the brakes and signaling, choose your hands on the brakes.

(Updated 5/4/2023)