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Virginia Cyclists Can Now Run Red Lights — After 2 Cycles or 2 Minutes

A left-turning cyclist waits for a signal.

A left-turning cyclist waits for a signal. Photo by Bryan Goebel & SF Gate.

Traffic light sensors may not detect bicycles, making for unreasonably long waits at intersections where few cars show up to trigger the signal. So bicyclists (and motorcyclists) may take it upon themselves to run the red light anyway, which has always been illegal — until now.

A new law that took effect July 1 allows cyclists to run an unresponsive red light after waiting through two cycles or two minutes, whichever is shorter. Virginia Code 46.2-833 says:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if a driver of a motorcycle or moped or a bicycle rider approaches an intersection that is controlled by a traffic light, the driver or rider may proceed through the intersection on a steady red light only if the driver or rider (i) comes to a full and complete stop at the intersection for two complete cycles of the traffic light or for two minutes, whichever is shorter, (ii) exercises due care as provided by law, (iii) otherwise treats the traffic control device as a stop sign, (iv) determines that it is safe to proceed, and (v) yields the right of way to the driver of any vehicle approaching on such other highway from either direction.

Read more from Old Town Alexandria Patch.

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5 comments… add one

  • This is a somewhat helpful new law – I think it could have gone farther, but cyclists in VA should be happy for any progress. Here is the only part I don’t understand. Why would you have to wait through 2 cycles. Wouldn’t you get a green within one cycle? You know Red green yellow, red green yellow? Maybe it refers to intersections with separate signals for left turns, in which case, maybe it makes some sense, but most lights are just red green yellow, repeat. What am I missing?

  • Tom: that’s a good question. Signal sequences do vary, such as whether there’s a leading left or a lagging left. It may take a couple of cycles to see what the sequence is, and if your green has really been skipped.

  • I love how all the blog titles say “Bikers can now run red lights!!!” YAR! Come on dude, why even put that in the title? I’m in a mood today, please ignore.

    Just run the red lights as us cyclists normally do. :-)

  • I predict that many cyclists will interpret this position loosely, or creatively, but as long as they observe the “treat like a stop sign” part, it should pose no danger. I will probably rely on my internal sense of time to determine the passing of 2 minutes – who knows, I may be off by a few seconds on occasion. :-)

  • Tom,
    Some side street or turn lane signals will remain red continuously if no vehicle enters the lane. The signals with active traffic will continuously cycle leaving you, the cyclist, stuck on a red.

    Thus, if you’re on your bike and in the lane, unnoticed by the induction loop, two cycles or two minutes, and you can legally proceed.

    (Glad to say I had a chance to take advantage of this law this past weekend!)

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