Effective January 1, 2020, all Washington state drivers have to obey a new law when overtaking a cyclist on the roadway. The law requires that when a driver of a car comes upon a bicycle riding in the same direction and wishes to pass the cyclist, he or she must allow at least three feet from the bicycle to the car. (RCW 46.61.110)
The old law required the motorist to pass “at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken traffic.” The new law has similar language but adds that the driver must “pass a safe distance, where practicable of at least three feet, to clearly avoid coming into contact with the individual.
What This Means
For cyclists, it means that when they are riding on the street and are riding on the far-right side of the right lane, they know that a car coming up on them must allow three feet before they pass on the left of the cyclist.
Riding in the Street
Under Washington law, a cyclist can ride on the street the same as any motor vehicle because they are considered a “vehicle” for the purposes of traffic laws and operation on the highway. However, another law requires any cyclist that can’t keep up with the speed of traffic must ride to the right side of the right lane.
This means that when a cyclist is keeping up with traffic, then he or she can ride in the middle of the lane, and upcoming vehicles have to treat them the same way they would any other car if they want to pass. The driver of the car has to move out into the oncoming lane when it’s safe to do so just the same as if the bicycle were a motor vehicle.
Rights vs. Safety
While the law requires motorists to treat bikes the same as other vehicles, all cyclists know that some motorists will be annoyed that a bike is riding in the middle of the lane and will attempt to pass illegally. So a smart cyclist should understand that their safety is more important than being right.
Remember, a good bike ride is one where you get home safely.
Contact a Spokane Bicycle Accident Lawyer.
Established in Spokane in 1948, Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S. is committed to providing our clients with the absolute highest quality legal representation. If our Spokane Bicycle Accident Lawyers represent you for your accident case, you have our assurance that we will use our absolute best efforts to win your case. Contact us after any accident resulting in a serious injury for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation. We will only offer you advice which is in your best interest.
Overtaking on the left. (Effective until January 1, 2020.)
The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to those limitations, exceptions and special rules hereinafter stated:
(1) The driver of a vehicle overtaking other traffic proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken traffic.
(2) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian or bicycle that is on the roadway or on the right-hand shoulder or bicycle lane of the roadway shall pass to the left at a safe distance to clearly avoid coming into contact with the pedestrian or bicyclist, and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken pedestrian or bicyclist.
(3) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, overtaken traffic shall give way to the right in favor of an overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase speed until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.