The laws that regulate the public highways in Virginia define the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists, as well as the drivers’ with whom they share the roads. Both bicyclists and vehicle drivers essentially have the same rights, and the laws dictating the traffic regulations apply equally to both.  

What is a Bicyclist’s Right of Way in Virginia 

Bicycle riders may overtake and pass another vehicle only when safe to do so. They may pass another vehicle on the left or right, and they may ride off the road, change lanes, or stay in the same lane if necessary for safe passing.  However, it should be noted that if the motorists do not see the bicycle rider and try to turn right, the passing motor vehicles on the right side may be extremely dangerous.

An individual riding a bicycle, moped, motorized scooter or skateboard, electric-powered bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device shall not travel between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction. The only exception to this is if one lane is a mandatory turn lane or a separate turn lane.

Drivers must approach and pass a bicycle rider at a reasonable speed at least 3 feet to the left of the rider and shall not move back to the right side of the road until they are clear of that overtaken bicycle.

Here are the rights and duties of a bicycle rider in Virginia:

  • Every individual riding a bicycle on a highway shall be subject to the terms of the Code of Virginia section on vehicles. They shall have the duties and rights applicable to the driver of a vehicle unless a stipulation clearly states otherwise. 
  • Bicyclists must come to a full stop at stop signs before they enter a shared use crosswalk
  • Bicyclists, pedestrians, and other users on crosswalks, shared use paths, and sidewalks have all the same rights and duties in the same situation.
  • Bicyclists and pedestrians are not required to come to a complete stop on shared use paths or crossing highways without stop signs, but must not enter the road without considering the approaching traffic.

Traffic Controls To Consider When Riding A Bicycle

Bicycle riders must obey all traffic signs, markings, lights, and signals. In certain situations, bicyclists may proceed though a solid red light at an intersection. The bicyclist may proceed through the intersection on a stopped light only if they comply with all of the following stipulations:

  • They yield the right of way to the approaching vehicles on the highway from either direction
  • They determine that it’s safe to proceed
  • They otherwise treat the traffic control device as a stop sign
  • They exercise due care as stated by the law
  • They come to a complete stop at the intersection for 2 minutes or for 2 complete cycles of the traffic light, whichever is shorter

Where To Ride the Bicycle Safely

Bicycle riders must ride with the flow of traffic, on the right side of the highway. Also, bicycle riders on a roadway at less than the usual speed of traffic at the place and time under conditions then existing, should move as close as safely possible to the right edge or curb of the road.

There are exceptions to this; when bicyclists are overtaking another motorist driving in the same direction; preparing to turn left; avoiding riding in a lane that diverges or turns to the right; avoiding unsafe conditions; riding on a one-way street where bicycle riders may ride near the left edge or curb of roadway; or if the lane is too narrow to share with a vehicle.

Bicycle riders must not ride between two lanes of traffic going in the same direction, unless one of the lanes is a mandatory or separate turn lane. They also cannot ride more than two, side-by-side on highways. When riding this way, bicycle riders cannot obstruct the traffic movement and are required to move into a single file when being overtaken from the rear. On a laned roadway, bicycle riders shall ride in a single lane.

Bicyclists may be ridden on sidewalks unless forbidden by traffic control devices or local ordinances. While on shared use paths and sidewalks, bicycle riders must always give the right of way to pedestrians and give a loud or clearly recognizable signal before passing a pedestrian.

Bicyclists are not allowed to ride on controlled access highways as well as the interstate, unless the operation is limited to pedestrian or bicycle facilities that are barrier-separated from the automobile and roadway traffic.

If the bicyclist is pulling onto a highway or a sidewalk from a driveway, they must yield the right of way to vehicles or pedestrians already on the highway or sidewalk.

Note: As of July 1, 2016, no vehicle driver in Virginia is permitted to open the door of a parked vehicle on the side next to moving vehicle traffic unless it may be reasonably safe to do so.

Talk To Virginia Bicycle Accident Attorneys To Protect Your Rights

Whether you are a resident of Virginia, or you are an exploring tourist roaming on your bicycle, you have the right to share the road with others.  If you were following all the rules of road and yet were injured due to someone else’s recklessness or negligence, you may want to contact experienced personal injury attorneys who are willing to fight for justice on your behalf.

At Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, we have the track record of successfully defending the rights of injured people and their families in Virginia. To schedule a free, no-obligation case consultation, call us at (833) 997-1774 and one of our attorneys will be happy to evaluate your situation and suggest the best course of action.