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West Virginia Bicycle Laws: When do I have the right of way?

Biking has become an increasingly popular mode of transportation. It’s a great way to stay fit, build muscle, and help the environment all at the same time. 

With more bikers than ever taking to the streets, it’s essential to know when you have the right of way and when you need to wait your turn. As with any type of vehicle, knowing the laws is an important element of a safe and legal ride. 

The Rules of the Road Apply to All

When you learn to ride a car, you can’t just hop in and start driving. Operating a vehicle comes with a lot of safety prerequisites, including classroom lessons and supervised practice. A big part of learning to drive is learning the rules of the road, then taking a test to prove you remember what you’ve learned. 

Biking is unique because while cyclists use the same roads and are subject to many of the same rules as cars are, anyone can hop on a bike and start pedaling. 

Whether you’re a biker or just sharing the road with one, it’s important for everyone on the streets to know the driving laws. Everyone should also know how and when the laws differ for cyclists. 

Sharing the Road

Bikers are granted all of the same rights and duties as the drivers of cars or other vehicles. For example, bike riders in West Virginia are required to stop at red lights and stop signs, ride in the same direction as traffic, and yield to oncoming vehicles when turning. 

However, there are some differences in the details. As in many states, cyclists in West Virginia are not permitted along highways, as the high speed of traffic makes a fatal accident more likely. 

In West Virginia, bikers can only ride in the street when no bike lane is present. When this is the case, bikers are required to stay to the right and allow faster-moving traffic room to pass. 

There are several exceptions to the rules requiring bicyclists to keep to the right. These include the following situations:

  • When making a left turn
  • When passing another bicycle
  • When safety is an issue

Safety hazards might include parked vehicles, debris, animals, or pedestrians already occupying the far right edge of the road. Bike riders are permitted to move further into the road to avoid obstacles like these. 

West Virginia makes one other exception for bike riders: one-way roads. When biking on a one-way road without a bike lane, bikers can choose to stay either to the far right or to the far left. Either side of the road is fine, as long as a cyclist continues to move in the same direction as traffic and allows room for faster-moving vehicles to pass.

Sharing the Sidewalk

West Virginia law also allows bikers to use the sidewalk. Some cyclists may choose to ride on the sidewalk when there’s no bicycle lane and motor vehicle traffic is heavy or fast-moving. 

Bike riders on the sidewalk should be aware that they must yield the right of way to nearly everyone they encounter. Pedestrians, children, pets, skateboarders, and roller skaters all have the right of way on a sidewalk. 

Cyclists are expected to be on the lookout, ride at a safe speed, and yield to other sidewalk users when necessary. Bikers on the sidewalk must also stop at intersections and yield the right of way to any oncoming motor vehicles. 

West Virginia Specifics for Bicycles

Cyclists should also be aware of a few other state-specific laws. 

Bikers in West Virginia over the age of 15 are not required to wear a helmet. However, all cyclists are legally required to have a bicycle light when riding after dark. 

Another state-specific law regards riding under the influence. West Virginia holds cyclists accountable for drinking and driving under the same laws that apply to motor vehicles. Riding a bicycle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in a DUI along with fines or jail time. 

Knowing when you have the right of way and understanding other biking laws specific to West Virginia helps keep cyclists, pedestrians, and motor vehicle drivers alike safe and reduces the likelihood of serious accidents or injuries. Talk to an experienced personal injury attorney today.