With the increase in the popularity of cycling, many people wonder if you can ride your bike on the freeway. The answers is it depends on where the freeway is. In the Spokane metro area, there are some freeway and highway sections where bike riding is not allowed, but under Washington state law, cyclists are able to ride on any roadway unless otherwise specified.
According to the WSDOT, the restricted areas in Spokane are:
State Route 2
- North Foothills Drive to North Division St (where SR 2 and SR 395 meet)
- Airport Drive Interchange to I-90 (Exit 277)
- Geiger Field Interchange (Exit 276) to Broadway Interchange (Exit 286 )
- Inland Empire Highway to I-90 (Exit 279)
Purpose of Restrictions
The reason is, of course, safety. High speed coupled with high volume puts cyclists and motorists at risk. However, many point out that there’s not much difference between certain sections of I-90 leading up to the restricted area and those restricted sections. So maybe a better question is why is it legal for a bicycle to ride on any sections of freeways?
The answer can be found partly in history and partly in the need for access. Historically, with the advent of the bicycle and before automobiles became popular, bikes and horses were the only way to get around. Many of the inner cities banned horses because of the quantity of horse waste, so this left walking and cycling.
Some of the first “paved” roads in Spokane were actually made for bicycles, not cars, and paid for by a tax on bicycles. So, historically, the roadways—including freeways—were open to bicycles with restrictions coming later.
A more modern justification for allowing bikes on freeways and highways is simply access. Without divided highways and freeways, many areas would by almost inaccessible to cyclists. There are towns in rural areas where the only feasible way to get from one to the other is a freeway or a divided highway. The makes cycling on those roads a must for both commuting and adventuring cyclists.
Where Can I Ride my Bike on the Freeway?
In Washington the law (46.61.160) says a bicyclist may use the right shoulder of a “limited access highway”, except where prohibited. It also gives local counties and cities the right to further restrict certain limited access highways to bicycles.
In some highways that are divided and more than one lane in each direction, then the law actually allows the cyclist to ride on the left side of the left lane, or the right side of the right lane. However, most safety experts don’t recommend riding in the left lane of highways with two lanes going in one direction.