Bike the Shenandoah Valley

Safety Tips

Bicycles are legally considered "vehicles" on Virginia's roadways. That means bicyclists must obey the rules of the road like drivers of any other vehicle and must be treated as equal users by all other vehicles.

Following the rules of the road and using common sense will keep you and others safe while you ride. This page features information about state laws relating to bicycling, safety tips and web resources from around Virginia designed to keep people on bikes, on foot and in cars safe.

Winter Biking Tips

Virginia Laws

Tips of Bicyclists

Share the Road Virginia

Winter Biking Tips

How to Bike in the Winter (courtesy of

Start Slowly Take a few short trips to get a feel for it and make sure you enjoy it before you commit to a full-on winter commuting / riding schedule.

Plan Ahead Many cities are now beginning to plow bike lanes. Find out which bike lanes are plowed, and plan your route accordingly. If there are no bike routes, take traffic-calmed back streets where you are most likely to have the road to yourself.

Get Visible Falling snow, low-hanging clouds, short days, and dim light all seriously obscure vision. Get yourself a good, bright set (or three) of waterproof bike lights, and don't leave the house without them.

Adjust Your Braking Similar to when driving, you don't want to slam on the brakes while biking on icy roads. Brake slowly to prevent spinouts, and brake more on the rear wheel. Give yourself twice the amount of time to come to a stop as you would in the summer.

Don't Strap In You really needn't be going to quickly anyway, but in case you fishtail or start to fall, you'll want to have your feet free to get them to the ground.

Ride Defensively Even in areas where there are high rates of summertime cycling, most people don't expect bikes on the roads in winter, so they often aren't looking for you. Give motorists extra space, stay out of blind spots, and make eye contact with drivers whenever possible.

Learn to Recognize Ice Black ice forms where snow melts in the sunlight then re-freezes once the sun goes down. Ride carefully in areas which get direct sunlight all day, or anywhere that appears wet on a below freezing day.

Take the Lane Snow and debris accumulate along the curb, basically taking over the line which most people usually bike in. Ride in the middle of the lane. It will also make you more visible and ensure nobody can pass you without changing lanes.

Maintain Your Bike Wipe your bike down every day to avoid rust. Clean and lubricate the chain and gears once a week if you're riding a bike with a derailleur, and clean and lubricate the brake lines every few weeks.

Expect to Fall You probably will. Ride slowly and anticipate a slip or two.

Be Reasonable Combine winter-biking with public transit if you have a long trip or you could get cold and tired halfway through. If it's a white-out day and you can't see your neighbor's house, you can be sure no motorist is going to see you pedaling along either - you may want to leave the bike at home.

Too many people believe that winter biking is something other people can do, something younger or fitter people can do, or something crazy people do. In reality, all it takes is the right attitude and a bit of warm clothing. Riding through the winter is a great accomplishment, but it isn't out of reach for anyone.


Virginia Laws (courtesy of

Bicycles are vehicles when ridden on roads and streets:

  • Obey all traffic signs, signals, lights and markings
  • Ride on the right side, with traffic
  • When turning, use motor vehicle turn lane
  • Stay as far to the right as safely practicable or use the shoulder
  • Ride no more than two side by side
  • Ride single file when moving slower than traffic
  • Obey signs that restrict riding on interstate highways and limited access roads
  • Yield to pedestrians
  • When riding on the sidewalk, call to pedestrians when approaching from behind and to pass, and give right of way to pedestrians


  • Use hand signals for turns and stops

  • When turning or crossing, look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT
  • Keep one hand on the handlebars when carrying articles
  • Carry children securely in special seats or trailers
  • Use white headlamps visible 500 feet, rear reflectors, and a red taillight when bicycling between sunset and sunrise


  • Don't carry passengers on bicycles built for one rider
  • Don't wear earphones in both ears

Motorists, respect bicyclists' and pedestrians' rights:

  • Approach and pass bicyclists at a reasonable speed
  • Allow at least 3 (three) feet or more at higher speeds between you and bicyclists when passing

  • Yield to all pedestrians and bicyclists in a crosswalk
  • When turning, yield to pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Permit pedestrians to cross roads safely
  • Come to a full stop for a blind pedestrian with a cane or guide dog (Class 3 misdemeanor)

If involved in a crash:

  • Stop to determine injury or damage
  • Report name, etc. to police or others involved
  • Report property damaged from a crash to police within 24 hours

See more at:

Tips of Bicyclists

  • Be predictable.
  • Follow all signs and signals.
  • Be visible.
  • Wear light-colored or reflective gear.
  • Avoid trouble.
  • Stay out of the "door zone" - be far enough away from parked cars to avoid being hit by a sudden door opening.
  • Try not to pass on the right, especially when there isn't much room.
  • Look over your shoulder before leaving the bike lane to turn left or when passing another cyclist.
  • Use your manners.
  • Give pedestrians lots of space.
  • Warn pedestrians if you will be passing them from behind.
  • Obey all traffic rules.
  • If your are forced to "take the lane" to safely navigate a narrow road, make sure you move over as soon as possible to let drivers stuck behind you pass.
  • Apologize if you make an error.
  • Give a wave of thanks to someone who does something nice for you.

Share the Road Virginia Website and Program

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) developed this comprehensive web resource for safe cycling, with in-depth information about the rules of the road, getting started and how to ride confidently alongside people in cars. Visit

Download the Share Virginia Roads Guide

Bike Smart Richmond has created a great set of PSAs for safe cycling and driving:


Shenandoah Valley Cycling