Understand Virginia’s Bike Safety Laws to Have Fun and Stay Safe
Virginia is a great state for bicycling, and Richmond is an especially terrific city for a brisk ride. Unfortunately, it seems the roads are becoming more dangerous for cyclists. According to research compiled by the Virginia Highway Safety Office, there were 13 fatal car crashes in Virginia involving bicyclists in 2017, a 30% increase from the previous year.
Thankfully, there are several easy steps that bike riders can take to keep themselves out of harm’s way, and understanding Virginia’s bike safety laws is a great place to start.
Virginia Bicycle Safety Laws
Knowing and following Virginia’s bike safety laws is vital to maintaining safety. And in the case of a serious bicycle accident, it is important to understand your rights as a bike rider.
Here are four bicycle safety laws that every Virginia bicyclist should understand and follow.
1. Bicycles and Cars Must Share the Road in Virginia
A bike rider can use all public roads, unless they have restricted access, such as interstates. While riding on the roads, a bicyclist must follow the same laws that apply to a person operating a motor vehicle. For example, a cyclist must bike with the flow of traffic and obey all traffic lights, signs, signals and markings.
If you are traveling by bicycle below the normal speed of traffic, you must ride as close to the right curb or edge of the road as possible. An exception to this rule is if you are using the left turn lane in preparation for a turn.
When making a turn or coming to a stop in traffic, a bicyclist must use visible lights or hand signals to signal their intention. In traffic, these hand signals are used the same way that a car’s indicator and brake lights are used. They help drivers know you are changing direction before you cross a lane or make an unexpected turn.
RELATED ARTICLE: The Basics of Virginia Auto Insurance: What You Need to Know
2. Virginia Bike Riders Can Also Use the Sidewalks
In Virginia, bicyclists also have the right to use public sidewalks, shared use paths, and crosswalks, but are treated as pedestrians in those places. When using these spaces, bicyclists must yield to pedestrians and give audible signals when passing.
It is also important to know if a local ordinance exists that restricts bicycle access in all or some of these pedestrian spaces. Different communities have different rules, so you should check with your local public safety official for clarification on where you can or cannot ride your bike. Richmond currently does not ban bicycles from the sidewalk.
3. You Must Follow Your Community’s Helmet Laws
In several Virginia counties and cities, everyone fourteen years of age and under who is riding a bicycle must wear a helmet on all highways, sidewalks, and bicycle paths. These communities include Albemarle County, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, and Roanoke.
Even if your city or town does not require use of a helmet, it is still in your best interest to wear one for safety. Wearing a bike helmet could save your life and reduce head trauma, so it is a precaution that is worth taking.
All bicycle helmets in the U.S. must be CPSC-certified before going to market. The CPSC certification is a standard that protects against catastrophic injuries in extremely severe impacts. In addition to this standard, it may be worthwhile to check your helmet’s STAR safety rating. Any helmet receiving a four- or five-star rating is recommended for use.
4. Remain at the Scene of a Bicycle Accident in Virginia
If a bicyclist is involved in an accident resulting in death, injury, or property damage, it is their responsibility to stop and stay on site. They must give their name and address to the police and the owner of any damaged property. These guidelines are the same for motorists involved in accidents.
If the owner of the damaged property cannot be located, the bicyclist must leave a note at the accident site and report the accident to police within 24 hours. If unattended property is damaged, it is your duty to make every reasonable effort to alert the owner to the accident.
Once you have made an accident report, you should seek medical care for your injuries. It is also in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable bicycle accident lawyer about your legal options.
RELATED ARTICLE: An Accident Victim’s Guide to Virginia Personal Injury Settlements
Contact an Experienced Virginia Bicycle Safety Lawyer at Phelan Petty
Even the most careful bicyclists can be involved in an accident that leads to injury or death. At Phelan Petty, our experienced lawyers are committed to providing the support, guidance, and information their clients need to get well and file a personal injury claim following a bicycle crash.
Rockett, A. (2018, September 25). First reported crash in Franklin Street bike lanes offers glimpse of lanes’ effectiveness and weaknesses. Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved from https://www.richmond.com/news/local/crime/first-reported-crash-in-franklin-street-bike-lanes-offers-glimpse/article_fcbd1354-39cb-5030-bec3-8f32ff465ec4.html
Virginia Department of Transportation. (2018, March 30). Laws for bicycling and safety tips. Retrieved from http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/bikeped/laws_and_safety_tips.asp
Virginia Highway Safety Office. (2017). 2017 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts. Retrieved from https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/safety/crash_data/crash_facts/crash_facts_17.pdf
Virginia Tech. (n.d.). Bicycle Helmet Ratings. Retrieved from https://www.helmet.beam.vt.edu/bicycle-helmet-ratings.html
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.