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  • Writer's pictureGregory Sandler


If you are a motorcycle, moped, or bicycle rider, you no doubt encounter challenges when riding on Virginia’s roads and highways. Sharing the road with automobiles and larger vehicles not only poses dangers to riders, but also presents inconveniences involving traffic control devices.

That is because such devices are designed to direct and control the movement of vehicles that comprise the majority of traffic. Consequently, two-wheeled carriers are less likely to be picked up on motion and in-pavement sensors that tell traffic lights when to change in order to accommodate traffic and its patterns.

Fortunately, however, Virginia has a law that allows operators of motorcycles to navigate legally through unresponsive traffic lights. Section 46.2-833(B) is the law that provides that a biker may proceed through a steady red light under the following circumstances:

  • The operator has been completely stopped for two complete cycles of the traffic signal or for two minutes, whichever is shorter;

  • The operator exercises due care;

  • The operator otherwise navigates the intersection as if it were a stop sign;

  • The operator concludes that is it safe to move through the intersection; and

  • The operator yields the right of way to any vehicle approaching on the other highway in either direction.

A first reaction to this information may be to wonder why the biker would be required to wait through two cycles of the light when, obviously, it would have turned green during the cycles. This aspect of the law applies to those turn signals that only allow a turn on a green arrow. Without the turn lane sensor being tripped, the through light could go through cycles all day long without ever giving a green turn signal. This kind of a situation can make it more dangerous for the biker because it would mean that there is through traffic to be concerned with.

While this law is good for bikers in terms of being able to legally exercise an option that is effectively imposed by the traffic control system, bikers should not focus solely on the part that allows them to run a red light. Riding has inherent dangers, especially at intersections where there are other distractions for auto drivers. Having the right to proceed through a red light does not equate with that being the correct thing to do. It is also important to remember that this law DOES NOT relieve you of responsibility to operate your bike as a reasonable person would in the event that you are involved in a crash, and seek damages in a civil claim or suit. You can bet that the insurance company will focus on the fact that you ran a light, whether you had the legal right to or not, under this statute.


Bicycle riders, particularly, should be cautious. Even though such riders are required to comply with traffic laws when operating on the highway, automobile drivers may tend to believe that it is the bicycle rider’s responsibility to avoid them rather than the other way around.

Consequently, bikers must remember that the law doesn’t authorize a blanket right to proceed through a stubborn light. The other requirements that speak to the safety of the maneuver cannot be taken lightly. Those are in place to make sure that this right is exercised only in situations that otherwise make sense.

At the Sandler Law Group, we have extensive experience in all types of personal injury law, including motor vehicle accidents. If you’ve been injured or lost a loved one and don’t know what to do, contact us immediately. Call toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at or by sending an email to

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