Washington has been named the nation’s most “bicyclist friendly state.” After all, our state boasts over 5,000 miles of bike trails. Even so, bicyclists remain vulnerable road users. Hundreds of cyclists are seriously injured and killed every year in collisions. Thankfully, new laws will soon offer greater protection to cyclists on our roads. But before I discuss those laws with you, I’d like to share my own story about why I personally chose to stop biking to work each day.
From 1999 to 2008, I frequently rode my bike to the office. I never felt completely safe on the road with semi-trucks and cars whizzing by at 50 mph. Yet, I never felt completely unsafe either. During this time, I did all the right things to stay safe, such as wearing bright clothes. I believed I could coexist with motor vehicles with minimal risk.
By 2009, I no longer believed the risk was minimal. The game changer for me was the growing popularity of the smartphone. Almost overnight, the number of drivers I would see looking at their phones during my commute went from a few to several dozen. I would also see more and more drivers drifting towards the shoulder (probably looking at their phones).
As a personal injury attorney, I also began to help or more victims of bicycle collisions during this time. Commuters not paying attention or rushing to their destination were causing serious injuries, even deaths. I decided I could no longer accept the risk of riding to work.
Data backs up my fears. In 2018, 857 cyclists were killed in the US. This is a 6.3% increase from 2017.
The Washington State Legislature has taken note of the increased dangers to cyclists and has passed laws to help. Specifically, a new law passed this year that protects bicyclists and other vulnerable roadway users from unsafe motorists who try to pass too close. The bill was signed by Governor Inslee in May 2019 and will take effect on January 1, 2020.
The new law will impose increased penalties for several traffic infractions that cause a good portion of bicycle crashes and fatalities. It will also clarify how motorists and bicyclists should share the road in a number of situations. Additionally, the law will help other vulnerable roadway users, such as pedestrians and motorcyclists.
The fines from these infractions will go into a fund that helps educate law enforcement about traffic enforcement for vulnerable road users.
So, let’s look at the specifics of the new law that went into effect on January 1, 2020.
You can read the entire bill at the Washington State Legislature’s website.
This might be a good time to make sure to review Washington State laws that relate to bicyclists. We’ve summarized some of the key laws for you in the table below. However, we encourage you to read each one for yourself.
|RCW 46.61.700||Parent or guardian shall not authorize or permit violation by a child or ward.||Parents are responsible for their children’s behavior on bicycles.|
|RCW 46.61.750||Effect of regulations – penalty.||Bicyclists can be ticketed for traffic violations.|
|RCW 46.61.755||Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles.||Cyclists have all rights of the road as motorists. However, this also means they have all duties to follow traffic rules.|
|RCW 46.61.770||Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.||Bicyclists should ride as close to the right-hand side of the road as possible, with certain exceptions. Cyclists may ride no more than two abreast on a roadway.|
|RCW 46.61.780||Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.||Bikes need to be equipped with lights in front and back when riding at night. Bikes need to have working brakes.|
Remember, laws can and do change. Make sure to stay current.
Unfortunately, motorist versus bicyclist collisions are on the rise in Washington. Everyone who uses our roads has a duty to be safe. When both motorists and cyclists follow the rules of the road, they can safely coexist. If the rules are ignored, people will continue to be injured.
At Ladenburg Law Injury Attorneys, we will continue to help those people who are injured. We will continue to educate people on the rules of the road so we do not have to help so many. Drive and ride safely!
–Erik Ladenburg, Personal Injury Attorney