State Bike Laws
Riding a bike is a healthy, fun and safe activity. However, it isn't without some risk. The following information highlights 13 areas of law that may minimize that risk and have the potential to reduce conflicts between bikes and cars (and other traffic). These highlights only cover statewide laws and are not comprehensive.
If you want to learn more about state bicycling policies and efforts, check out our Bicycle Friendly State program.
Check out our Smart Cycling videos if you are interested in bicycling education videos.
All laws mentioned here were compiled as part of a research project in the fall of 2012 and may be subject to change. We update laws as we work with our member advocacy organizations to pass better laws and as advocates or the public tell us about changes. Please help us keep them updated by contacting [email protected] with any updates.
Select your state from the list below to review that state's bike laws.
Safe Passing Laws
West Virginia requires that the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle traveling in the same direction shall pass to the left of the bicycle at a distance of not less than three feet at a careful and reduced speed, and may not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle. In the event a motor vehicle needs to cross a double yellow line in the roadway to facilitate three feet of clearance, the motor vehicle is permitted as conditions of the roadway allow given the relative speed of the vehicles and the clear line of sight available.
Source: W. Va. Code §17C-7-3
West Virginia requires that any person under the age of 15 riding a bicycle, as an operator or passenger, must wear a protective bicycle helmet. However, municipalities may also enact ordinances on the use of bicycle helmets.
The failure to wear a required helmet is not admissible as evidence of negligence or contributory negligence or comparative negligence in any civil action or proceeding for damages, and shall not be admissible in mitigation of damages.
Source: W. Va. Code §§17C-11A-4; 17C-11A-8; 17C-11A-6
Vulnerable Road User Laws
West Virginia does not have any vulnerable road user laws at this time. There are currently no national standards for laws protecting vulnerable road users, but the League of American Bicyclists has drafted a Model Vulnerable Road User statute, which you can find here.
Distracted Driving Laws
West Virginia currently has the following laws aimed at distracted driving, subject to limited exceptions:
- A person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while:
- Texting; or
- Using a cell phone or other electronic communications device, unless the use is accomplished by hands-free equipment;
- A holder of a level one instruction permit who is under the age of eighteen years shall be prohibited from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle; and
- A holder of a level two intermediate driver’s license who is under the age of eighteen years shall be prohibited from using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.
Source: W. Va. Code §§17C-14-15; 17B-2-3a
Where to Ride
West Virginia requires that every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
Source: W. Va. Code §17C-11-5
West Virginia does not have a statute that specifically authorizes or prohibits the operation of a bicycle upon a sidewalk.
Mandatory Use of Separated Facilities
West Virginia does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane.
Bicycling Under the Influence
In West Virginia, bicycles are not defined as vehicles. West Virginia’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 not directly apply to bicyclists. Nevertheless bicycles should not be operated while intoxicated.
Source: W. Va. Code §§17C-1-2; 17C-5-2
“Idaho Stop” and Vehicle Detection Errors
West Virginia does not provide any modifications to 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.
Authorization for Local Regulation of bicycles
West Virginia does not specifically provide for local authorities to regulate the operation of bicycles or require registration of bicycles, although such authorities may regulate the operation of bicycles through the exercise of their other legal powers.
Treatment as a Vehicle
In West Virginia bicycles are not vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles, but a person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle under Chapter 17C of the West Virginia Code, except for special regulations specific to bicycles and those provisions that by their nature can have no application.
Source: W. Va. Code §§17C-1-2; 17C-11-2
Source of Laws
The laws regulating the operation of bicycles in the state of West Virginia are generally found in Chapter 17C of the West Virginia Code (W. Va. Code), available here: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/WVCODE/Code.cfm.
The following resource may be useful:
- West Virginia Department of Transportation Compilation of Bicycle laws: http://www.transportation.wv.gov/highways/programplanning/grant_administration/wvtrails/Pages/laws_bike.aspx