Rules of the Road: Is it legal to park facing traffic?


Question: Is it legal to parallel park facing traffic on a quiet, residential street in front of your own house? We live in a quiet residential area within the Bellingham city limits. Our street is lightly traveled, has sidewalks, no painted center line and a generously wide dirt shoulder between the sidewalk and road on both sides. Some of our neighbors parallel park against the direction of traffic. Some even park diagonal, with the corner of one bumper sticking into the road. I recently got a warning for parking the "wrong way." Since I got the warning, I assume it is illegal, but our neighbors do it frequently and say they have never been warned or cited.

Answer: The short answer is no, it's not legal to park facing traffic.

Bellingham Municipal Code (BMC) 11.33.070 Additional parking regulations, was adopted by reference from (RCW 46.61.575). A. Except as otherwise provided in this section, every vehicle stopped or parked upon a two-way roadway shall be so stopped or parked with the right-hand wheels parallel to and within 12 inches of the right-hand curb or as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder.

B. Except when otherwise provided by local ordinance, every vehicle stopped or parked upon a one-way roadway shall be so stopped or parked parallel to the curb or edge of the roadway, in the direction of authorized traffic movement, with its right-hand wheels within 12 inches of the right-hand curb or as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder, or with its left-hand curb or as close as is practicable to the left edge of the left-hand shoulder.

Those that park on the diagonal are also subject to a citation, especially if their vehicle protrudes onto the roadway. The warnings and/or citations usually are issued only after a complaint about a problem. Most of the officers don't go looking for parking tickets to issue.

Q: Question: Is it necessary to stop for a school bus with the red lights on along the Guide Meridian where the cables separate the sides of the road?

A: Only if you are on the same side of the road as the bus.


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

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