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Laying Down the Law about Bicycles



THURSDAY  JULY 8, 1999      11 AM

Charlottesville City Hall,  Community Development

Conference Room   (enter E. Market St.)

Photo/Video Op:   After meeting, on E. Market St. 

                  near WVIR-29 Studio


The release of an important Public Memorandum to all

area citizens from ALL local police

Subject:     Clarification of currently existing traffic

             laws for bicyclists and motorists.

From:        Chief John Miller,  Albemarle County Police

              Chief J.W. Rittenhouse,  Charlottesville Police

              Chief Michael Sheffield,  Univ. of Va. Police

              Sheriff T.W. Hawkins,  Albemarle County Sheriff

              CHABA  (Charlottesville Area Bicycling


Attending:    Chief John Miller,  Albemarle County Police

              Chief J.W. Rittenhouse,  Charlottesville Police

              Chief Michael Sheffield,  Univ. of Va. Police

              Sheriff Terry Hawkins,  Albemarle County Sheriff

              Lauren Cooper,  CHABA

              Alexis Ziegler,  CHABA



From:   Chief John Miller, Albemarle County Police,   

        Chief J.W.Rittenhouse, Charlottesville Police,

        Chief Michael Sheffield,Univ. of Va. Police, 

        Sheriff Terry Hawkins, Albemarle County Sheriff

Currently existing traffic laws for bicyclists and motorists.

   1) Bicyclists Can Lawfully Take A Full Lane Whenever

      Necessary. The law says all drivers need a full lane to

      operate safely. 

      Cyclists also get a full traffic lane to themselves

      whenever reasonably necessary to operate safely.

      Virginia State Law says so. 



(Va. Motor Vehicle Code  46.2-800, 46.2-905)

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,...  to avoid conditions not

   limited to fixed or moving objects,  moving or parked

   vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, 


   substandard width lanes too narrow for a bicycle and another

   vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.


      Lawful, Vehicular Cyclists will merge and take the full

      lane when approaching narrow lanes or any possible

      hazard. This rarely slows motorists more than 20-30

      Traffic law never requires cyclists to "squeeze" over.

      It is unlawful for motorists to "squeeze" past,

      threaten or endanger cyclists in any way. "Squeezing"

      Causes Accidents.   

      Share the lane only if there's safe space.

      Wait Your Turn.

   2) Bicyclists Must Obey Lawful, Vehicular Rules For Their

      Own Safety. 
      As a group, Lawful, Vehicular Cyclists have very few

      accidents with motorists - 95%!  fewer than others.
      Lawful, Vehicular Cyclists operate by the same lawful,

      predictable, vehicular rules of the road as motorists.

      "The rules of the road follow easily understood

       principles and provide equal protection for all.

       Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated

       as lawful drivers of vehicles. Nobody can operate

       safely without the ability to obey these principles."

                     (John Forester,  Effective Cycling)

      Equal rights means equal punishments for reckless

      cyclists. Sidewalks have pedestrian rules, public roads

      have vehicular rules.  All users must obey appropriate


   3) Bicyclists Do Have Equal Rights

      Public roads have been shared by everyone for

      thousands of years.  In the US, road paving was begun for

      bicyclists back when cars were still experimental. Later,

      traffic laws and licenses were created to prevent

      motorists from endangering other road users.
      Attempts to ban cyclists from public roads have never

      been upheld. Public roads are shared, public facilities.

      The Virginia State DMV says so.   



(Va. State Drivers Manual)

"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 (Garth, Reservoir Rd., Rt. 20, 53) watch for 

curves, hills, bicyclists, and other slow-moving vehicles.  

By law, you must drive slower if these conditions make the

posted speed unsafe. Adjust your speed for hills, curves ...

anywhere that visibility may be limited. Driving becomes

hazardous when visibility is reduced. Reducing your speed

should be your first response to decreased visibility.  

If you cannot see more than 100 ft. ahead, you cannot drive

safely at any speed. 
In other words, Slow Down. It is your responsibility to adjust

your driving to assure everyone's safety."




Submitted from Official Documents


Lauren Cooper

Albemarle County Police

Charlottesville Police

University of Virginia Police


2000 Version also On Line


Editors Note:

We've published this official Public Memo from the Charlottesville Area Law Enforcement Agencies to show that Bicycles are Legal Road Vehicles
and Police Departments everywhere are sworn to uphold the law for all citizens.

This is not "just" for one county, or one state.

This is the Law in ALL of North America.


Not to mention virtually all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Most of South America, South East Asia, India, and almost all other places on Planet Earth.

If it's "News" to You, we can only say:

Welcome to the Road!

Mind that Stop sign, signal your turns, yield to pedestrians, and enjoy yourself.

These roads are your roads, but you have to share.

The rules are your rules too.



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