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Is a bicyclist a driver or a pedestrian?

In Seattle, it is not uncommon to see bicyclists travellng on both the street and the sidewalk. This can raise a big question for drivers and pedestrians: Where do bikes actually belong? The answer may vary in certain conditions, but generally, bicyclists can use both pathways to travel.

Whether you are on wheels or on foot, it is a good idea to learn the unique rules bike riders must follow. A bicyclist is not really a pedestrian or a driver; he or she is something else entirely.

Traffic laws

Washington traffic laws give bicyclists permission to ride on most roadways. Major highways and interstates are the primary exceptions, and the Department of Transportation dictates which specific streets have restricted access for bicycles.

When someone is riding a bike on the road, he or she must abide by most traffic laws. This includes stopping at all signs and stoplights, using turn signals and practicing safe passing procedures. A police officer can ticket a bicyclist who is not following the rules of the road.

Sidewalk privileges

Bicycles have mostly free rein over which sidewalks they choose to use. However, gas-powered scooters, bikes or mopeds are not permitted to operate on these paths.  

If the rider has decided to use the sidewalk, he or she must exercise extreme caution, especially with speed. Riders are much more likely to cross paths with pedestrians here, so it is necessary to bike slower than they may on a roadway. People on foot always have the right of way, even if someone is biking on a sidewalk.

Drunk or distracted bicycling

The legality of riding a bicycle while drunk or distracted is one key area where a cyclist is neither a pedestrian nor a driver. For example, a bicyclist must have at least one hand on the handlebars at all times, but it is permissible to be intoxicated while riding a bike. This may lead to accidents and injuries if the person is not responsible.

Ultimately, bicyclists have different rules that dictate how they use roads and sidewalks. Regardless of which path they decide to use, smart bicycling habits are necessary for everyone's safety.

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