It’s not OK to drive in a bike lane

The other day we encountered a motorist driving in a bike lane. When told he should not be doing so, his reply was that there were not cyclists in the lane so it was ok. Well, it’s not ok.

From an article at

To get some clarity, we contacted Jakob Helmboldt, Richmond’s pedestrian, bicycle and trails coordinator, and John Bolecek, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s statewide bicycle and pedestrian planner. They referred to the Code of Virginia to get a definition for bike lanes.

“ ‘Bicycle lane‘ means that portion of a roadway designated by signs and/or pavement markings for the preferential use of bicycles, electric power-assisted bicycles, and mopeds,” according to the code.

The Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices defines preferential lanes as being for a special purpose and restricting access by other users, Helmboldt pointed out. “Though the code doesn’t say ‘exclusive,’ the federal regulations and engineering standards make clear that restriction of other users is the intent,” he said.

Virginia code says a traffic lane “means that portion of a roadway designed or designated to accommodate the forward movement of a single line of vehicles.”

“A bike lane is not designed nor designated for motor vehicles. They are designed and designated for bikes,” Helmboldt said. He compared them to HOV and bus-only lanes, which also have restrictions for drivers.

Driving in bike lanes results in unpredictable travel patterns, he said. Motorists driving in bike lanes create a dangerous environment for both the driver and the cyclist, which also creates issues of liability.

From the DMV driver’s manual:

Bicycle lanes are indicated by a solid or dashed white line or green pavement markings, and a bicyclist symbol. A bicycle lane is for the preferential use of bicyclists. Drivers should not drive in the bicycle lane except when necessary to turn left or right. Before turning, check your mirrors for bicyclists that may be behind you and yield to bicycles in the lane.