The following information is taken from a Virginia Department of Transportation pamphlet.

Bicycling on Virginia Roads

Laws and Safety Tips

Tips for Safe Bicycling

Bicycling on Virginia's Public Roads

The laws regulating bicycling in Virginia's public highways define the rights and duties of bicyclists as well as the motorists with whom they share the roadway. Bicyclists and motorists basically have the same rights and duties, and the laws governing traffic regulation apply equally to both.

The following summary is intended to help bicyclists understand the laws which apply to the operation of bicycles in Virginia.


A bicycle is defined as a device propelled solely by human power, having pedals, two or more wheels, and a seat height of more than 25 inches when adjusted to its maximum height. A bicycle is a vehicle when operated on the highway.

A highway is defined as the entire width between the boundary lines of every place open to public use for purposes of vehicular travel.

A roadway is defined as the portion of the highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the shoulder.

A vehicle is defined as every device used for transportation of people or property on a highway.

Traffic Controls

Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs, signals, lights, and markings.

Where to Ride

Bicyclists must ride with the flow of traffic on the right side of the highway.

Bicyclists must ride as close as possible to the right edge of the roadway. Exceptions to this are when bicyclists are overtaking and passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn, avoiding unsafe conditions, or when the lane width is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. Additionally, bicycles are not excluded from riding on the highway shoulder.

Bicyclists must ride single file on highways. Bicyclists may ride two or more abreast on paths or parts of highways designated exclusively for bicycle use.

Bicyclists are not permitted to ride on Interstate and certain other controlled access highways. The restricted sections of the highways are marked with conspicuous signs.

If a usable bike path is located next to a roadway and local ordinance requires its use, bicyclists must ride on the path, not the roadway.

Bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks unless prohibited by local ordinance or traffic control devices. While on sidewalks, bicyclists must always yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.

Bicycles pulling onto a sidewalk or highway from a driveway must yield the right of way to pedestrians or vehicles already on the sidewalk or highway.

Changing Directions

Bicyclists must signal their intentions to stop or turn. The proper signals are made with the left arm as follows:

Left: [extend left arm fully, pointing to the left]
Right: [extend left arm towards the left, bend at elbow to 90 degrees]
Stop: [extend left arm down towards the left (think southwest on a compas)]

Bicyclists may make left turns as either motorists or pedestrians do. To make a pedestrian left turn, the bicyclist should continue straight across the intersecting road, obey the traffic signals, turn left at the corner, and proceed as usual. Bicyclists may also dismount and walk in the crosswalks of the two intersecting roads.


Bicyclists may overtake and pass another vehicle only when safe to do so. Bicyclists may pass another vehicle on the right or left, and they may stay in the same lane, change lanes, or ride off the road if necessary for safe passing. Please note that passing motor vehicles on the right side may be extremely dangerous if the motorist does not see the bicyclist and attempts a right turn.

Motorists must approach and pass a bicyclist at a safe distance and reasonable speed.


Bicyclists must stop when they are in an accident involving death, injury, or property damage. The bicyclist's name and address must be given to the police and to any person involved in the accident or the owner of the property. If unattended property is damaged, the bicyclist must make a reasonable effort to find the owner. The bicyclist's name and address must be given to the owner. If the owner can not be located, the bicyclist must leave a note in a conspicuous place at the accident site and report the accident to the police within 24 hours.

Safety Considerations

Bicyclists must not carry articles which prevent them from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.

Bicyclists must not attach themselves or their bicycles to any other vehicle on the roadway.

Bicyclists are not permitted to wear earphones while riding a bicycle.


Every bicycle ridden between sunset and sunrise must have a white light on its front with the light being visible at least 500 feet to the front. The bicycle must have a red reflector on the rear visible 300 feet to the rear. A red light visible for 500 to the rear may be used in place of or in addition to the red reflector.

Bicycles ridden on highways must have brakes which will skid the wheels on dry, level, clean pavement.


Bicyclists may register the serial numbers of their bicycles with local police or the sheriff's department.

Please Note

This summary condenses or paraphrases the actual language of the Virginia vehicle laws. In a court, which is guided by the full and exact language of the laws, it is not a proper authority to cite. A copy of the vehicle laws is available upon request.

Violation of state traffic laws is considered a traffic infraction, and is punishable by a fine of not more than $100 unless other specific penalty provisions apply.

Requests for more information on bicycling in Virginia should be directed to:

State Bicycle Coordinator
Virginia Department of Transportation
1401 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA. 23219
(804) 786-2964

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