What Are the Bicycle Helmet Laws in Virginia?

The stats are clear: helmet laws save lives and help prevent catastrophic injury. Our brain injury accident attorneys outline the statistics below, and detail the legal actions you can take after a bicycle accident to improve your future.


Helmets reduce serious head injuries in bicyclists by 60% according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Nearly 80% of fatal cycling injuries occur in instances where helmets were not worn. The laws that mandate bicycle helmet usage in children and adults are the most effective countermeasures against these grievous injuries. The laws themselves can increase helmet usage by as much as 84%, saving lives.

The Brain Injury Law Center is headquartered in Virginia, where we represent clients who have been injured in car, motorcycle, and workplace accidents, among others. We have a unique focus on litigating brain and spinal cord injuries due to our extensive understanding of the long-term cost such conditions require. Our top priority is achieving support for the health, dignity, and future well-being of our clients and their families.

If you need to speak with an attorney right away, reach out to our offices by calling (757) 244-7000, or by scheduling an appointment through our online contact form. For more information on Virginia helmet laws, and how a lawsuit can help cover the cost of bicycle accident injuries, read on. 

A father wearing a blue shirt tightens the strap of a safety helmet for his son in a sunny suburban park.

Do You Legally Have to Wear a Helmet When Cycling?

Under Virginia state law, adults are not required to wear a helmet while operating a bicycle. However, helmet laws are often local laws, and may exist for your town or city, or differ between counties. 

For example, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), all bicyclists riding class 3 electric power-assisted bikes must wear a helmet, and in some jurisdictions, all individuals aged 14 and younger must wear a helmet on a bicycle if they are on a sidewalk, highway, or public bicycle path. These laws may also apply to mopeds, motorcycles, and other motorized vehicles, skateboards, or scooters depending on the location.

The localities that have reported helmet laws to the (VDOT) include:

CountiesIndependent CitiesIncorporated Towns
James City
Prince William
Buena Vista
Falls Church
Manassas Park
Newport News
Virginia Beach
Colonial Beach
Front Royal
* Applies to town parks
** Applies to individuals younger than 16
*** Town code recommends the use a helmet to all ages

Other bicycle requirements in Virginia include:

  • A headlamp light while riding between sunset and sunrise
  • A red reflector on the rear of the bike
  • A taillight on roads with a speed limit of 35 MPH or greater. 

If ridden on a highway, the bicycle must also have brakes that will “skid the wheels” in dry, clean, level conditions.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws in Virginia

For motorcyclists, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) states that helmets must meet or exceed the Snell Memorial Foundation standards. The foundation regularly updates its specifications for multiple activities like bicycling, motorcycling, kart racing, equestrian activities, and snowsports. They test for efficacy in the areas of:

  • Extent of protection
  • Impact management
  • Retention system strength
  • Helmet positional stability

The Snell Memorial Foundation is a non-profit, independent organization named after race car driver William “Pete” Snell who died in a crash in 1956 while wearing what was thought to be an acceptable helmet at the time. The foundation was established the next year to enhance helmet safety through testing protocols and adaptable standards that change when needed to account for higher speeds and new sports.

A meta-analysis of 40 separate studies published in the International Journal of Epidemiology (Volume 46) showed that helmet use consistently reduces the risk of head injury and fatality in bicycle accidents.

Regardless of whether the law mandates helmet usage, it is highly recommended for all adults and children on bicycles or open motorized vehicles.

“A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash.” – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)


What Is the Cost of a Bicycle Accident?

If you or a loved one have been in a bicycle accident, a personal injury lawsuit may help cover costs like:

  • Medical bills and lost wages, including follow-up care and extended unemployment)
  • Pain and suffering damages, such as physical agony or psychological anguish
  • Wrongful death damages like loss of income and loss of the person’s unique companionship and guidance

Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries require long-term financial and medical support. According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, bicycle accidents are the leading recreational cause of head injuries that end up in the ER (nearly double the amount of the second-leading cause, which is football injuries). 

In particular, young children are more likely to die from head injuries than adult cyclists, and more than three times as likely to require hospitalization for head injuries. Almost three-quarters of all fatal bicycle crashes involved a head injury.

A brain injury settlement or damages award could help improve your healthcare options, protect the financial well-being of your family, and afford a life of dignity for those with permanent brain damage.

Head, brain, neck, and spine injuries are often devastating, causing life-altering or life-ending harm. Contact the Brain Injury Law Center at (757) 244-7000 for help seeking the compensation you need to recover and survive.

Is It Illegal to Ride Your Bike on the Sidewalk in Virginia?

Bicycles are generally allowed to be ridden on sidewalks in Virginia, unless a local ordinance bans it, or a traffic control device regulates it (like at a crosswalk). 

However, when sharing sidewalks and pedestrian pathways, bicyclists must yield the right of way to pedestrians, and give an audible signal (like ringing a bell or honking a horn) before passing them. ​​Bicyclists must not wear earphones or headsets on both ears while operating their bikes.

Motorized or electrically-propelled bicycles may be considered vehicles when used on highways. For example, a moped may not be ridden on sidewalks or bike paths, and is considered a vehicle on the highway, where it is regulated by the laws laid out for cars and other automobiles.

Contact Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys

Helmet laws, like seatbelt laws, are ways to encourage safe biking habits. Wearing a bicycle helmet can be the difference between a fatal accident and a survivable one, or the difference between an incapacitating injury and a recoverable one. The stakes are literally life-and-death. 

One of the defining characteristics of the Brain Injury Law Center is our concentrated experience in brain, neurological, and spinal injuries. Founding attorney Stephen M. Smith has an extensive background in neuroanatomical study, and a profound understanding of what brain injuries mean for individuals, children, and families. 

If you’re in need of experienced legal service, contact our Hampton, Virginia offices directly at (757) 244-7000, or fill out our online contact form to describe your situation and schedule an appointment. Our case results include multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts for individuals and families, and we are ready to help you secure the justice you deserve.

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