Rules of the Road: Can bicyclists ride on a crosswalk?

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 24, 2013 

Question: Can a person with a bike ride it on a crosswalk or should they walk it? As we are trying to get bikes and cars to share the roadways, shouldn't bikes follow the same rules and guidelines for autos?

In downtown Bellingham, my understanding is no bike riding on sidewalks except for police. So shouldn't a citation be issued for someone riding in that crosswalk? Sidewalks are for walking, not riding!

Answer: One of the reasons the enforcement of laws can be so difficult, there are many pieces to look at. Bicycles riding on sidewalks, where legal to do so, have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians and must follow the same rules as a pedestrian would. This does allow them to ride their bicycle across a crosswalk.

What some of the bicycle riders fail to observe is another section of the pedestrian law, RCW 46.61.235, that says " (2) No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop."

If a bicycle is being ridden on the street, then it must follow the same rules as a vehicle and stop for stop signs, traffic signals, one-way street signs, etc. So the bicycle riders that you see that swoosh down the sidewalk and into the crosswalk (or through the stop sign or signal) are subject to a ticket for their violations.

Q: Why do the roundabouts have yield signs and warnings to yield to all traffic in the roundabout, yet freeway on-ramps have only merge signs? Many drivers stop at the entrances to the roundabouts even if the cars inside are still several car lengths away and traveling at a fairly slow speed. Yet on a freeway on-ramp, the same driver who stopped at the roundabout will move into dense traffic at speeds in excess of 50 mph.

A: Roundabouts are a fairly new addition to the road systems in Washington. I believe the state has placed the extra signs to make sure drivers are aware of what they need to do. As far as the freeway on-ramps, a yield sign covers the rules that the merging driver has to follow. As far as why drivers stop or don't stop, yield or fail to yield, I can't answer that portion.

ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD

Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

Answers come from David Wright, a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now serving on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service