Vermont has been working hard to update and cement laws put in place to protect cyclists from drivers and to help ensure some harmony on the roads. This includes things like safe passing laws and extensive vulnerable user laws. However, in order to make sure you can take advantage of these, you must make sure you do your part as a responsible cyclist too! What should you know about the bike laws in Vermont?
Cyclists and Traffic
The main thing that cyclists can do to protect themselves is to make sure they are aware of their surroundings and ensure that they are riding on the right parts of the road or path. Vermont has been supporting this by laying down specific laws for where cyclists can ride and laws covering things like safe passing and vulnerable riders. Bikes are not considered vehicles in Vermont and there is no statute that defines what a bike is. Bikes are lumped under other vulnerable users. However, riders have the same rights and duties as drivers except in cases where it wouldn’t make sense for a rider to behave the same way.
Like every other state, in Vermont, cyclists must ride as far to the right as possible and must make sure they are paying attention to their surroundings when passing a vehicle (whether it’s moving or not). The only times cyclists can ride on the left is under the following circumstances:
- If the right side of the road has hazards or road conditions that make it too dangerous to ride
- When preparing for a left turn on an intersection or into a private road or driveway
- When coming up on an intersection with a right-turn lane and you’re not turning right
- To safely pass another road user
Vermont is one of the few states with very extensive vulnerable road user laws. Not only are cyclists considered to be vulnerable road users, but also pedestrians, operators of highway building, maintenance equipment or agricultural equipment; wheelchair operators or other personal mobility devices; as well as roller skates, rollerblades, roller skis, and people riding, driving or herding an animal.
Vulnerable road users are protected because the laws require that motorist exercise due car when passing by leaving at least three feet of space between themselves and the user; a motorist cannot approach, pass or maintain speed too close to a vulnerable user and people in the vehicle can’t throw things or substances at vulnerable users. Motor vehicles must yield to bikes and bikes must yield to pedestrians. While this is nothing different from many other states, the list of ‘vulnerable users’, as you saw before, is fairly extensive.
Vermont does not authorize or prohibit bikes from riding on sidewalks, nor does the state require the use of separated bike paths or lanes even when they are provided. Cyclists in Vermont also must obey all traffic signals and devices and there is not provision for the “Idaho Stop”. If you get stuck at a red light, you’ll have to stay put until it changes due to the actions of pedestrians or drivers. Cyclists can ride on paved highway shoulders, but they cannot ride more than two abreast on the road. On bike paths or separated bike lanes, they can ride more than two abreast, assuming it doesn’t block traffic in anyway, or to take part in a sporting event.
Safety Gear While Riding
Much of the emphasis on safety around bikes falls to motorists. Cyclists are not required to wear a helmet while they ride, no matter the age of the rider. It’s still an excellent idea to wear a helmet though since it greatly cuts down on the chances of severe injuries in cases of accidents.
When riding at night, a bike must be equipped with a lamp on the front that emits a white light visible from five hundred feet. The bike must also have a rear lamp that is either flashing or steady and emits a red light visible to at least three hundred feet. This can be replaced with reflective rear facing materials or reflectors with a surface area of at least twenty square inches and still visible from at least three hundred feet. (You can use both if it makes you feel better!) Vermont has also dedicated a lot of resources to educating riders on the proper hand signals to show a turn, slowdown or stop.
While state wise, the laws don’t mandate the use of a helmet, local law may mandate their use, particularly for younger riders. It is important to check your bylaws before riding to see if there are any differences in what the city wants versus the state.
Bike laws in Vermont do not cover riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol either. The laws around driving under the influence refer to motorists and cyclists do not have to worry about it. Like riding without a helmet though, we wouldn’t recommend riding while under the influence as the chances of an accident go way up.
Electric Bikes in Virginia
Electric bike rules in Virginia is easy: Virginia doesn’t define them! This means that they are often treated as traditional bikes for the purposes of where they can be ridden. Electronic bikes can be ridden on roadways, bike lanes and bike paths. However, they may be limited on sidewalks (depending on local law) and they cannot be ridden on interstates or turnpikes.
Helmets are required if the rider is under the age of sixteen.
As you can see, Virginia is sparse when it comes to laws around cyclists and what they can do. Cyclists are placed in the same group as vulnerable road users which helps to protect them from the actions of motorists but does not really move beyond that. Helmets do not need to be worn (unless local law specifies otherwise) and cyclists are free to ride just about anywhere so long as they stay to the right on roads and mind other traffic. All of this means that you have a great deal of freedom as a cyclist, but it’s also important to keep your wits about you and stay safe while on the road. Enjoy the ride!