Hopped over to Bikes.SE to read the claim that "In some Jurisdictions, it is legal for bikes to pass on the right."

Is this even true?

If it is true, then I'd like to know if the following event I witnessed was a violation by the car.

Car and Bike going straight on two lane road, speed limit 45mph. Car passes bike, bike is far enough over to the right that this happens without issue or incident. (I'm behind both, FYI). Car sees red stoplight, and pulls so close to the curb so as to make passing on the right impossible for the bike before stopping. Bike stops behind car. Light turns green, both car and bike proceed straight.

Did the car commit an in motion violation?

My general thought is that bikes are supposed to follow the same traffic laws as the rest of the gas guzzlers and Teslas out there. From that POV, passing on the right is a no-no. If it had been a motorcycle, or some weirdly thin car which had attempted to do this, I think the driver would have been prudent to position their own vehicle in a way to prevent future conflict (Two cars in same lane going in same direction).

Even if there is some law in some jurisdictions which allows for this (IMO dangerous) behavior, I still don't think the car did anything wrong, it's akin to changing lanes from left to right to prevent a school bus from potentially getting around you to the stop first. Nothing illegal in a lane change, even if it is jerkish to the SB.

But since I've already been surprised by one bike related law which makes no sense to me, I thought I'd post this question. Does anyone know of any laws or precedents which makes the described behavior illegal?

One last note: This question is here instead of Bikes.SE because I'm concerned with the law, and I believe I can reasonably predict that a Bikes.SE response will likely try to claim that bikes have the right to overtake cars on the right at all times (since this claim was made in a question about overtaking a car turning right on the right).

Jurisdiction is Yourstate, USA

  • 2
    Passing on the right is legal in the UK. Where everyone drives on the left side of the road. Passing on the left isn't :-) I witnessed a bicycle trying to pass a tourist bus in London on the left. The tourist bus opened its doors to let tourists out - and the cyclist went right into the opened door. Looked like nobody felt sorry for him.
    – gnasher729
    Sep 1, 2019 at 8:01

1 Answer 1


State laws tend to be like that in Washington, which says that

(1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in RCW 46.61.750 through 46.61.780 and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.

(2) Every person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk or crosswalk must be granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to a pedestrian by this chapter.

Incidentally, vehicle is given a definition whereby bicycles are vehicles, except for licensing / titling purposes.

If there is a lane dedicated to bike travel, it is not legal for a car to drive in or block that lane. Let us leave dedicated bike lanes out of the question. It is not generally legal for a vehicle to squeeze past a car within that car's lane, either to the right or to the left (but hang on for a second). The driver passing the bike on the left probably passed the bike legally. There is no law requiring a car driver to leave extra room in case a bike is coming up on him, so it is legal to pull close to the curb.

There are laws about overtaking on the right, the applicable rule being that a vehicle may overtake and pass on the right only if

Upon a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle

(with the provision that)

The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.

If a bike rider can safely pass a vehicle on the right, then it is legal to do so, assuming that the roadway is wide enough. The law isn't clear on whether "two vehicles" means "any two vehicles", or "the two vehicles right here and now" -- passing within an 11 ft. wide lane is not save for two cars, and completely unproblematic for two bicycles.

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