When bikers are on the road, everyone shares a responsibility for their safety. Even when they practice every recommended precaution and follow all traffic laws, they still place an immense trust in the capabilities and awareness of nearby drivers. Sadly, drivers can be reckless and accidents do happen. In 2019, the Virginia DMV reported 651 crashes involving bicycles, with 13 resulting in fatalities. Two new bike laws passed by the state legislature this year aim to reduce the danger to cyclists on the open road. If you plan to drive or bike within the state of Virginia in the foreseeable future, you should familiarize yourself with Virginia’s new bike laws and what they will change about how travelers share the road.
Beginning on July 1st, 2021, both cyclists and motorists have different expectations and responsibilities when passing one another. Until this change of policy, cyclists have held the burden of creating space for passing. The previous law did allow cyclists to ride side-by-side, but required them to shift to single-file whenever cars showed intent to pass them. Now, cyclists no longer need to move to make space. They can remain side-by-side while being passed, and cars are required to give them a wider berth than before. Now, cars must completely change lanes to pass bicycles, expanding the previously mandated three feet of distance to create a safer environment for riders. This will apply to all sections of road, including those divided by double yellow lines. Lawmakers are hopeful that this development will lessen the incidence of bicycle crashes and make passing bikers a quicker and easier task for motorists.
If you’re planning to take your family out for a ride, you can relax a little more. It is always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, but now the danger of cycling will decrease. You no longer have to worry about organizing your companions into single-file every time a car approaches. When biking with children, your position in the road is always important; you should keep them on the side of the you further from oncoming traffic. Now, while riding the inside of a road, there is less risk of a car accidentally clipping you while passing. Of course, this only applies if the car is following the new guidelines for passing distance. In the unfortunate event that a car fails to create enough space and causes a crash, the new law will make it easier for cyclists to make a case for the driver’s liability.
You should also know that the new laws change how you can interact with stop signs. Virginia will now be implementing a “safety stop” that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. Don’t run any stop lights though, as they will still bear the same mandate they always have. As bikers and drivers adjust to this change, it should help both to navigate intersections more efficiently. Bikers should still be careful and follow common-sense safety practices. Don’t forget that you are always safer while wearing a helmet!
If you are a motor vehicle driver in Virginia, these new bike laws calls for a bit more awareness on a daily basis. Always be on the lookout for cyclists, as the pastime is rapidly gaining popularity across the state. As these laws take effect, you may see more bikes comfortable sharing the road with cars. You can now pass cyclists with a lane change on any stretch of road, but this may have downsides as well. While this could make it easier to pass cyclists on smaller roads, it may also increase the risk of head-on collisions. Especially if you are driving on winding roads, you should pay close attention to the lane boundaries. Although you can now cross a double-yellow line to pass bikers, this can sometimes be a bad idea. Such boundaries often exist to show where the road is unsafe for passing or to warn drivers of blind turns. It is tempting to use any opportunity to pass, but you must always remember to value safety over speed. Only pass in areas where you are certain you have a buffer from oncoming traffic. Make sure that when you do overtake cyclists, you change lanes fully to create the required distance.
Be extra vigilant at stop signs as well. You may be accustomed to cyclists treating stop signs like yield signs already, but this will only become more common as time passes. Also, not all cyclists will responsibly yield to you, so you should always be prepared to give up your right-of-way if necessary. Do your part to ensure that everyone shares the road safely.
If you or someone you know has been injured while riding a bicycle, you may be able to hold the at-fault motor vehicle driver accountable. To explore your legal options, you need a trusted local Virginia personal injury attorney by your side. The team at Regan Zambri Long PLLC has years of experience helping people in your situation find justice. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.