It’s pretty obvious that bicycles lack the many safety features that cars and other vehicles on the road have.  There is no enclosed cabin made of steel and plastic, no airbags, seatbelts, or other built-in safety features.  While riding a bike, you are completely exposed, and often hit the ground, tree, fence, other vehicle, or hard surface head first.  Bicyclists sometimes forget that they are “technically” driving a vehicle and must share the road and follow bicycle and traffic laws.  If you or someone else is injured in an accident involving a bike, failure to do so could impact your case in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Can I ride my bike on the sidewalk?

It is legal in Virginia to ride your bike on sidewalks unless prohibited by local ordinances.  If riding on a sidewalk, you must always yield the right of way to pedestrians.  Sidewalks are constructed to keep pedestrians safe.  When attempting to pass a pedestrian, you must signal by calling out to let them know you are approaching from behind.  In addition, ride with caution.  Bicycles are very vulnerable to cars backing out or turning into driveways.

Do I have to wear a helmet when riding a bike in Virginia?

Virginia law does not require cyclists to wear a helmet, though some local jurisdictions, including Fairfax and Arlington counties, do have helmet laws that require children 14 years and under to wear one when riding a bike.  That said, concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are very serious injuries and can lead to long-term and even permanent disabilities.  Everyone should wear a helmet, regardless of age, when riding a bike, law or no law.

What rules of the road do I need to follow when bicycling?

You must follow the laws that apply to drivers of other vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles) when sharing the road:

  • Ride on the far-right side of the road, a paved shoulder, or bike lane with the flow of traffic. It is illegal to ride against the flow, facing traffic, or between two lanes of traffic.
  • If you are making a left turn, move left and use motor vehicle turn lanes.
  • You must obey all traffic signs, lights, signals, and road markings.
  • You may ride two abreast. When riding side by side, you cannot impede the flow of traffic.
  • Ride single file when you are moving slower than traffic.
  • Always use hand signals for turns or stops.

What specific bicycle rules do I need to follow?

  • You may not carry more people than the bike is designed to accommodate.
  • An adult may carry a child under the age of six in an attached bicycle seat or trailer which is designed for that purpose.
  • If riding between sunset and sunrise, you must have a white light, visible from 500 feet, on the front of your bike, and a red reflector, visible from 600 feet, on the rear of your bike.
  • You cannot “tag” or attach your bike to another moving vehicle.
  • You must always have at least one hand on the handlebars. Don’t carry packages that interfere with your visibility or control of the bike.
  • You may not use headphones, earbuds, or airpods in both ears while riding a bike.
  • Stay at least three feet away from parked cars. Watch out for car doors opening or cars pulling away from the curb.
  • Be visible. Wear light, bright, reflective clothing so that you are easy to see, especially when visibility is low.

Can you get a ticket while riding a bike in Virginia?

The simple answer is yes.  But Virginia law has discrepancies between motor vehicles and other types of moving vehicles, like bikes and scooters, or even horse-drawn carriages, which are powered by humans or animals.  So, you can’t get a ticket for motor vehicle violations… things like speeding, running a stop sign, or even texting while riding your bike.  You can be ticketed for reckless driving if you’re causing a hazard to life, limb, or property while riding.  A ticket will not affect your driving record or auto insurance.

Do I have to register my bike in Virginia?

Though it is not a legal requirement, it is a good idea to register your bicycle with local law enforcement.  Registration will be helpful if the bike is stolen or damaged in an accident.  This is easy to do.  Simply provide the serial number of your bike to the local police.

In conclusion, whether you are a cyclist, pedestrian, or motorist, understanding Virginia’s bicycle laws can help you keep yourself, and everyone traveling around you, safer.  If you are in an accident that involves your bike, injuries, and/or damage, schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer to discuss the accident and your potential claim.

About the Bergeron Law Firm

Bergeron Law is a personal injury practice serving the Northern Virginia area.  Our mission is to provide all our clients with the highest quality of legal representation and unsurpassed dedication and customer service.

Steve Bergeron understands that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on his ability to understand each client’s needs and objectives.  Bergeron Law will be there for you with the information, advice, and advocacy you need to help you get back to your life.

For more information about personal injury and bike accidents, contact our office today at 703.813.6460, or visit our website: