Bike lanes are to separate bikes, e-bikes, motorized skateboards, and scooters from other traffic. Bike lanes may be marked by signs, as well as white lines or colored pavement, and symbols applied to the pavement. Parking is not allowed in bike lanes. Often cyclists need to ride outside a bike lane when it is too narrow, or hazards are present.
Motorists will not drive in a bike lane except in some cases when making a right turn. Motorists are only allowed to cross into a bike lane when turning right. Before crossing a bike lane to turn, drivers must scan for cyclists to the right, rear, and forward, use their turn signal, scan again and then merge into the bike lane for the turn.
Motorists must come to a complete stop at red traffic signals and STOP signs. Before turning right on red, they must STOP, look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-STRAIGHT, then proceed. The most dangerous situation for cyclists and pedestrians is at intersections where motorists fail to come to a stop.
Shared Lane Markings (Sharrows) help motorists stay aware that cyclists may be using the road. Sharrows are an indicator to drivers that bicyclists may take the lane, and there is not enough room to share the lane.
Sharrows help cyclists ride safely:
- next to parked cars to avoid crashing into car doors that are suddenly opened.
- in lanes that are too narrow for cars and bicycles to comfortably travel side by side.
- on steep downhill slopes to allow them more maneuvering space to react when traveling at a high speed.
Come to a complete stop before turning right on red. When making a right turn, slow down and check for cyclists and pedestrians. Check behind you to ensure you do not turn into a cyclist’s path as you cross the rightmost parts of the travel or bike lanes. Look ahead of you into the crosswalk and on the adjacent street corners to make sure people walking and cycling are not entering the crosswalk. Avoid a common collision by looking right before making a right turn on red or from a driveway.
One of the most common types of collisions occurs when motorists turn left. Slow down and watch the crosswalk before you begin your turn. Pedestrians and cyclists may have the same “go” signal that you have and can cross in front of your vehicle as you turn.
Always be prepared to STOP suddenly or take other evasive action if a cyclist or pedestrian makes an unexpected move.
Motorists and cyclists: Yield to pedestrians
Motorists and bicyclists must yield and stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked.
Don’t block the crosswalk and Intersections
Motorists should not pass the white stop bar and encroach on the crosswalk while waiting for the signal to change. Doing so prevents people walking and cycling from safely using the crosswalk in front of the car.
Similarly, motorists should not enter an intersection until there is enough space to clear the intersection on the other side. Otherwise, they will end up blocking the crosswalk on the far side.
Drivers: look left-right-left-straight
In addition to looking for other vehicles, motorists should look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-STRAIGHT for cyclists and pedestrians, particularly at heavily used traffic or trail intersections.
Trail and road intersections
Motorists should consider trail intersections as they would other intersections even if crosswalks are not marked.
Motorists: Slow down
Speed kills. Speeding was the factor in 42 percent of the 4,097 traffic deaths and 20 percent of the 317,497 injuries from 2016 and 2020. Speeding is particularly dangerous to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians. Between 2016-2020, people walking represented 14 percent of all traffic deaths. Vehicles traveling at relatively low speeds can cause serious injury and fatalities.
“A person who operates a motor vehicle in a careless or distracted manner and is the proximate cause of serious physical injury to a vulnerable road user is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor leading to jail or a fine up to $2500.” Code of Virginia §46.2-816.1″
Passing at crosswalks and intersections is illegal. Drivers often do not see people crossing the road in front of slowed or stopped vehicles.
When crossing more than one lane of traffic, watch for double threats with oncoming cars where one vehicle stops, yet others pass around, or do not stop for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to cross.
Reduce this risk by waiting for better visibility across lanes of traffic.
Slow Down to Get Around: Passing emergency and stopped vehicles (mail, delivery, tow, construction, road repair and trash trucks) requires extra care as there are often drivers and workers on or near the road.
Waste collection workers are frequently at risk, as they are in our neighborhoods on a regular basis. The “Slow Down to Get Around” law requires drivers passing stopped collection vehicles to slow down to at least 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit and provide at least a three-foot cushion between their vehicle and the collection vehicle. Violations are punishable by fines. –Code of Virginia § 46.2-921.1
Photo speed enforcement may be located near school and construction zones.
Encountering bicyclists and pedestrians – Code of Virginia §46.2-882
Transit and rideshare: Watch for people exiting and boarding While passing stopped vehicles
Slowed or stopped traffic could indicate people are crossing the street. Watch before passing to reduce the risk of hitting a pedestrian or cyclist crossing in front of a stopped vehicle.
Safe passing with cyclists on the road
The law requires that motorists stay at least three feet away from cyclists as they pass them. Drivers may legally cross the yellow line in order to safely pass a cyclist, if the oncoming lane is clear.
Drivers must stay out of the bike lanes unless turning. Use caution when turning, in case cyclists are in your blind spot. When turning, watch for cyclists and pedestrians crossing in front.
Driving in a bike lane to pass a vehicle, except when directed by emergency responders, is prohibited.
The Dutch Reach, a safe method of opening the driver’s side door, is used in Holland where there are many cyclists on the road. Here’s how:
- Seated behind the wheel, use your right hand to reach in front of you toward the door, pivot your body to the left to look back to see if any cyclists or traffic are approaching. Also check the side mirror.
- Then open the door, still with caution, with your right hand. This helps minimize the chance of “dooring” (hitting with a car door) a cyclist or being hit by oncoming traffic.
Drivers should always use headlights in poor weather conditions. If you are unsure of your ability to drive safely, do not drive. Take extra care to look out for pedestrians, cyclists and those taking transit in dim light or rainy weather.
Encountering cyclists and pedestrians
When there is no sidewalk or shoulder, motorists need to look for people who are walking or riding bikes along the edge of the road. Pedestrians are safest if they walk facing traffic. Cyclists should ride with traffic on the right side of a two-way road.
All stop for school buses
All oncoming and following traffic must stop for stopped buses with red flashing lights and a stop sign extended. The only time people driving do not need to stop is when the school bus is traveling in the opposite direction on a divided roadway with a median or barrier. (§ 46.2-859)
Check before opening car doors
Be mindful of your surroundings whenever you open the driver’s door on the side of passing traffic. It is your responsibility to ensure your car door will not obstruct the path of a passing cyclist.
If you or your passenger hit a cyclist with a car door, your vehicle is at fault. Virginia law levies a fine on 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.
Before backing out of a parking space or driveway, drivers should look behind, left, and right to check for pedestrians, cyclists and other cars before proceeding.
Consider driving at non-peak travel times to avoid stress and traffic congestion.
Leave a safe distance between your vehicle and buses as they may stop frequently. Pass a stopped bus only with extreme care, as people exiting the bus may cross in front of it.
Look for pedestrians and cyclists when entering and exiting driveways and parking garages. Look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-STRAIGHT.
Left Turn: YIELD! Look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-STRAIGHT.
Don’t cut or turn into oncoming travel lanes to beat traffic. Check all lanes to be sure there is no oncoming traffic hidden behind turning vehicles.
Right turn… STOP! Look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-STRAIGHT.
Check for any pedestrians or cyclists who may be approaching from behind on the right.
Drivers should watch for pedestrians, especially:
- At stop signs and when pulling out of or into driveways and parking spots.
- When preparing to turn.
- When turning left with oncoming traffic.
- Drivers should always be prepared to stop suddenly or take other evasive action to avoid a collision with another vehicle, a cyclist or pedestrian.
In 2020, even with the fewer cars traveling during the pandemic, there were 1,242 motor vehicle crashes involved pedestrians. 1,186 people were injured, and 114 people were killed. 48% of crashes cited alcohol and 32% cited speed as a factor in pedestrian fatalities.