Review and Analysis of Virginia Traffic Law Affecting Bicycle Safety

Report No: 81-R16

Published in 1980

About the report:

In response to House Joint Resolution #105, passed during the 1980 session of the Virginia General Assembly, a study was made to assess the nature and scope of the bicycle-motor vehicle crash problem in the Commonwealth, to determine which provisions of the Code of Virginia were inadequate to address the recent trend toward increased bicycle use, and to make recommendations for changes in the Code to improve the safety and mobility of bicyclists in the Commonwealth. The study consisted of a review of the literature relevant to bicycle riding and bicycle-motor vehicle crashes; analysis of Virginia data for 1977 through 1979 on bicycle-motor vehicle crashes; and a review and analysis of the Code of Virginia, the Uniform Vehicle Code, and the Codes of Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and California. The study was carried out with the advice and assistance of an advisory panel composed of representatives of federal, state, and local governmental agencies, numerous bicycling organizations, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances, and the Tidewater Automobile Association of Virginia. The results of the literature review and analysis of Virginia bicycle-motor vehicle crash data indicate that accidents and injuries are experienced primarily by youths 10 to 14 years of age riding the streets of residential areas. While this is the predominant crash pattern, there is evidence that increasing numbers of adults riding in business and commercial areas are being killed and injured in bicycle accidents. The data also indicate that crashes occur primarily at intersections, that the bicyclist is at fault in most incidents, and that the two most common faults of both bicyclists and motorists are failure to yield and inattention. The review of the Code of Virginia revealed that a number of typical bicycle riding situations are not clearly defined by statute and that some revisions to the Code are needed to define the status of the bicycle, the bicyclist's position on the roadway, and the responsibility of the bicyclist at intersections. Suggested revisions to the Code are offered.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Charles B. Stoke, Owen J. Shean

Last updated: January 22, 2024

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