Virginia Bicycle Laws

Whether you are a cyclist, motorist, or a pedestrian, knowing the Virginia bicycle laws could help to keep yourself - and those around you - safe.
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by | Last updated Oct 30, 2019 | Published on Jun 22, 2017 | Personal Injury

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

Virginia’s “Far Right” Rule

Drivers are accustomed to assuming that cyclists must remain in the far right of the traffic lane.

This is often referred to as the “far right” rule.

Whether on a bicycle, electric bike, or moped, if you are traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic, you should ride as close as possible to the right edge of the road.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.

For example, you don’t have to stay “far right” 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, or surface hazards.
  • 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.

Basically, 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 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.

The Helmet Rule

As a cyclist, you should make yourself aware of your local cycling safety ordinances.

In most 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.

Further, failing to wear a helmet could render you unable to file for damages as a result of a collision.

For these reasons, it’s both practically and legally a good idea to wear a helmet at all times.

The Passing Rule

Just as motorists are able to pass bicyclists in the traffic lane, bicyclists are able to pass motorists.

Basically, this law states that cyclists can pass motorists 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 (often referred to as “lane splitting”).

Generally, cyclists are required to adhere to the same laws and restrictions that are enforced upon motorists.

Bicycle Registration

Finally, you should register your bicycle, electric bike, or moped with your local law enforcement.

Registering your “vehicle” with local law enforcement is helpful should it ever be stolen or damaged in an accident.

Basically, all you have to do is provide the serial number of your bicycle to local police or the sheriff’s department for filing.

If an incident occurs in the future, this information can help law enforcement recover and return your equipment with greater efficiency.

Additional Laws to Watch Out For

As you’ve probably noticed from the sections linked above, the Virginia Code actually has several laws that specifically regulate the usage of bicycles.

You can find most of these laws in the bicycle-specific article of the Virginia Code’s chapter on the regulation of traffic.

For example, state law makes it legal to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk, though your local city or county may have a statute that overrides this law.

Similarly, you can’t carry more passengers on your bicycle than the intended amount.

Finally, you should always check your local ordinances for additional bicycle rules.

Often, cities and counties will enact their own rules for bicycle use that go beyond the basics outlined in the Virginia Code.

An easy way to check the laws in your local area is to use an online directory such as Municode.

Conclusion

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.

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Jacob Tingen

Jacob graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law and was accepted to the Virginia Bar in 2012. Less than 30 days after being admitted to the bar, Jacob launched his own legal practice. Read More.

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