Where People Can Ride Bikes in Virginia and Why This Matters | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A fatal crash at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront on the first Saturday of June 2018 highlights the need for drivers and bike riders to share the road safely and respectfully. The collision in a crosswalk at which the bicyclist had a stop sign and the driver did not should focus all people on yielding right of way, watching for smaller vehicles and pedestrians, and slowing down when approaching crosswalks.



The bike rider died from his injuries at a hospital while the car’s driver escaped injury. This outcome further highlights the need for people on Virginia roads to operate in ways that prevent collisions with bicycles. Simply put, bike riders have none of the protections afforded by a car or truck. Bicyclists are not encased inside a steel cage buffered by crumple zones and equipped with air bags. While always wearing a helmet is necessary, taking that precaution does nothing to prevent bodily trauma.



Perhaps the worst part about the crash that prompted this post is that it appears the tragedy could have been avoided. As Virginia wrongful death attorneys, my colleagues and I handle many cases in which the people involved in a crash simply never saw each other or even thought to look for vehicles or pedestrians in the intersection.

Virginia Beach drivers must make watching out for bike riders a priority, especially at the Oceanfront during the summer. As the city notes on its webpage devoted to bicycle safety, “Federal and state laws say that bicycles are vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. Bikes may be ridden on roadways except where prohibited, such as I-264 and other highways. If you ride on roads, exercise defensive driving skills and common courtesy.”

A major implication of bicyclists having the right to ride on all surface roads is that bike riders must stop at stop signs and red lights, yield right of way before crossing a street or turning, and stay as far to the right as possible to allow faster vehicles to pass. When either a driver or a bike rider fails to operate safely, the rider usually dies or winds up disabled.

During 2017, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, Virginia saw 670 crashes involving bicycles. Those wrecks injured 622 riders and killed 13 other bicyclists, representing a nearly 1-to-1 ratio of collisions to serious or deadly consequences. By far, the leading identifiable cause of bike crashes was failure to yield, which was cited in 116 cases. Simply committing to paying more attention could significantly lower these terrible tolls.