We’ve had a lot of debates on this blog about bicycles, cyclists and traffic laws. Some drivers in particular (I’m thinking of Bob H) have seethed about cyclists “flouting the laws.”
For that reason I thought I’d run down some information shared Thursday night at a public meeting about bicycling and cycling safety that was held at the South Roanoke County library. It was convened by Supervisor Charlotte Moore.
About 25 people showed up. By the way, my Tuesday column is about one particular aspect of that meeting — pedestrian-bicyclist conflicts on the Roanoke River greenway. If you’re a pedestrian and you’d like to comment about that, please email me at dan(dot)casey(at)roanoke.com
One of the presenters was Roanoke County Police Officer Eric Orange. He ran down Virginia laws regarding rules of the road, which govern riding in Roanoke County but not necessarily localities, which may have their own ordinances, or the Blue Ridge Parkway, where federal regulations apply.
There was much discussion about certain malevolent drivers (they’re a minority) and their yahoo practice of leaning on their horns and driving close to cyclists while passing them. Some of the information Orange shared about laws and bike riding was very interesting:
1. Cyclists may ride up to two abreast in a lane. But when they’re not going the speed of prevailing traffic (which is most of the time, honestly) state law requires them to ride as far to the right as is practical and safe, under most circumstances. They must not impede traffic and must switch to single file when cars are overtaking them.
2. Cyclists may pass stopped cars on the right (they should always take care in doing this, however). Thus, when there’s a big backup on southbound Brambleton Avenue stemming from the light at Electric Road, state law explicitly allows cyclist to ride up to the front of that line.
3. Because bicycles are considered “vehicles,” cyclists must obey all traffic control devices, such as posted speed limits (generally not an issue); stop signs (frequently an issue); and traffic lights, except:
4. Cyclists may “jump” a red light under certain circumstances. One is, they must come to a full stop at it. A second is, they must wait at least 2 minutes or 2 traffic-light cycles, whichever comes first. The third is, they can’t put themselves in danger by jumping the light. And they must yield to any green-lighted traffic in that intersection while they’re jumping the light.
5. Motorists who pass cyclists must do so at a reasonable speed and give the at least two feet of leeway.
Thus, riding to the front of a line of stopped cars and jumping a red light (subject to the conditions above) is explicitly LEGAL in Virginia unless there are local laws that preclude it. And for cyclists there are times when this is by far the safest way to get through an intersection. (BobH, I hope this doesn’t blow your mind).
Meanwhile “buzzing” cyclists by intentional speeding too close to them while passing is ILLEGAL. Horn-honking merely adds to the rude factor, though. That alone is not necessarily against the law.
Happy — and safe — riding AND driving — everyone!