Virginia’s roadways are home to vehicles of widely varying sizes and weights, but none is smaller, lighter, or more vulnerable than the bicycle. Cycling down a busy road full of vehicles that can easily cause you serious injury is a nerve-wracking affair for any cyclist, but the danger can be minimized if both drivers and riders understand their rights and responsibilities on the road. In 2012 more than 700 cyclists were killed in collisions with other vehicles in America, and almost 50,000 were injured. Furthermore, estimates predict that as few as 10% of bicycle-related crashes are reported to the police. Better understanding of cycling laws can help us reduce these figures.
This issue will take on increased importance in the coming months as bicycling moves into the public eye when Richmond hosts the 2015 Road World Championships. Increased appreciation for and participation in biking is great, but amateur cyclists in this event may not have a good understanding of the rules of the road. This article is designed to explain how cyclists can help to keep themselves safe as they become familiar with a fantastic new sport.
In the eyes of the law, bicycles are just another type of vehicle that uses the road. Bicycles have the right to use the road, but this right comes with the obligation of obeying all traffic laws, signals, and signs. Bicycles have to stop at red lights and stop signs, regardless of whether traffic is approaching. In some cases the weight of a bicycle and rider might be insufficient to trip the light. In these cases the rider may proceed when the way is clear after waiting for two light cycles or two minutes, whichever is shorter.
There are also some additional rules imposed on bicycles due to their slower speeds. Riders are required to stay to the right side of the road, and must ride single file to allow passing if another vehicle comes up behind them. They are not allowed on interstates or certain other roads with controlled access, as the high speeds and small shoulders of these roads create a very dangerous situation for riders. Just like drivers, cyclists are required to signal their turns.
In general, children under the age of fourteen are required to wear a helmet whenever they ride a bicycle. Although adults have the option to forgo wearing a helmet, everyone should wear a helmet when riding a bike. Any bicycle being ridden at night is required to have at least one forward facing light that can be seen from 500 feet away and at least one rear facing red deflector. If a cyclist wants to ride at night on a road with a speed limit greater than 35 miles per hour, they will need to replace the red deflector with a red light.
Collisions between a car and a bike are usually devastating to the rider, resulting in serious injuries or even death. Laws that govern bicycle safety are primarily concerned with visibility and predictability, because these are important factors in preventing a collision between drivers and cyclists. Drivers need to know with as much certainty as possible where the cyclist is and what he or she are planning to do. Understanding and following the law are important steps in preventing these tragedies from happening.
 Follow the link for more information on and demonstrations of common hand signals: http://www.livestrong.com/article/328967-bicycle-safety-hand-signals/
 Click here for the statistics on helmet safety: http://www.livestrong.com/article/343526-statistics-for-helmet-safety/
 See Footnote 4.