Phone: 202.518.0524
Fax: 202.518.0936

Washington Area
Bicyclist Association
2599 Ontario Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20009

WABA's Pocket Guide to DC Bike Laws

WABA and the DC Department of Transportation want you to ride safely! This guide is designed to inform both cyclists and law enforcement officers of the rights and responsibilites of cycling on DC streets. Stop by the WABA office for a hardcopy.

Download a PDF version on the Pocket Guide to DC Bike Laws (Oct 2012 version)

Links to Bike Laws

Selected Bicycle Guidelines for the Washington Area  

(please refer to links above for specific wording of laws)


District of Columbia




Bicyclists traveling on roadways have all the general rights and duties of drivers of vehicles.

Where to Ride & Lane Use

Ride with the flow of traffic on the right half of the roadway.

Ride with the flow of traffic as far right as practicable and safe.

Ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.

Operate a bicycle in a safe and non-hazardous manner... so as not to endanger himself or herself or any other person.

Riding to the right not required when traveling at the speed of traffic, operating on a one-way street, passing, preparing for a left turn, avoiding hazards, avoiding a mandatory turn lane or traveling in a lane too narrow to share.

Full lane use allowed when traveling at the normal speed of traffic, passing, preparing for a turn, avoiding hazards, traveling in a lane too narrow to share and avoiding a mandatory turn lane.

Passing Cars

Allowed to pass on left or right, in the same lane or changing lanes, or pass off road.

Exercise due care when passing.

Same as DC.

Cars passing bikes

A person driving a motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than 3 feet, when overtaking and passing a bicycle.

Same as DC, except when cyclist is not riding as far to right as law requires or on roads too narrow to do so; also applies to bikes passing bikes.

Motorists must "pass at a reasonable speed at least two feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle".


No person shall open any door of a vehicle unless it is safe to do so and can be done without interfering with moving traffic.

Same as DC.

Not mentioned.

Bicycling Two Abreast

Allowed when it does not impede traffic.  May not ride more than two abreast.

Mandatory Use of Bike Lanes

Not required.

Use of bike lanes required where available except when passing, preparing for a turn or avoiding hazards.

Not required.

Cycling on Sidewalks

Yield right of way to pedestrians.

Prohibited in the central business district (bounded by Massachusetts Ave. NW, 2nd St NE-SE, D St SE/SW, 14th St NW, Constitution Ave and 23rd St NW). Allowed where posted in this area, and prohibited where posted outside this area.

View Map>>

Allowed by local ordinance in unincorporated MoCo, Rockville, Takoma Park, designated sections in PG Co, other towns; prohibited in Gaithersburg, Kensington, Poolesville, Laytonsville, Washington Grove, most of PG Co.

Allowed except where prohibited by local ordinance, such as Alexandria.

Must give audible signal before passing pedestrian.

Audible Warning Devices

Bell or other device required, sirens prohibited.

Bells allowed, sirens and whistles prohibited.

Must give audible signal before passing pedestrians.


Required for any operator or passenger under 16 years of age.

Same as DC.

Required by local ordinance for any operator or passenger 14 years of age or younger in Alexandria, Arlington Co., Fairfax Co. Falls Church, Vienna and other jurisdictions.

Lights at Night

Front white light and rear red reflector (or rear red light) required when dark, may be attached to operator.

Front white light and rear red reflector (or rear red light) required when dark.

Front white light and rear red reflector required when dark; extra rear red light allowed- required on roads 35 mph and up, may be attached to operator


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