Safety Tips for Cycling on Freeways

I have ridden more than 7,500 miles on the shoulder of I-90 in Washington and am often asked regarding the legalities of riding on freeways.

The short answer is that it is legal for cyclists to ride on the right shoulder of some freeways. For example, cyclists in Washington can ride on all but approximately 25 miles of I-90 between Seattle and the Idaho border. And about 1,000 of California's 4,000 miles of freeways are open to cyclists. In sparsely populated Wyoming, all freeways are open to cyclists.

To find your state's law, visit bicyclinginfo.org.

Make sure to watch for signage. For example, if an on-ramp sign states something like "bicycles and pedestrians prohibited," do not attempt to enter the highway at this point. While riding on the interstate, pay attention to signs that state "bicycles must exit." For example, while riding north on I-5 between Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington, there is a sign like this because there is a bridge that didn't have a shoulder.


The Pros and Cons of Riding on Freeways

Pros

  • 10-12-foot shoulder
  • No left-turning drivers
  • Fastest, most direct route between cities
  • Limited ingress/egress

Cons

  • Fast-moving motor vehicles, including lots of big rigs
  • Noisy, especially around urban areas
  • Extremely dangerous when crossing off-ramps
  • Limited ingress/egress

Most bike vs. car accidents are caused by negligent left-turning motor vehicle drivers. You will never encounter a left-turning driver while riding on the shoulder of the freeway. However, keep in mind that crossing over off-ramps can be extremely dangerous. You may want to simply exit the freeway at the off-ramp and then re-enter the freeway at the next on-ramp.

While freeway riding may not be for everyone, it is legal in many parts of the country. If you decide to give it a try, research your route carefully and be careful crossing exit off-ramps. Ride safely!


John Duggan is an avid cyclist and Seattle attorney who represents injured cyclists. He can be reached at 206-343-1888 or john@dugganbikelaw.com.

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