Rules of the Road: When can I drive past a crossing pedestrian?


Question: When you stop for someone at a crosswalk, can you resume driving once they have crossed out of your lane or do you have to wait until the person has completely crossed the road?

Answer: You should wait until the person crossing the road has at least crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic. The rule in the RCW says that you must stop for a person in the crosswalk if they are either waiting to enter the roadway (on the sidewalk) or if they are within one-half of the lane approaching your lane of travel.

Q: Can you ride a bicycle on sidewalks? I was walking my dog around Whatcom Community College. Two bicyclists flew by us, almost hitting my dog. They acted like I was in the wrong (I was finishing up a telephone call and was not paying enough attention to notice them). Was I?

A: Except in the downtown business district of Bellingham (and actually in Fairhaven, too), it is legal to ride bicycles on the sidewalk. In the area of Western Washington University, there are some prohibitions put in place by the university about when you are allowed to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. I am not sure if there are any restrictions around the community college. Bicyclists need to yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk. You may want to pay a little more attention to what is happening around you, rather than not notice things because you are distracted by a phone call. We are seeing more issues with pedestrians stepping in front of vehicles without looking due to the distraction.


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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