Many consumers are confused over what rights and responsibilities people who commute by bike enjoy when they share the roadway with vehicles. In Washington, a bicycle ridden upon the roadway is required to obey all the rules of the road required of cars unless incapable of doing so. The posted speed limit may be an example of a law the bicycle operator is incapable of following. But what if the bicycle is being ridden on a sidewalk? Riders should know that certain Washington laws prohibit the operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the sidewalk is within a business district. However, if bicycles are ridden outside a business district they do appear to have the right to travel upon a sidewalk. When they do, the law tends to treat them as pedestrians. As such, they are entitled to all of the protections the law affords pedestrians. A recent case handled by this office involved this exact situation. A passenger car was turning into a driveway of a business and had to cross the sidewalk in order to do so. At the same time, a bicycle was traveling on the sidewalk and was struck by the vehicle. Serious injuries resulted. The insurance carrier for the vehicle denied the claim, basing their decision on the illegality of a bicycle being operated on a sidewalk. After researching the law and providing the authority to the insurance company, they agreed their driver had a duty to stop before crossing the sidewalk and yield to anyone lawfully using it as a pedestrian. As a bicycle rider is treated as a pedestrian under these circumstances, the insurance company paid the claim.
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