View Full Version : Is it legal for no riding in the bike lane?

06-10-2011, 03:34 PM
Is it legal for not riding in the bike lanes in Arlington or DC?

In NY, it's not legal.

Here is the news story from WTOP.


You got to check out the youtube video. It's funny.



06-10-2011, 03:41 PM
A driver horned and yelled that I wasn't in bike lane while riding in DC before.

Brendan von Buckingham
06-10-2011, 04:27 PM
When I got a ticket on Wilson Blvd between Silver Diner and Virginia Square Metro for "failure to stay to the right" (which is a non-existant regulation), the only substantial question the judge asked me was if there was a bicycle lane available. The answer was no and the charge was dismissed, but I have to wonder, if there HAD been a bike lane the judge would have used that to find against me.

06-10-2011, 04:56 PM
My impression is that it's legal to ride in all lanes here, even if a bike lane is present. Therefore the AP article could give people the wrong impression. In NYC the law is that you must use bike lanes except where hazards or turning or other things make that unsafe or impossible. I think the AP reporter got this story wrong. He or should have been more specific about the NYC law (which does allow exceptions to riding only in bike lanes) and was wrong to generalize that it's the law everywhere. It isn't I don't think, although a lot of drivers probably think it is.

I generally use bike lanes, but narrow bike lanes next to parked cars can be very dangerous for getting doored, or alley'd, or right-hooked, or left-crossed. Riding in some bike lanes is much more dangerous than purposefully taking the lane. And, as in the video, a lot of times there are cars or blockages in bike lanes. That said, I try not to slow the flow of traffic if possible.

06-10-2011, 07:14 PM
My impression is that it's legal to ride in all lanes here, even if a bike lane is present.

From VDOT: Good reference here with links to law sections: http://www.virginiadot.org/programs/bk-laws.asp#Where

Key legal provision:

Every person riding a bicycle on a highway shall be subject to the provisions of the Code of Virginia section on motor vehicles and shall have the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle unless a provision clearly indicates otherwise.

Reference: 46.2-800

Where to Ride

Bicyclists must ride with the flow of traffic on the right side of the highway.
Bicyclists operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place under conditions then existing shall ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of roadway. Exceptions to this are when bicyclists are overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, preparing for a left turn, avoiding unsafe conditions, avoiding riding in a lane that turns or diverges to the right, riding on a one way street where bicyclists may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of roadway, or when the lane width is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. Additionally, bicycles are not excluded from riding on the highway shoulder.
Bicyclists must not ride between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction unless one lane is a separate or mandatory turn lane.
Bicyclists cannot ride more than two or more abreast on highways. When riding two abreast, bicyclists cannot impede the movement of traffic, need to move into single file when being overtaken from the rear. On a laned roadway, bicyclists shall ride in a single lane.
Bicyclists are not permitted to ride on interstate and certain controlled access highways, unless the operation is limited to bicycle or pedestrian facilities that are barrier separated from the roadway and automobile traffic. The restricted sections of the highways are marked with conspicuous signs.
Bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks unless prohibited by local ordinance or traffic control devices. While on sidewalks and shared use paths, bicyclists must always yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian.
Bicyclists pulling onto a sidewalk or highway from a driveway must yield the right of way to pedestrians or vehicles already on the sidewalk or highway.
Reference: 46.2-802,46.2-808,46.2-826,46.2-903,46.2-904,46.2-905,46.2-907

06-10-2011, 07:28 PM
I believe the laws in Maryland and DC are similar -- it's legal to take the full lane. In DC, it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks in the downtown area, a law that was passed back when speeding bike messengers were much more common. However, in the National Mall and Capitol Hill area, this prohibition is somewhat ambigous -- several paths and wide sidewalks in Capitol Hill and in the Mall tourist zone are marked as bike trails in the DC bike map and on Google bike maps. Likewise, the wide sidewalk along 2nd street NE that serves as an extension of the MBT is marked as a bike trail. (Please be very deferential to pedestrians on those exceptions, though -- tourists and pedestrians probably aren't expecting bikes.)

06-14-2011, 02:34 PM
This is one of the reasons I deeply dislike bike lanes - and particularly sharrows. Those Sharrows signs that say "bikes may ride in lane" --- well I CAN ALWAYS ride in the lane regardless of whether its a sharrow. But now drivers are confused, thinking I can only ride in the lane when the sign and the logo is present -- giving drivers the invitation to act aggressively to bikers when sharrows and signs are not present.

And as for doored-traps, I mean bike lanes, forget about it. They are almost always within 3' of parked cars. They are a recipe for injury. I tend to ride on the right side - but far enough away from parked cars so that I cant be doored - and that puts me outside of the bike lane in most of Arlington.

Mark Blacknell
06-15-2011, 08:13 AM
I believe the laws in Maryland and DC are similar -- it's legal to take the full lane.

The law is not similar in Maryland, and bikes are required to use bike lanes where provided (but not the shoulders). More info here - http://www.waba.org/blog/2010/09/changes-to-maryland-cycling-laws-effective-oct-1/

Whether in DC, VA, or MD, I'm going to ride in the way that is safest for myself and those around me. But it's useful to know the law.


@bArlington - I share your initial reaction to sharrows and Bikes May Use Full Lane, but I've come to realize that we're in the (small) minority on that, and that it really helps more than it harms. In Arlington, at least.

06-15-2011, 08:17 AM
I would keep the sharrows and ditch the "Bikes May Use Full Lane" signs. I think they tell drivers to watch for bicyclists, something that reminding them does not hurt.