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Update on Bicycle Laws in Virginia

By Josh Silverman on February 15, 2016


I'm a daily driver and a weekend warrior on my road bike so I've been paying more attention to the every growing conflict between cyclists and drivers. In this impatient society it is not surprising that motorists are frustrated to have to wait behind cyclists.  Cyclists can be part of the problem too.  Biking in groups of 10+ on roads without shoulders makes it dangerous and difficult for motorists to pass. Unfortunately many roads are not designed for both cars and cyclists to share.  

Below are some of the key laws governing sharing the roadway:

1. First, and perhaps foremost, cyclists and motorists have equal rights to the roadway except on interstates and the rare roadway expressly prohibiting cyclists.  That also means cyclists must obey all traffic laws including traffic signs and signals.

2.Secondly, the rules have changed for passing a cyclist.  Drivers must provide at least three feet of clearance when passing. This is a change. Prior law required only 2 feet of clearance. In most cases that means you can't pass a cyclist unless you can safely cross into another lane.  

3. Also when passing a driver is now permitted to cross a double yellow line when safe to do so. Otherwise it would impossible to pass a cyclist in many areas for an extended distance.

4. A cyclist is supposed to bike on the far right side of the road to the extent that it is safe.  However, gravel, pot holes, road kill you name it gives a cyclist the right to use the whole lane if necessary.  Likewise if a cyclist is making a left turn he or she naturally has the right to move to the left side of the roadway.

5. Lights must be used on the front and rear of a bike between sunset and sunrise on all roads with speed limits of 35 mph or higher.  Of course you're a fool to be biking without lights any place at night.

I've represented a number of people injured in bicycle-vehicle collisions.  These accidents are preventable if you everyone follows the law and uses common sense. 

 

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