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Cycling Deaths Increase in Virginia Despite New Laws

Two women riding on bike

Bicyclists are among the most vulnerable road users in Virginia. Although the state’s laws have been strengthened to protect cyclists in the last 12 months, serious crashes still occur with alarming regularity. In late December, a cyclist suffered severe injuries in a collision with a truck in Montgomery County.

First responders were called to the accident scene on Peppers Ferry Road on the evening of Dec. 29. According to reports, the bicyclist suffered extensive injuries in a crash involving a truck near the Atlantic Union Bank.

Sadly, this accident was part of a rising trend in Virginia where increasing numbers of cyclists are suffering injuries and losing their lives.

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles revealed bicycle fatalities rose a staggering 75% in 2021. According to DMV, 14 bicyclists lost their lives in Virginia in 2021. Although the number is small compared to the annual loss of lives of motorists in the commonwealth, it compares with eight deaths in 2020.

Cities in Hampton Roads and Richmond saw increasing numbers of bike crashes. Richmond recorded the second-highest number of bicycle crashes, 34 in total, although only one of them was fatal, NBC 12 reported.

NBC 12 quoted Bike Walk RVA Director of Outreach Brantley Tyndall who warned the rising ride of accidents was deterring cyclists from getting on the roads.

“Around the country, and in Richmond in particular, surveys have shown that 60% of the population would bike more if it were safer,” he told NBC12. What you’re seeing is an increase in distracted driving and a prevalent increase in speeding, which makes crashes more fatal for anyone involved, but especially for vulnerable road users, people who are biking and walking,” Tyndall said.

NBC 12 noted there were 454 bicycle-involved crashes in Virginia in 2021. In 2020, there were about 100 more cycling crashes, but they were not as deadly.

New Laws to Protect Cyclists

Virginia enacted new laws to protect cyclists in July 2021. While riders previously benefitted from the three-foot rule that obligated drivers to afford them at least three feet of space when passing, cycling advocates said the three-foot rule did not go far enough.

A law requiring motorists to switch lanes when passing a cyclist if they cannot maintain three feet became law on July 1. Motorists should change lanes even if that involves crossing a double yellow line. Cyclists have also been permitted to ride two abreast since last July.

The change may afford greater protection for bicyclists by protecting younger children who can ride next to their parents closer to the curb.

The new law was heralded as a “major win” by Ride Solutions Director Jeremy Holmes.

“When you are a cyclist on the road, you’re the most vulnerable vehicle on the road,” he told 10 News. Holmes, however, said drivers need more education to understand the safety needs of cyclists.

The new legislation came at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic boosted cycling in Virginia and elsewhere. While cities such as Norfolk are boosting their network of multi-use trails for cyclists, people on two wheels remain extremely vulnerable in Hampton Roads.

Virginia Beach often sees the most fatal cycling accidents in the state. A Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles study of bicyclist injuries in the state from 2010 to 2014 found Virginia Beach topped the injury table. In four of the five years, more than 100 cyclists suffered injuries in Virginia Beach. The 109 injuries in 2011 compared to 68 in Richmond, 47 in Norfolk, and just three in Suffolk.

A recent CNN report pointed to an upsurge in cycling deaths and injuries associated with the increased use of bikes by commuters in recent years. The report based on research in the United Kingdom found commuting to work by bike was associated with a 45% higher risk of admission to a hospital for an injury compared to other methods of commuting.

Contact Us for Legal Help

Many riders are entirely faultless when they are hit by cars, trucks, and buses. Unfortunately, far too many drivers fail to give riders the space they deserve and don’t notice riders when they are making turns. Some drivers deliberately hit cyclists or are reckless about their safety. Our law firm is dedicated to the rights of cyclists in Virginia. Please contact one of our bicycle accident lawyers if a driver has hurt you or a family member.

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