Bicycle Safety, Rules and Regulations

The University of Washington supports a variety of different travel modes including walking, biking, taking transit and driving. To ensure a safe environment, people who bike should know and follow the courtesies and bicycle regulations referenced below. Additional resources to help you stay safe while bicycling are also listed.

Responsible bicycling

Some basic rules of the road apply to riding a bicycle responsibly:

  • Pedestrians always have the right of way
  • Stay in control and ride within your ability
  • Obey all traffic laws
  • Dismount and walk your bike when in any Bike Walk Zone and other crowded pedestrian areas
  • Minimize your impact by staying off of lawns and landscaped areas
  • Park and lock your bike only at designated bike racks

Bike Walk Zone

Heavily-trafficked parts of campus, such as the HUB Lawn, are a designated Bike Walk Zone. This means that bikes must be walked when pedestrians are present. Violators can be issued a $25 citation. A map showing the Bike Walk Zone is below.

Burke Gilman Trail best practices

  • Always stay to the right on the trail.
  • If you need to pass someone on the trail, do so in single file, and say “on your left” or ring a bell to warn the person you are passing.
  • Always stop at stop signs and signalized intersections and look for traffic.
  • At yield signs, be aware and yield to traffic.

Bicyclists are held to the same standards as drivers of other moving vehicles

With more people riding bicycles, following the rules of the road is especially important. A bicycle is a legal road vehicle, just like a car. This means that bicycle riders have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers, even though bicycles are lighter than cars and generally slower. Bicyclists can be issued citations for the following infractions, among others:

  • Failure to use lights and reflectors: a white front light must be visible to the front 500 feet away; a red reflector must be visible to the rear 100 feet away; a red light to the rear is optional but highly recommended.
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign
  • Failure to yield to a pedestrian
  • Failure to wear a helmet
  • Passing in designated No Passing Zones
  • Bicyclists suddenly entering roadway
  • Unsafe/negligent action
  • Speeding
  • Defective/missing equipment
  • Seats, brakes, and reflectors are mandatory

Campus-specific guidelines

  • Speeding. The speed limit on campus roadways is 20 mph, and 15 mph on Columbia Road behind the UW Medical Center and Health Sciences buildings. The Burke-Gilman Trail also has a speed limit of 15 mph. Any negligent riding is subject to citation.
  • E-bikes. Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes as defined by the Washington State Legislature (max assisted speed limit of 20 mph) are treated as regular bicycles on the University of Washington campus, and are allowed anywhere that a regular bicycle is allowed. Remember to obey the speed limit when riding in the street or on campus pathways, and to always yield to slower-moving pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Right of way. Cyclists should always yield to slower-moving traffic, including pedestrians and other cyclists traveling at a slower speed. Look for posted stop signs, yield signs and pedestrian signs. Speed limits must be obeyed. Typically, bicyclists should keep to the right and pass on the left.
  • Sidewalks. Bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks, except where posted: for example, bicycles must be walked on the sidewalk on the west side of Stevens Way between the HUB bus zone and the Communications Building. But remember to ride where you are predictable. Drivers are not expecting you on the sidewalk and may overlook you as they approach a driveway or crosswalk.
  • Slow Zone. Obey the “bicycle slow zone” sign at the approach to Drumheller Fountain between Johnson Hall and Mary Gates Hall.

Other bicycle laws

Other safety-related links

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