Two new Virginia laws on the books are aimed at making our roads safer for cyclists, and will hopefully prevent serious injuries and deaths among bikers.
2020 found many of us spending more time than usual at home, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately that also meant that a lot of people had the chance to get out and enjoy the outdoors — many of us ran, hiked, and biked our way through lockdown. Biking is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, but bikers also risk serious injury and even death when they are out on the road.
Nationally, 697 cyclists were killed while riding their bikes in 2020, and the Virginia DMV reported 560 bicycle crashes and eight bicycle-related fatalities last year. Those local numbers are down from 2019, when the state saw more than 650 crashes and 13 deaths. Virginia aims to keep the downward trend continuing with two new laws designed to protect bikers going into effect on July 1st.
The first law requires motorists to change lanes when they pass a cyclist. A driver must wait until it is safe to change lanes to pass a cyclist, which will give bikers more room on the road and decreases the likelihood of a car coming into physical contact with a bike. Vehicle versus bike accidents rarely end well for the biker, and can result in serious injuries like traumatic brain injury or multiple bone fractures, and sometimes even death. By requiring vehicles to give bikers a wide berth the hope is that far fewer bikers will be involved in these dangerous car-against-bike traffic accidents.
The second new law going into effect on July 1st allows bikers to ride two abreast in a lane on the road. Bikers have long known that riding side-by-side helps to increase their visibility to cars, but drivers can get frustrated and angry if they think that the bikers are taking up a lane that belongs to motorized vehicles. These new laws make it clear that it is safe and legal for a biker to ride next to a fellow cyclist, and that a vehicle must wait until it is safe to pass a bicyclist by moving into another lane.
In addition to abiding by these new laws, here are a few general safety tips for motorists to help keep our roads safe for bicyclists:
• Avoid distractions while driving
• Always stop and look in both directions before turning right on red
• When turning left, look for oncoming bicyclists
• When approaching an intersection, pay close attention to your surroundings and look for anyone who may be crossing the street
• Use caution and double check your mirrors before making a right-hand turn
• Do not park or drive in bike lanes
• If you’re parking on a roadway, check your side- and rear-view mirrors for bicyclists before opening your door
With some extra vigilance and caution on the part of motorists and with these new laws on the books, our roads should be safer than ever for bikers!