Stay In The Know: Bicycle Laws In Virginia

VIRGINIA BICYCLE LAWS

It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Virginia. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes”).

For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Timmy Finch directly.

Right to the Road

  • Virginia bicyclists generally have the same rights, and same duties, as drivers of motor vehicles.

Prohibitions

  • Clinging to motor vehicles while biking is not permitted.
  • Bicycles may only carry the number of persons for which it is designed.
  • Cyclists may not carry any items which prevent them from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars
  • Virginia law prohibits the wearing of headsets or earphones on both ears while riding

Helmets

  • Required by local ordinance for any operator or passenger 14 years of age or younger in Alexandria, Arlington Co., Fairfax Co. Falls Church, Vienna, and other jurisdictions.

Alcohol

  • Virginia’s DWI statute does not apply to bicyclists.

Where to Ride

  • When in travel lanes, bicyclists must ride with the flow of traffic as closely as practicable to the right side of the roadway.
  • Full lane use allowed when traveling at the normal speed of traffic, passing, preparing for a turn, avoiding hazards, traveling in a lane too narrow to share and avoiding a mandatory turn lane.

Sidewalks

  • Sidewalk riding is permitted except where prohibited by local ordinances but bicyclists riding on a sidewalk must yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.

Bike Lanes, Bike Paths and Multi-Use Paths

  • Mandatory use of bike lanes is not required.

Stop Signs and Traffic Control Devices

  • Bicyclists are required to come to a full and complete stop at all stop signs and traffic lights displaying a red signal.

Signaling

  • Cyclists must give the proper signals that are visible to other bicyclists and cars when turning or stopping.

Drivers Overtaking Bicyclists

  • Motor vehicle drivers must allow at least 3 feet of space when passing a bicyclist.

Bicycles Passing Cars

  • Cyclists may overtake and pass another vehicle or cyclist on either side of the road, staying in the same lane as the overtaken vehicle/cyclist, or change to a different lane, or ride off the roadway as necessary to pass with safety

Group Riding

  • Bicyclists may not ride more than 2 abreast and may not impede motor vehicle traffic.
  • Cyclists riding two abreast must move into a single file if they impede the normal flow of traffic or when being overtaken from the rear by a faster-moving vehicle or cyclist;
  • On a laned roadway, cyclists riding two abreast must ride in a single lane.

Equipment

  • Front white light and rear red reflector required when dark, may be attached to the operator; rear red light required on roads 35 mph and up.
  • Bikes must have functioning brakes.

Electric Assist Bikes

  • E-bikes are defined as “electric power-assisted bicycles,” so long as the e-bike’s motor is under 1,000w, has a maximum speed of 25mph and has operable pedals. The same rules of the road apply to both e-bikes and human-powered bicycles.
  • E-bikes are not subject to the registration, licensing or insurance requirements that apply to motor vehicles.
  • Helmets are not required but the age minimum for e-bike use is 14.
  • E-bikes are allowed on sidewalks and bike paths.

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