Last updated on October 3rd, 2017
Virginia Bicycle Laws
Cycling is a popular form of transportation in cities and suburbs throughout Virginia. The growing popularity of the recreational and alternative form of transportation makes it pertinent to know and understand the rules of cycling. Bikers, as well as drivers and pedestrians, should be aware of the Virginia bicycle laws that keep everyone safe on the road.
Virginia Bicycle Law Statutes
The “far right” rule
Drivers are accustomed to assuming that cyclists must remain in the far right of the traffic lane. This is often coined the “far right” rule. Whether it’s a bicycle, electric bike, or moped, if it is traveling at a speed slower than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place under conditions, cyclists shall ride as close as safely practicable to the right edge of the road closest to the curb or sidewalk.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when:
- Passing a vehicle that is traveling in the same direction
- Preparing to take a left-hand turn at a traffic light or intersecting roadway
- It is reasonably necessary, such as to avoid parked cars, roadway obstacles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or even in lanes that are not a standard width allowing cyclists to safely and exclusively use the right-hand edge of the roadway
- A lane becomes a “turn only” lane, and the cyclist does not intend to turn at that time
- The cyclist is traveling on a one-way street, at which time the cyclist may ride as close as safely practicable to the left-hand curb for safe cycling
Thus, the “far right” rule restricts a bicyclist to the right-hand edge of the roadway except in limited circumstances. While many cyclists adhere to these restrictions, it is important for other travelers of the roadways to understand these exceptions and to remain alert while driving.
The “3-feet” rule
Virginia bicycle laws are designed to keep bikers, drivers, and pedestrians safe. In order to achieve community safety, there must be community understanding of which laws and regulations apply to those on the roadways.
The “3-feet” rule is a rule that is enforced on motorists in order to maintain optimal safety for bikers who are traveling on the roadways. As the name suggests, any motorist attempting to pass a cyclist on a bicycle, electric bike, or moped that is traveling in a traffic lane must provide a distance of at least three feet between the vehicle and the cyclist. In addition, the motorist must use a reasonable speed in order to lawfully and safely pass cyclists.
The “3-feet” rule requires motorists to pass cyclists at a safe speed, while providing a comfortable distance of at least three feet. The required three foot gap allows motorists to maintain enough distance to return to the right-hand side of the traffic lane after passing. Thus, the “3-feet” rule enables road users, specifically cyclists and motorists, to avoid a collision.
In other words: as a motorist, it’s better for all parties if you practice maintaining a safe distance of at least three feet from cyclists.
The helmet rule
As a cyclist, you should make yourself aware of your local cycling safety ordinances. In some counties, cities, and towns in Virginia, the law states that any cyclist 14 years of age and younger must wear a properly fitted helmet. Failing to adhere to this important bike safety regulation could result in a fine.
Failing to follow your local ordinance requiring helmet use could render you unable to file for damages as a result of a collision. Wearing a helmet while biking can save your life and save you a legal headache.
The passing rule
Just as motorists are able to pass bicyclists in the traffic lane, bicyclists are able to pass motorists. Cyclists are able to pass in either the left or right-hand traffic lane or change lanes in order to safely pass. However, this ability is limited, meaning that cyclists may only pass motor vehicles when conditions are safe to do so.
In addition, cyclists are not permitted to pass between vehicles on the roadway. Thus, the bicycle must remain in one of the designated traffic lanes. Generally, cyclists are required to adhere to the same laws and restrictions that are enforced upon motorists.
Your bicycle, electric bike, or moped should be formally registered with your local law enforcement. Registering your “vehicle” with local law enforcement is helpful should it ever be stolen or damaged in an accident.
Registering your bicycle is easy. Simply provide the serial number of your bicycle to local police or the sheriff’s department for filing. Upon incident, this information will allow law enforcement to recover and return your equipment with greater efficiency.
Review of Virginia Bicycle Laws
According to basic Virginia bicycle law, cyclists must ride as close as safely practicable to the right edge of the roadway, except when:
- Overtaking or passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction
- Preparing to take a left-hand turn at an intersection
- Reasonably necessary to avoid and accommodate the road’s conditions, which include, but are not limited to, objects, vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes
- Avoiding to ride in a lane that must turn or diverge to the right
- Riding upon a one-way road or highway, at which time the cyclist may adhere to the left-hand edge of the roadway
These are not all of the regulations and laws that govern and protect cyclists. However, these are some of the most common laws that are encountered by non-cycling parties, such as motorists and pedestrians.
Whether you are a cyclist, motorist, or pedestrian, knowing the Virginia bicycle laws could help to keep yourself – and those around you – safe.
Schedule a consultation with our personal injury attorney to discuss your accident claim, and learn more about the Virginia bicycle laws that protect you.