Traffic

Are pedestrians required to face traffic while walking along a street? What about cyclists?

Q: Biking/jogging on a street, is it with or against the flow of traffic and why? — Penny D.

A: Two-part question, two-part answer.

Let us start with the jogging.

Washington state law requires pedestrians, of which joggers are a part, to use the sidewalk if one is available.

If not, RCW 46.61.250 currently states:

“... any pedestrian walking or otherwise moving along and upon a highway, and any personal delivery device moving along and upon a highway, shall, when practicable, walk or move only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction and upon meeting an oncoming vehicle shall move clear of the roadway.”

New verbiage that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020 also requires pedestrians to face traffic if no sidewalk is available.

As to why, it’s safer that way.

The website walkingforhealthandfitness.com has a page dedicated to the topic.

“This gives you the best chance to see traffic approaching closest to you,” according to the site. “And, it will allow you precious time to take evasive action when needed.

“You can’t avoid what you don’t see coming at you.”

It has been our experience here at Traffic Q&A headquarters that drivers also have a better idea of what a pedestrian is going to do if they can see his or her eyeballs.

Speaking of safety, the state Department of Transportation has a page on pedestrian safety on its website that offers some handy tips.

The rules for biking on the street are covered in RCW 46.61.770, titled, “Biking on roadways and bicycle paths.”

The first thing to remember is bicyclists, when riding on a roadway, have all the rights and responsibilities of someone driving a car. That means traveling in the direction of traffic.

Here is the law as it currently stands:

“Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe.”

Bicyclists also may use bike lanes or a shoulder if one is available.

They also can use sidewalks in Washington. If they do, they have the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians.

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Adam Lynn is the local news editor and writes the Traffic Q&A column for The News Tribune. He has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years, most of it in Washington state.
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