It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in the District of Columbia (D.C.). It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here).
This is a general overview of D.C.’s bicycle laws. To see them in their completion, please visit D.C.’s Department of Transportation. For any questions about this State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact D.C’s Bike Law Attorney Timmy Finch directly.
RIGHT to the ROAD
Bicycles are defined as vehicles and generally have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers.
WHERE to RIDE
- Bicyclists are required to operate in a safe and non-hazardous manner, and may not endanger themselves or others.
- Bicyclists are required to ride with the flow of traffic in travel lanes, unless they are travelling within a contra-flow bicycle lane.
- Except in the central business district, sidewalk riding is generally permissible, however, bicyclists must yield to the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal within a reasonable distance of passing pedestrians. Check local ordinances for variations on this rule.
HOW to RIDE
- Bicyclists shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of the roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. When riding two abreast, bicyclists may not impede traffic and shall ride single file on a lane roadway.
- Bicyclists are required to slow down and come to a complete stop at stop signs and traffic devices signaling red.
- Bicyclists should signal when turning or coming to a stop.
Bicyclists Overtaking Cars
Bicyclists on roadways must exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
Cars Overtaking Bicyclists
Motor vehicle drivers are required to pass bicyclists or other vehicles at the same distance of not less than three (3) feet when passing in the same direction, exercising due care.
- Bicyclists under the age of 16 are required to wear a properly fastened helmet.
- At night, bicycles must be equipped with a front white light (steady or flashing), visible from a distance of at least 500 feet, and a red rear reflector, visible from a distance up to 300 feet. Bicyclists may also use
- a steady flashing rear red light visible from a distance of 500 feet, instead of or in addition to the reflector.
- Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake which enables the bicyclist to make the braked wheels to skid on dry, level, clean pavement. For fixed gear bicycles, the bicyclist must be able to stop the bicycle using the pedals.
- Bicyclists riding in the district must be capable of making a warning noise, either with a bell or mechanical device or with their voice, audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet (100 ft.).
- Bicycles may not carry more than the number of persons for which it is designed and equipped.
- Bicycles must be operated with at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
- Clinging to motor vehicles while bicycling is not permitted.
- D.C.’s DUI statute does apply to bicyclists as bicycles are defined as vehicles.