Saturday, March 6, 2010

VA fails to pass "3 feet to pass" law

The Virginia legislature recently failed to pass a "3 feet to pass" law (which Maryland passed last year), along with a couple of other sensible laws, i.e., not following too closely (this is illegal to do to a motor vehicle, but not to a bike). See the Virginia Bicycling Federation's valiant effort.

On the up side, looking up current VA code, I found the following:

§ 46.2-904
Bikes (and other things like rollerblades, etc.) MAY be prohibited from using certain sidewalks, crosswalks, paved trails, etc., either by local codes (if posted) or by control devices (like signs).

But otherwise bikes can ride in crosswalks AND have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians when doing so: “A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, or an electric power-assisted bicycle on a sidewalk, shared-use path, or across a roadway on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties of a pedestrian under the same circumstances.”

This includes, say, crosswalks on the WO&D trail, Custis trail, etc.:  you have the right to ride your bike in the crosswalk unless it is marked otherwise.

§ 46.2-925 says that if there are traffic controls (Walk/Don’t Walk), pedestrians [and therefore cyclists] must obey those.

But I was told by a police officer that the cars-must-yield-at-crosswalks law overrides the peds-must-obey-signals law. This was in Arlington, in the Custis Trail crossing at Lynn Street, next to Key Bridge. I was riding my bike in the crosswalk (obeying the pedestrian crossing light) and a car turned across the crosswalk & struck me. He was found at fault. Interestingly, the sign there says for cars to yielld to all “persons” in crosswalk, making explicit on the sign what the law actually says: that cyclists are to be treated like pedestrians when in a crosswalk unless posted otherwise.

§ 46.2-924:
Drivers must yield to pedestrians (and therefore also cyclists) “at” crosswalks. Interestingly, the law here repeatedly says “at” and does not say “in” crosswalks, though perhaps local practice & enforcement interprets this as “in.”  Also, this applies to any crosswalk anywhere, whether mid-block or end of block, including those single-stripe walks that are frankly hard to see.  It also applies to any intersection where the speed limit is 35 or less, even if there is no marked crosswalk.

The one pedestrian (and therefore cyclist) restriction at crosswalks is this: “No pedestrian shall enter or cross an intersection in disregard of approaching traffic.” So you can’t just jump out in front of cars. Still, once you are “at” the crosswalk, cars are supposed to yield to you.


  1. Just to note that so far Maryland's 3' passing bill has only passed the Senate but has failed to get out favorably from the house subcommittee, so we still do not have a 3' passing law.

  2. Thanks for that correction. And good luck w/ the Md. legislation.

  3. On a trip to Tennessee, I learned that they now have a 3 foot passing law. Tennessee!


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