[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Passing laws: The District of Columbia requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle, it shall leave a safe distance, not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle.
Helmet law: All cyclists or passengers under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet. However, the failure to wear a helmet will not be considered negligence per se or contributory negligence or assumption of risk, or diminish or limit any recovery in personal injury proceeding.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: There are certain laws entitled “vulnerable user laws.” These laws, in essence, require the vehicle least at risk to yield to the vehicle most at risk. For example, a motor vehicle would have to yield to a bicycle and a bicycle would have to yield to a pedestrian. District of Columbia does not have any specific vulnerable laws, but does have laws that protect bicyclists.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exists. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In the District of Columbia there have been laws passed that attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws. There will be links at the end of this article to the specific laws in full detail. Distracted driving constitutes being inattentive while being the operator of a motor vehicle. You are considered a distracted driver, if your inattention was caused by:
- Performing any personal grooming (ie, painting your nails);
- Contact and interaction with a family pet;
- Using a cell phone, unless it is equipped with a hands free accessory;
- A school bus driver using a cell phone (even with hands-free device); and
- A driver on a permit being distracted.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking the District of Columbia laws do not require the bicyclist to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. The cyclist just need to drive in a manner that is as safe as possible. However, bikes are considered vehicles and are subject to the same rights and duties of motor vehicles:
- When passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
- When preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow;
- When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized; or
- When upon a one-way highway with two or more marked traffic lanes, in which case a bicyclist may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as practicable.
Sidewalk Riding: The general rule in the District of Columbia is that you are permitted to ride on sidewalks. However, there are certain rules and exceptions that must be followed. So you may ride on a sidewalk subject to the following:
- You are only allowed to ride on a sidewalk within the District if it is specifically allowed.
- You have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances. In addition, you must always yield to a pedestrian.
- When entering an intersection or approaching a sidewalk, a bicycle shall always yield the right of way to pedestrians and all other vehicles.
It is important to note that District of Columbia does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane. So if there is a sidewalk, the choice of road or sidewalk is yours to make.
Riding a Bike Under the Influence: Obviously, it is never a good idea to drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol In the District of Columbia, bicycles are defined as vehicles. The District of Columbia’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to vehicles and therefore does directly apply to bicyclists. Bicycles should not be operated while under the influence and a bicyclist may be charged with a DUI and are subject to the duties applicable to vehicles as defined by District of Columbia statute.
Stop Sign Laws: In the District of Columbia, bicycles have to follow the same rules as motor vehicles regarding the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Important Resources and Links