Bicycles: what are the rules?

by Nancy Schulz, Executive Director, VT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition

As you pedal this summer, please note that it’s illegal to ride two abreast (under all circumstances) in Burlington. This law has been in place for decades but it’s not well known.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that bicyclists are required to observe stop and slow signs held by flaggers in construction zones. Please don’t assume that you can ignore a sign in

a construction zone because you’re on a bike and not in a car.

Flaggers are present to ensure safety for construction workers and all roadway users, including bicyclists. Please be respectful and obey all traffic signs.

Remember that the buses running throughout VT are equipped with bike racks.  Consider the many ways in which you can use your bicycle in combination with public transit to get to and from work, meetings, errands, or recreational opportunities. Fares are cheap, days are long, and the potential to link bus and bike rides is great.

Editor’s note: The complete list of laws governing the riding of bicycles on Vermont roads can be found on Shelburne News’ website ( or Below are highlights of those laws:

Title 23 VSA

Section 1136

(b) This subchapter applies whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles subject to those exceptions stated herein.

(c) Every person riding a bicycle is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to operators of vehicles, except as to those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

§ 1139. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths

(a) A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction and generally shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, but shall ride to the left or in a left lane when:

(1) Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway;

(2) Approaching an intersection with a right-turn lane if not turning right at the intersection;

(3) Overtaking another highway user; or

(4) Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.

(b) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or except as otherwise permitted by the commissioner of public safety in connection with a public sporting event in which case the commissioner shall be authorized to adopt such rules as the public good requires. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

(c) [Repealed.]

(d) Bicycles may be operated on the shoulders of partially controlled access highways, which are those highways where access is controlled by public authority but where there are some connections with selected public highways, some crossings at grade, and some private driveway connections. The traffic committee may determine that any portion of these highways is unsafe and therefore closed to bicycle operation.

§ 1140. Carrying articles

No person operating a bicycle may carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handle bars

1141. Equipment on bicycles

(a) A person shall not operate a bicycle at nighttime from one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise unless the bicycle or the bicyclist is equipped with a lamp on the front which emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front. In addition, bicyclists shall operate during these hours with either a lamp on the rear of the bicycle or bicyclist which emits a flashing or steady red light visible at least 300 feet to the rear, or with reflective, rear-facing material or reflectors, or both, with a surface area totaling at least 20 square inches on the bicycle or bicyclist and visible at least 300 feet to the rear.

(b) No person may equip a bicycle with any siren or whistle, or any device simulating a siren of an authorized emergency vehicle, nor may he or she operate a bicycle so equipped.

(c) No person may operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

1142. Penalties

A person who violates any provision of sections 1136 through 1141 and subsection 1141a(a) of this title shall be fined not more than $25 for each offense.

The $25 fine gets ramped up with court costs so that it is actually $70.

A long-awaited statewide bicycle map in print form is now available. The map is entitled “Vermont Bikeways: The Vermont State Roads & Trails Bike Map.” To obtain a single copy of the map, please go to “Contact Us” at the bottom of the web site.

Copies of the map should be available for pick up at the State’s Info Centers by this weekend. For bulk copies of this free map, contact


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