Rules of the Road: Must bicyclists dismount in crosswalks?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 29, 2013 

Question: Are bicyclists required to dismount and walk when using a crosswalk? How about when using a sidewalk? As a motorist, I have encountered many close calls where bicyclists seemly come out of nowhere as they transition from sidewalk to crosswalk to street and back again.

Answer: No, bicyclists are not required to dismount and walk when using a crosswalk. They are also not required to walk their bicycles on a sidewalk except in the downtown core of Bellingham and Fairhaven. Bicycles on the sidewalk are required to yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Bicyclists and pedestrians do have a responsibility under RCW 46.61.235, Crosswalks. "(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."

Q: Today I was sitting in traffic on West Bakerview Road heading east. The car in front of me had its blinker on to turn right into the Barnes & Noble parking lot. I had my blinker on as well. There wasn't enough room for either of us to go, but the light turned green and the driver in front of me turned in. I went to follow suit but pulled a little further ahead to make a wider turn so that I wouldn't hit the curb. At this point I luckily managed to slam on my brakes quickly enough to avoid a collision with a bicyclist in the bike lane who came up from behind me. He turned around long enough to give me a dirty look and then proceeded on his way.

I typically drive and turn around bicyclists so that I don't interrupt them; I either slow down and turn after them or get far enough ahead of them to turn safely in front of them. But in both of those cases I have seen them because they are either in front of me or I have overtaken them and am aware of their presence. In this situation I was unsure. Do I need to start checking my side mirrors for bicyclists coming up from behind me anytime I turn right or should he have slowed down?

A: This is an ongoing issue with cars and bicycles trying to share the road. In the case as you have described, the bicycle needs to be following the rules of the road for vehicles. One of the laws that applies is RCW 46.61.115, When overtaking on the right is permitted. (1) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions: (a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; (b) Upon a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.

(2) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.

As you state in your second paragraph, you appear to try to make allowances for bicycles when you overtake and pass. In this case, the bicyclist should show the same courtesy.

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.

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