Read below for important information on sharing the road as a bicyclist


Before Cycling
Important steps to take before cycling

Bike Fitting

It’s important to have a bike that meets your needs. Local bike shops can help you select the right bike.

  • Size: Having a bike that fits you is important for safety and comfort. You should be able to reach the pedals and handlebars easily; this reduces difficulty in controlling the bike.
  • Style: Road bikes have narrow tires and dropped handlebars and are designed for faster riding. Mountain bikes have wide tires and are designed for off-road or winter use. A hybrid or city bike combines features for comfort and efficiency.

Electric bikes offer an option for bicycle commuting and for people with health limitations.

Bike Helmets

  • All cyclists should wear a helmet,a safety measure that greatly reduces the risk of serious brain injury from a crash.
  • There is no statewide helmet law, but the–Code of Virginia § 46.2-906.1 gives a county, city, or town the authority to require anyone 14 years old or younger to wear a helmet when riding or being carried on a bicycle.
  • Virginia Department of Transportation maintains a list of local ordinances.Virginia Department of Transportation
  • When buying a helmet, look for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) label. Helmets should sit level and not shift easily. V-straps should fit beneath the ear lobes. The chin strap should be snug, about two fingers’ width under the chin.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers illustrated instructions.
  • Crash it, trash it. If a helmet hits a hard surface in a crash,the cyclist should replace it due to potentially hidden damage to the helmet.

Bike Check

Before biking, you should regularly inspect your bicycle or take it to a bike shop for inspection.

  • Air: Tires should be at the recommended pressure and in good condition.
  • Brakes: The rider should be able to reach the brake levers, and the brakes should stop the wheels.
  • Chain: The chains should spin and change the gears are needed.
  • Lights: More light means more visibility. Bikes require a white front light that is visible from at least 500 feet and a red rear reflector that is visible at least 600 feet to the rear after dusk.


Boy in Helmet


Biking Tips
Cyclists at intersection
  • Wear a helmet and dress for safety by wearing reflective clothing and securing loose pant legs and shoe laces.
  • Carry gear in a manner that will not obstruct vision or bike control.
  • Ride defensively by anticipating the actions of other road users and watching for road hazards.
  • Pass with care because turning vehicles may not be able to see you.
  • Maximize visibility at twilight, at night, and in rainy conditions by using reflective tape on the bicycle along with required bike lights.
  • Walk bicycles in traffic situations beyond cycling abilities. Walk on the right side of your bike for safety.
  • Use caution around buses and large trucks, especially when they are pulling to and from curbs and when passengers are getting on and off. Avoid blind spots and give large vehicles plenty of room to maneuver.
  • Don’t block sidewalks, handicap and building accesses, or emergency drives.


Street Travel
Confident cyclists may ride on the road; they must operate as a vehicle and obey traffic rules.


Cyclists use the right side of a two-way road.

How far to the right?

Cyclists should not hug the curb or road edge since this position makes them less visible to drivers, promotes unsafe motorist passing, and exposes cyclists to various hazards. They should position themselves to maximize visibility and vantage and to discourage drivers from turning right into them. Cyclists may use the right shoulder or take the lane.

Keep a safe distance

Cyclists should avoid traveling too close to parked cars to reduce the risk of having a door open in front of them, even if there is a bike lane.

The cyclist in the photo below is correct. He has taken the lane and is traveling at least five feet from parked cars to stay out of their door-opening zone.

Virginia law fines drivers who open a vehicle door on the side of passing traffic without confirming that it was “reasonably safe to do so.”– Code of Virginia § 46.2-818.1

Take the lane

Cyclists can be seen by motorists and are less likely to be passed too closely when they “take the lane.” Ride near the center of any travel lane of ordinary width (10-12 feet), when traveling close to the speed of other traffic and when approaching intersections, driveways and alleys. Controlling the lane improves your visibility by keeping out of motorists’ blind spots. It improves positioning at intersections to reduce conflicts with turning traffic. It also discourages drivers from trying to squeeze by within the same lane when there is inadequate space.

Choose a lane

When approaching an intersection, cyclists should select the rightmost lane that serves their destination. Do not ride in a turn lane unless you are planning to turn, and do not travel between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, except where one lane is a separate or mandatory turn lane.

Cyclist take the lane

Take the lane.

NEVER face traffic

Riding a bike the wrong way through traffic is against the law and is a leading cause of crashes. Never ride against traffic, even in bike lanes. Cyclists may think they are safe if looking at oncoming traffic, but it is more dangerous. If hit head on, the impact would be greater than if hit from behind. When wrong-way riding, you can’t see signs and traffic signals. Also, drivers are not expecting cyclists to be approaching from that direction.

Bicycling WITH traffic

In Virginia, bicycles are vehicles when on the road. Cyclists and motorists share mutual rights and responsibilities as users of public roads. When cyclists are in command of their bikes and when motorists see them acting predictably, the roads are safer for everyone.


Shared Lane Markings (Sharrows) are road markings used to indicate the safest place to ride within a travel lane. Cyclists don’t need a sharrow to take the lane. Sharrows are used next to parked cars to alert cyclists that car doors may open unexpectedly and on lanes that are too narrow for cars and bicycles to comfortably travel side by side in the same lane. Occasionally, sharrows are used on steep downhill slopes to allow cyclists more maneuvering space to react when traveling at a high speed.

Bicycling across railroad tracks

Cyclists must cross railroad tracks carefully. Watch for uneven pavement and grooves that could catch a wheel. Stay in control of your bike and rise from the seat and bend
your arms and legs so your body acts like a shock absorber.

If the tracks cross the road at a sharp angle, cyclists should signal and scan for approaching traffic and angle the bike to cross perpendicular to the tracks.

Take a class

Classes offer opportunities to learn how to ride a bike in a safe environment, improve riding skills, and increase rider confidence. Bicycle education courses, offered by instructors certified by the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), are designed for people of all ages and riding abilities.

Crossing Tracks

Bicycling across railroad tracks

Bike Class

Take a class

Bike lanes

Virginia Code 46.2-100 defines bike lanes for bicycles, e-bikes, motorized skateboards and scooters, and mopeds. They are marked with white lines and icons/symbols or colored pavement.

Ride in a straight line

Ride your bike in a steady, predictable manner; do not weave in and out between parked cars. Drivers can’t always see you in parking areas and may unintentionally squeeze by you when they try to merge back into traffic.

Cycling side by side

Two bicyclists may ride side by side. If riding side by side will prevent cars from passing the bicycles at a safe distance (three feet), bicyclists must ride single file. This provision applies to people riding personal assistive devices, or motorized skateboards or scooters. Cars must change lanes when passing bicycles. Motorists may cross the yellow lines when it is safe to pass to ensure at least 3 feet of distance around cyclists. This law also applies to people riding electronic personal assistive mobility devices, motorized skateboards, or scooters.

Be aware

People biking should use mirrors and/or turn their head and look back to scan, just as they would if driving a motorized vehicle.

In Virginia, it’s against the law for people biking to wear earphones in both ears while riding. – Code of Virginia § 46.2-1078

People biking must audibly warn people walking when passing them, preferably with a bell. They must always pass on the left.


Comfort Levels

Before a bicycle trip, plan to ensure the route is safe. Resources produced by local governments, as well as online mapping tools, allow cyclists to know the road conditions they will encounter and plan according to their skill level.


Multi-use paths and quiet neighborhood streets (recommended for users of all ages and abilities due to lower traffic speeds and volume).


Roads with moderate volume of traffic, where riders may interact more with motor vehicles, especially at intersections.


Routes with higher traffic volumes or high traffic speeds, often without bike lanes or shoulders.


Riding on Sidewalks

Cyclists who feel more comfortable riding on sidewalks must follow pedestrian rules at crosswalks. When riding on the sidewalk, you must maintain a lower speed and yield to

Do not weave between the sidewalk and road by hopping the curb or using driveway cuts. Ride with consistency and predictability.

Mixed Use Bike Paths


Paths & Trails

Shared-use paths and recreational trails

Shared-use paths and recreational trails are physically separated from motor vehicle traffic by an open space or barrier. They are located within the highway right of way or within a separate right of way. Shared-use paths may be used by cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, users of wheelchair conveyances, joggers, and others. Faster users must yield to those who are moving slower.

Bicycling with pedestrians and animals on the trail

Cyclists must watch for unpredictable users, such as dogs, children learning to bike, skaters, or, in some cases, horses. When approaching animals, cyclists can avoid scaring them by slowing down. Gently saying “hello there” or “is it safe to pass?” can calm a horse and rider. In tight places, cyclists should dismount and walk past.

Ride on the right on shared-use paths, except to pass on the left.

When crossing a road at mid-block, watch for oncoming traffic and look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-STRAIGHT. All path users must obey signals.

Cyclists have the rights and responsibilities of pedestrians when on a shared-use path.

On multi-use trails and on the road, cyclists must obey the laws pertinent to the trail or road.


Yield to pedestrians. Cyclists must yield to people walking in marked and unmarked crosswalks.



Hand signals

Before turning or moving, cyclists should always look behind for, and yield to, any closely approaching traffic in their new line of travel. To signal a left turn, look behind and then hold out the left arm. To signal a right turn, look behind and then either hold out the right arm or hold the left arm up, with elbow bent up. Return both hands to the handlebar before turning, to maximize control while turning. To signal a stop hold either arm down at an angle, but use both hands for braking when necessary.

Bicyclist hand signals

Traffic signals

Some traffic signals are triggered by electrically charged wires buried under the pavement. As a vehicle passes over them, the metal in the vehicle disrupts the current, turning the signal. Not all bicycles have enough metal to trip the signal. To trigger a camera, “white line get behind” is common practice. Some jurisdictions may have a bicycle symbol near the line to show where to stop to turn the signal. If a light does not trigger, a cyclist may move forward to let a car trigger the signal, go to the sidewalk and cross with pedestrians, or proceed with caution after waiting two minutes or through two cycles if all traffic is clear.

Turning Left graphic
Turning left as described in the right column.



Turning right

Cyclists should always scan for vehicles that may be turning right. Signal ahead of the intersection and turn right from the right side of a straight lane or right turn lane if available. Stop at red lights before turning right just as motorists are supposed to do.

Turning left

1. The illustration to the left shows how bicycles turn left as a vehicle. Cyclists must:

  • Look over their left shoulder for traffic while approaching the intersection. They should practice this until they can perform it without swerving.
  • Watch for approaching motor vehicles.
  • Signal a left turn.
  • When traffic is clear, move to the left side of the lane (on a two-lane road), left lane, or left turn lane, whichever is appropriate.
  • Be positioned so vehicles going straight through can’t pass them on the left.
  • Yield to oncoming vehicles before turning.
  • If riding in a bike lane or on a road with several lanes, look and signal before each lane change.
  • Never make a left turn from the right side of the road.

2. If less comfortable in traffic, bicyclists should use the crosswalks and:

  • Cross as a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
  • If there is a signal, wait for the green or WALK signal before crossing.



Passing requires special caution. Cyclists should watch for vehicles planning to turn right at an intersection or driveway. They should not pass to the right of motorists at intersections, because drivers might turn right and may not see the cyclist. Avoid the motorist’s blind spot or other position where visibility is limited. Stay in front of or behind vehicles to always remain visible. On a shared-use path, call out or ring a bell and pass on the left. Virginia Code allows bikes to pass on right or on the left. See §46.2-907.

Motorists should not drive in a bike lane but may turn across a bike lane after using signals. Cyclists should be aware of this risk.




Turning Vehicles

Cyclists must always be prepared to stop suddenly or take other evasive action to avoid collisions.

Turning Vehicles Graphic

Traveling at night in rain, low light, or snowy conditions

Make yourself visible by using lights and reflectors on your bike and wearing reflective or bright-colored clothes like white, yellow, or lime-green. Avoid red clothing as it looks black in the fading light.

Every bicycle ridden between sunset and sunrise must have at least one white headlamp with the light being visible at least 500 feet to the front. The bicycle must have a red reflector on the rear visible at least 600 feet to the rear. On roads posted with speed limit of 35 mph or greater, the bicyclist must additionally be equipped with at least one red taillight visible from 500 feet to the rear. Taillights may be steady or blinking, are allowed under all conditions, and may be attached to the cycle or rider.

bicyclist at night


Stay safe when commuting by bicycle

Always carry identification and medical insurance information, especially when alone. Before deciding to commute by bicycle, consider the length of the trip, the amount of motor vehicle traffic, and the terrain. Choose routes with less traffic and accommodations for people biking—such as bike lanes, wider lanes, or shared-use paths to make the ride safer. Carry a map or plan an alternate route in case of a detour.

commuting cyclists

Commuting on shared-use paths not required

Shared-use paths are often used for recreation. Cyclist commuters and fast-moving road bikers are not required to use these unless a sign is posted prohibiting them from the road. When using, use care when passing slower users.


Motorized Skateboards or Scooters, and Electric Power-assisted Bicycles

Motorized Skateboards or Scooters, and Electric Power-assisted Bicycles (e-bikes) are vehicles that need to follow the law (Code Chapter 46.2, 46.2-100, 46.2-903, 46.2-908.1, 46.2 914, 46.2-915.2, 46.2-1051).

The term “electric power-assisted bicycle” means a vehicle that travels on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground and is equipped with (i) pedals that allow propulsion by human power and (ii) an electric motor with an input of no more than 1,000 watts that reduces the pedal effort required of the rider and ceases to provide assistance at 20 miles per hour. An electric power assisted bicycle is considered a vehicle when operated on a highway.

The term “motorized skateboard or scooter” includes vehicles with speeds no more than 20 mph with or without handlebars, but does not include “electric personal assistive mobility devices.” Motorized skateboards and scooters shall be considered vehicles when operated on a highway.

Practice Safe Riding:

  • Keep your eyes on the road.
  • Yield to pedestrians.
  • Be visible and use lights and reflective gear.
  • Obey posted traffic signs and signals.
  • Use hand signals.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Put away phones and avoid headphones.
  • Check to see where skateboards and scooters are allowed to ride.
  • Must be at least 14 years old or be under the supervision of someone at least 18 years old.


Roundabout Safety Tips
Roundabout Safety

Traffic circles may lower speed in neighborhoods, may help traffic flow and improve safety in uncontrolled intersections.

A second type of roundabout, found in some urban areas, involves multiple lanes and operating at higher speed. Avoid these when cycling.

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