Virginia Bike Laws

Author: Trent S. Kerns, Richmond, VA Personal Injury Attorney

Bicycles share the road with cars, trucks, and other automobiles. The Virginia Legislature has passed a number of laws to help foster a safe environment for everyone sharing the road. Many of these laws are aimed at cyclists and dictate where they may ride and how they should behave while on the road. These cycling rules can be separated out into a number of categories, listed below[1]:

Rights and Duties:

People riding bicycles on a highway are subject to the Virginia Code provisions on motor vehicles and have the rights and duties applicable to drivers of motor vehicles unless a provision clearly states otherwise.[2]

Traffic Controls:

Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs, signals, lights, and markings.[3]

A bicyclist may proceed through a solid red light at an intersection ONLY IF he or she:[4]

  1. Comes to a full, complete stop at the intersection for: (1) two complete cycles of the traffic light or (2) two minutes, whichever is shorter;
  2. Exercises due care;
  3. Treats the traffic signal as a stop sign;
  4. Determines that it is safe to proceed; and
  5. Yields the right of way to the driver of any vehicle approaching from either direction.

Where to Ride:

Bicyclists must ride on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic.[5]

If a bicyclist is riding at less than the normal speed of traffic, then he or she shall ride as close as possible to the right curb or edge of the roadway – exceptions to this rule are as follows:[6]

  1. The bicyclist is overtaking/passing a vehicle another vehicle traveling in the same direction;
  2. The bicyclist is preparing for a left turn;
  3. The bicyclist is avoiding unsafe conditions;
  4. The bicyclist is avoiding riding in a lane than turns right;
  5. The bicyclist is riding on a one-way street where he or she may ride as close as possible to the left curb/edge of the roadway

Bicyclists may not ride between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction – this shall not apply if one lane is a separate or mandatory turning lane.[7]

Bicyclists may not ride more than two abreast. If bicyclists ride two abreast they may not impede the flow of traffic and must ride single file if being overtaken from the rear. Bicyclists riding on a road with lanes must ride in a single lane.[8]  

Bicyclists may ride on sidewalks or other shared use paths – however, the governing body of any county, city, or town may prohibit the riding of bicycles on designated sidewalks/crosswalks. Signs indicating the prohibition must be conspicuously posted in general areas where bicycle riding is prohibited.[9]

Bicyclists riding on sidewalks, shared-use paths, roadways, or crosswalks must yield right-of-way to pedestrians. If a bicyclist plans to overtake or pass any pedestrian, he or she must have an audible signal.[10]

Signaling:

Left turns: When turning left, a bicyclist shall extend his or her arm in a horizontal position straight from and level with the shoulder.[11]

Right turns: When turning right, a bicyclist shall extend his or her arm upward.[12]

Slowing down or stopping: When slowing down or stopping, a bicyclist shall extend his or her arm downwards.[13]

If the speed limit is greater than 35 miles per hour, signals must be made continuously for at least 100 feet. In all other cases, signals must be made continuously for at least 50 feet. However, if both hands are needed to control the bicycle, the signals do not have to be given continuously.[14]

For a more detailed explanation of Virginia bike laws, visit www.virginiadot.org/programs/bk-laws.asp.

About The Author: Trent Kerns is a seasoned trial attorney and president of The Allen Law Firm. Throughout his career as a personal injury lawyer he has successfully tried car accident cases, tractor trailer accident cases, and motorcycle accident cases. Outside of the courtroom, Trent enjoys boating and water sports.


[1] Virginia DOT, Bicycling and Walking in Virginia, www.virginiadot.org/programs/bk-laws.asp

[2] Va. Code § 46.2-800

[3] Va. Code § 46.2-830

[4] Va. Code § 46.2-833

[5] Va. Code § 46.2-802

[6] Va. Code § 46.2-905

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Va. Code § 46.2-904

[10] Id.

[11] Va Code. § 46.2-849

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

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