Rules of the Road: Can bicyclists be cited for not moving to right?


Question: Can bicyclists be cited for impeding traffic when they refuse to move over so that traffic can pass? And who has the right of way?

Answer: The question is very vague, so it is difficult to answer. Let's start with what the law says: RCW 46.61.770 Riding on roadways and bicycle paths - (1) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.

From this, you will see that the bicycle "shall" ride as near to the right as is safe (determined by the bicycle rider). The bicycle rider "may" use the shoulder of the road or a bicycle lane if one exists. The impeding traffic infraction only covers two-lane roadways with a slow moving vehicle preventing five or more vehicles from passing.

As far as who has the right of way, a bicycle is considered a vehicle if it is being operated on the roadway and as such is entitled to all of the rules of the road applicable to a vehicle. They are also required to obey those same rules.

Q: I moved to Washington state in 1977. Car insurance was not mandatory then. When was it made mandatory?

A: Chapter 46.30 RCW, Mandatory Liability Insurance, was passed in 1989 with an effective date of Jan. 1, 1990.


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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