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Bikes Can Run Red Lights Under New Virginia Law

If you ride a motorcycle or bicycle, you probably know the frustration of getting stuck at a red light that just won’t change – because the sensors under the street can’t detect your two-wheeler. A new state law would allow two-wheel vehicles to run throu

By Danny Rathbun, Capital News Service

RICHMOND--If you ride a motorcycle or bicycle, you probably know the frustration of getting stuck at a red light that just won’t change – because the sensors under the street can’t detect your two-wheeler.

Two-wheel vehicles will be allowed to run those red lights, under certain situations, under a bill signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

House Bill 1981 will let motorcyclists, moped riders and bicyclists pass through red lights, as long as there is no oncoming traffic, after waiting 120 seconds or two cycles of the light. The law will take effect July 1.

Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation, said riders of two-wheel vehicles often end up trapped at red lights, with no safe, legal option about what to do, because motorcycles and bikes aren’t heavy enough or don’t have enough metal to trip the sensor.

“Most of the traffic signals today have a wire in the road – so it’s an induction loop. And frequently there’s just not enough metallic mass for the induction loop to pick up a cycle that goes over there,” Burnley said.

“If you’re on a bike and you get to a stoplight – and I stop for stoplights religiously – it puts me into a difficult position. Because if the light doesn’t change, I’ve either got to wait for a car to come up behind me to trip the stoplight, or I’ve got to break the law – and I don’t like to do that.”

Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, who sponsored HB 1981, said the legislation will make things much safer for riders.

“The bill is designed to increase the safety for those riders who ride motorcycles, mopeds or bicycles,” Greason said. “When they approach and are stranded at an intersection, and the weight of their vehicle is not great enough to trigger the light, and so they’re stranded at a red light, and they really don’t have any legal options available to them under today’s code.”

Greason, a Republican from Potomac Falls, said some people raised questions about who would be at fault if a motorcycle runs a red light and causes an accident. But those questions have been addressed in the bill, he said.

“Imagine that the red light is a stop sign: If the motorcyclist pulls out into oncoming traffic and causes an accident, he would have the same liability if he was at a red light or if he was at a stop sign,” Greason said.

Under his measure, motorcycles and bicycles must come to a complete stop at a red light and wait for 120 seconds or two cycles of the light.

“Then they proceed with caution, as if they were at a stop sign, and they must maintain all the liability, and give way to oncoming traffic, from either direction,” Greason said. “So there is no transfer of liability.”

Delegate Bill Janis, R-Glen Allen, introduced a similar measure – HB 1991. His proposal was folded into Greason’s bill.

HB 1981 passed the House on a 75-24 vote in January. The Senate then unanimously approved the bill – with an amendment emphasizing that bicyclists and motorcyclists who proceed through a red light must yield to oncoming traffic. The House then voted 87-11 in favor of the amended bill.

Mike May 26, 2011 at 08:07 AM
Bicyclists are impediments in traffic. They should be allowed on the road only when they can maintain the speed of other vehicles. How much does it suck to have to drive behind a bicyclist because he/she decides to be an arrogant jerks by screwing up traffic?!
Bust-A-Move Johnny May 11, 2012 at 08:49 AM
Hey Jonathon. What about a left turn? If the left turn is turn on green arrow only, how do you legally get out of that position?
Mad Motorcyclist July 20, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Depending on your state your proposed solution may be ILLEGAL - more about that after this - There are times where your solution is impractical and/or dangerous. Much of the time you would have to travel quite a distance, due to lane dividers, a solid line (I hope you know what a solid line means) or one-way traffic but more importantly most intersection traffic accidents involve a left turn - a U-turn involves a left turn so your proposed maneuver will keep you in a potentially dangerous position even longer than a left turn would). Now back to your possibly ILLEGAL solution, some states have laws against your maneuvering to "evade a traffic control device". HOWEVER many riders are also not aware that it IS LEGAL in most states to proceed through a non-functioning traffic control device, There has been legal precedence set for a traffic control device to be considered by a rider to be "non-functioning" if it does not recognize the vehicle.
Mad Motorcyclist July 20, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Read his post again, you don't understand it.
Mad Motorcyclist July 20, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I have had a good share of experience with law, courts and cops. I purposely break the law ALL the time when I ride or drive (don't comment, just SHUT-UP most of us do, the rest just aren't paying attention when they break the law, which is worse?) and can say this know your laws, know your rights, I get away with law breaking ALL the time because of 2 things One, I educate myself on it and I fight when I am ticketed/arrested. You must do BOTH! I have fought $20 tickets that have cost me $hundreds in lost time but I believe that education has been worth it. Plus I would be lying if I didn't say I enjoy the satisfaction of letting a cop make himself look like a fool. Best advice I can give right now is to read on G. Gordon Liddy and to follow this almost impossible advice - DON'T TALK TO THE COPS.

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