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Laying Down the Law 2000



From:   Chief J.W. Rittenhouse, Charlottesville
             Police Chief Michael Sheffield, Univ. of Virginia
             Police Chief John Miller, Albemarle County Police
             Charlottesville-Albemarle Bicycling Assoc. (CHABA)

Clarification of existing traffic laws for motorists and bicyclists.

Motorists: Bicyclists are by law allowed a full traffic lane whenever needed.

“Every person riding a bicycle... shall have all of the rights... applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” “Any person operating a bicycle ... shall ride as close as practicable to the right ....

EXCEPT  when passing ... turning ... when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions not limited to fixed or moving objects, moving or parked vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes ... too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.”

“In passing a bicycle ... the driver of a motor vehicle shall pass at a safe distance and reasonable speed.”
(Va. State Motor Vehicle Code 46.2-800, 46.2-905, 46.2-837)

Traffic law never requires bicyclists to “squeeze over”. Bicyclists need to merge and take a full lane when approaching narrow lanes or other possible hazards. This rarely slows motorists by more than 20-30 seconds. Motorists who “squeeze past” are endangering bicyclists, and other road users as well. Always leave a generous space cushion around bicyclists and pedestrians. It is their only protection.

Bicyclists: Obey vehicular rules for your own safety and freedom.

Every road user, motorist or bicyclist, is responsible for operating by vehicular rules, and for going no faster than the posted speed limit. Nobody is safe when someone nearby is ignoring these rules or making up their own.

Vehicular Cycling is bicycling in traffic by predictable vehicular rules, instead of darting around like a squirrel. Studies show that Vehicular Cyclists are safer than people in cars, and can avoid 95% of accidents that occur to other cyclists.

Much more than just signaling turns, Vehicular Cycling is keeping a straight line. It is moving sideways by merging across the lane, exactly the same way a car changes lanes. It is “creating a space cushion around your vehicle” (DMV) - riding about 4 ft. away from parked cars, curbs, debris, etc. Most importantly, it is "Taking The Full Lane" on narrow roads, in narrow traffic lanes, or when any possible hazard is ahead. This makes the cyclist much more noticeable, prevents motorists from “squeezing past”, and creates a space cushion in case they try. (see Bicycle Drivers Manual on the web.

Everyone has equal rights on public roads. Roads are shared, public facilities.

“Look for bicycles on all public roads ... Bicycles are considered vehicles and have the same rights-of-way ... The rider will use the entire lane as traffic situations and road conditions change.” “In rural areas, adjust your speed for hills, curves ... bicyclists, and other slow-moving vehicles. By law, you must drive slower ... these conditions make the posted speed unsafe. It is your responsibility to adjust your driving to assure everyones’ safety." "In other words, SLOW DOWN." (Va. State Drivers Manual)

Public roads have always been shared by different types and speeds of vehicles. In US history, paving roads began at bicyclists’ request back when cars were slower and experimental. Everyone, without exception, has the right to use and be safe on all public roads. However, people who operate dangerous high-speed machinery (motor-vehicles) on public roads frequently cause massive damage and injury to others. That is why they are licensed and insured.




Submitted from Official Documents


Lauren Cooper

Albemarle County Police

Charlottesville Police

University of Virginia Police

Charlottesville Albemarle Bicycling Association (CHABA)


Editors Note:

This is the 2000 edition of the Police Public Memo on Bicycling in the Charlottesville area.

Prior Year's Memos

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