Common mistakes and assumptions about safe biking

Biker riding along Mayo Bridge in downtown RichmondPhil Riggan – James River News Hub

Richmond is heading in the right direction with respect to becoming safer for bikes and pedestrians. The Richmond area has fantastic off-road trails, but when it comes to on-road connections, drivers and bikers need to learn how to respect each other’s rights. What are some of the common mistakes and assumptions about safe biking?

According to state law, a bicycle is a vehicle when operated on a roadway. Bicyclists and motorists basically have the same rights and duties, and the laws governing traffic regulation apply equally to both. A few safety considerations, summarized from VDOT:

  • Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs, signals, lights, and markings.
  • Bicyclists must signal their intentions to stop or turn.
  • Bicyclists must ride with the flow of traffic on the right side of the highway.
  • Bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks unless prohibited by local ordinance or traffic control devices. While on sidewalks and shared use paths, bicyclists must always yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.
  • Bicyclists are not permitted to wear earphones in both ears while riding a bicycle. Several jurisdictions in Virginia require that every person 14 or younger shall wear a protective helmet whenever riding or being carried on a bicycle on any highway, sidewalk, or public bicycle path. The only locality in the Richmond area is Petersburg.
  • Every bicycle ridden between sunset and sunrise must have at least one white headlamp with the light being visible at least 500 feet to the front. The bicycle must have a red reflector on the rear visible at least 600 feet to the rear. On roads posted with speed limit of 35 mph or greater, the bicyclist must additionally be equipped with at least one red tail light visible from 500 feet to the rear.
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4 responses to “Common mistakes and assumptions about safe biking

  1. Thanks for this. I’m about to start biking to work (hopefully–I haven’t really ridden since I was a kid, but it’s only 4 miles each way), so your timing is perfect.

  2. Bikes must stop in traffic at the stoplight in line, not pass cars and go to the head of the line.If u can’t that in your car, truck or motorcycle, you can’t do it on a bicycle.it is a traffic violation & I wish the cops would write tickets. I have no respect for a cycler when I see this.

  3. @justsumstuff
    FYI: I do not know the specifics of Virginia law regarding this behavior, but I will tell you that many bicyclists do this for safety reasons.
    1. When a bicyclist is near the end of a line of traffic crossing an intersection, vehicles from the cross street that wish to turn right and vehicles from the opposing direction that are waiting to turn left are less likely to see the cyclist behind the line of cars and more likely to carelessly turn into the cyclist.
    2. A cyclist at the back of a line of traffic at an intersection is in danger from the possibility of an approaching vehicle not seeing you and crushing you between two cars. Such a crash is particularly deadly to cyclists.
    3. Sitting behind a queue of traffic puts you directly in the line of exhaust to suck in all those wonderful fumes coming from all the tailpipes which gets particularly worse when all those vehicles accelerate.

  4. You are dead wrong. It is safer to be in line with the cars, especially with right-turn-on-red. When a cyclist moves to the side of the road at a stop, he is effectively invisible. Cars will continue to stream around him even after the light is green. A bicyclist MUST assert his place in traffic. A motorist will take what you give him and will try to take it from every other cyclist, whether they give it to him or not, or if it’s even his.

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