With the World Road Cycling Championships coming to Richmond in September, and more than 1,000 cyclists expected to converge on our city, we thought we would take this opportunity to discuss bicycle safety, as well as new and existing Virginia bike laws.
In July, new laws went into effect, including a few which involve bicyclists and their safety. These new bike laws will hopefully make Richmond a more bike-friendly city — and keep it that way long after the 2015 World Road Cycling Championships are over.
It was just a little over a year ago that Virginia enacted a new bike law requiring drivers to keep at least three feet of space between their vehicle and any bicyclists when passing. While the law did result in at least 12 drivers being ticketed for their alleged reckless endangerment of bicyclists, the Vienna Patch has raised the question of whether this law has had a significant impact on bicyclist safety. Even if it hasn’t had much of an impact on reducing the number of car accidents involving bicyclists, it is hoped that there will be a significant drop in bicycle accidents as a result of the law’s passage.
Virginia’s 2015 Laws Pertaining to Bicyclists
Among new laws that went into effect on July 1, these two pertain to bicyclists, as drivers now:
- Have the legal right to cross a double yellow line when passing a pedestrian, bicyclist, skateboarder, or other device being operated using human power, as long as it is safe to do so. This will make it safer for vehicles to pass bicyclists on road that is divided by double yellow lines.
- May be cited for following too closely behind bicyclists or people riding mopeds and other non-motorized vehicles. Penalties drivers may face for violating this law and not maintaining a safe, reasonable distance behind a bicycle include fines of up to $250, as well as four points on the driving record.
Other Bike Laws in Virginia
Over the years, Virginia has implemented a number of laws designed to keep bicyclists safe and lower the risk of injury or death in bicycle-involved accidents. Some of the existing laws cover:
- Bicyclists, as with motorists, are subjected to the Code of Virginia provisions governing motor vehicles when traveling along state highways or roads.
- When riding along a pedestrian pathway or sidewalk, or when crossing the street at a designated intersection, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians.
- Bicyclists must come to a complete stop at all stop signs and prior to entering a crosswalk.
- Bicyclists must adhere to all posted traffic signs and signals.
- Bicyclists are required to ride with, not against, the flow of traffic.
- Bicyclists must ride as close to the curb or edge of the road as safe, unless making a left turn, attempting to pass or attempting to avoid road hazards.
- Bicyclists must always use hand signals to indicate their intention to stop or turn.
- Bicyclists are allowed to make left turn either as a motorist would do.
- Bicyclists may only pass when it is safe to do so.
- In certain jurisdictions, bicyclists under the age of 15 are required to wear a protective helmet at all times while riding a bicycle.
- Bicyclists must have a white headlamp on the front of their bicycle capable of being seen 500 feet ahead, and a red reflector visible at least 600 feet to the rear, when riding between sunset and sunrise.
- Bicyclists are required to remain at the scene of an accident that involved property damage, injury or death.
Steps Drivers Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Bicycle Accidents
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has launched a bicycle safety campaign to encourage both drivers and bicyclists to act responsibly and do everything possible to reduce the risk of bicycle accidents. As part of this campaign, bicyclists are advised to always ride with the flow of traffic, stop and look both ways for oncoming vehicles, use turn signals, ride defensively and follow the rules of the road.
Drivers can lower their chances of being involved in or causing a bicycle accident by:
- Be cautious and staying alert for bicyclists at all times.
- Understanding and appreciating the vulnerability of bicyclists.
- Becoming educated on the rights of bicyclists.
- Avoid driver distractions which could put a bicyclist in harm’s way.
- Allowing bicyclists sufficient room to ride, by never following or passing a rider without a safe distance, as required by law.
As long as motorists understand that bicyclists are here to stay, and they are willing to share the road, actions can be taken to minimize the risk of a bicycle accident. Virginia’s new laws are another step closer to making Richmond a bicycle-friendly place in which to live, for both adults and children.
Marks & Harrison was founded in 1911 by David A. Harrison, Jr. and has continued its practice uninterrupted since that time. For more than three generations our attorneys have represented the families of Virginia.