Communicating with other drivers and pedestrians is a key element that can help increase bike safety on the streets of Washington state – and everywhere else. Here are the basics about hand signals for cyclists, safety rules, and what to do if you have been involved in an accident.

What Are the Required Hand Signals for Cyclists in Washington?

Because bicycles are not equipped with the same safety features as motor vehicles, the use of hand signals is necessary for a cyclist to communicate with others on the road before making a turn or stopping. These are the hand signals every cyclist should know:

  • Before making a left turn: extend your left hand and arm horizontally beyond the side of the bicycle.
  • Before making a right turn: raise your left hand and arm upward, or extend your right hand and arm horizontally to the side of the bicycle.
  • Before slowing down or stopping: extend your left hand and arm downward beyond the side of the bicycle.

Cyclists are expected to give these hand signals continuously for 100 feet before initiating a turn or coming to a stop. The exception to this rule is when road conditions require the cyclist to use both hands to operate the bicycle.

Is Wearing a Helmet Mandatory in Washington State?

Helmets are an important – and often life-saving – safety device for adults and children alike. Currently, there is no state law requiring cyclists to wear a helmet. However, several cities and counties have laws requiring the use of a helmet while riding a bicycle. Most locations with helmet laws require anyone riding a bike to wear a helmet, regardless of their age. Check the laws of the location where you live or plan to ride at to see if a helmet is mandatory.

What Other Safety Rules Should Bicycles Follow?

There are other common-sense rules that cyclists can follow to stay safe. First, a cyclist should never ride against traffic. Second, avoid passing a vehicle on the right, as drivers may not see the bicycle. Third, wear bright-colored clothing and ride without headphones, always making eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you. Use a mirror to see if a driver is behind you, and use the required white light and red reflectors when riding at night.

If you were involved in a cycling accident, an attorney can help you conduct an investigation to see who may be at fault. Sometimes drivers are to blame for an accident, other times the cyclist and the driver share equal responsibility. The attorneys at Church & Page PLLC can help you with your specific case and advise you on your options for receiving compensation. Contact us at (509) 638-1414.