Riding a bicycle is an eco-friendly way of transportation and a great form of exercise. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that on-the-road cyclists have increased to an average of 20,000 per day. The California Department of Transportation reported 1,475 fatalities and 9,631 serious injuries to cyclists between 2009 and 2018, which accounted for 7% of transportation fatalities and injuries. This period saw an increase of 26% in total incidents and an increase of 61% in fatalities. As cycling becomes more popular, so too will the statistics of accidents involving bicycles. The most common types of accidents involving cyclists were:
- Vehicle failure to yield (18%)
- Vehicle improper turning (15%)
- Bicyclist on the wrong side of the road (13%)
- Vehicle at unsafe speed (13%)
- Bicyclist disobeying traffic signals and signs (12%)
What Laws Apply to Cyclists in California?
As with driving, it is important to know the cycling laws that apply to you so that you can avoid any accidents. Because cycling accidents can result in serious injury or death, knowing and following the laws will not only help you avoid accidents but also help protect you if an accident occurs. These are the most important cycling laws to be aware of:
- If you are moving at the same speed as traffic, you are allowed in the flow of traffic; however, if you are slower than surrounding traffic, the law requires cyclists to stay to the right side of the road as safely as possible. When you are passing another cyclist, preparing for a left turn, or avoiding a hazard, you are allowed to safely “take the lane.”
- If a bike lane exists and your speed is slower than that of surrounding traffic, you are required to use the bike lane; however, the same “take the lane” laws apply. Separated bike lanes, such as those that are divided by posts from the road, are not required for cyclists.
- Cyclists must move with traffic on the right side of the road and follow traffic rules, including yielding to pedestrians and stopping before crosswalks at intersections. This also includes checking blind spots before entering different lanes and when turning.
- Even when sidewalks exist, cyclists are not required to use them as city regulations differ. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the cyclist to know the city’s policy.
- Cyclists have a responsibility, like motorists, to keep their bikes in working order, including brakes, reflectors, and lights.
- For safety, cyclists must have one ear free, and if they are under 18, they must wear a helmet.
- Cyclists should never use freeways, highways, or tollways unless an exception is posted by the California Department of Transportation.
What to Do When Hit by a Motor Vehicle While Cycling in California
As with any type of accident, there are important steps to take when involved in a cycling collision:
- Get to safety. If possible, make sure you are safely out of the street. Do not move your bicycle but be sure you are safe from further accidents or injuries.
- Keep everyone there. Because of shock, injuries you may have sustained may seem less significant. However, it is important not to assume you are ok and to keep the driver present. If possible, photograph the license plate of the car as quickly as possible in case the driver leaves.
- Call 911. Call for the police and an ambulance if needed. It is important to call for law enforcement while present at the scene of the accident and avoid waiting until later. Having a police report can help with insurance or legal issues later.
- Photograph the evidence. As much as you can, photograph everything you can, including the accident, the streets, the surroundings, the car, the driver’s license, and the driver’s insurance. If an insurance or legal claim follows the accident, photographs will be helpful in the process.
- Speak up. When the police arrive, be sure to give all the factual details that you can. Avoid emotional observations and report the facts as they are from your experience. Ask witnesses to provide their statements as well.
- Seek medical treatment. If needed, be sure you are medically attended to. Remember, you may be experiencing shock, so it is important to be evaluated by professionals to ensure there are not any underlying injuries.
- File an insurance claim. Provide only the facts of the incident just as you would to law enforcement. Be sure that you collect any medical bills, repair receipts, alternative transportation bills, etc., while the claim is being processed, as the insurance company will eventually receive these.
- Contact an attorney. An attorney is an expert on the laws and can help guide you through the recovery process and examine any further compensation you may be entitled to. A lawyer can be a trusted person who is on your side.
What to Do If You Are Hit on Your Bicycle by Another Cyclist in California
If you find yourself in an accident with another cyclist, it is important to follow many of the same steps as you would with an accident involving a motor vehicle. However, because there is no insurance that covers cyclists, it is important to consult with an attorney who can help guide you through options that may involve the other party’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. Be sure that you have recorded the contact information, including full name, contact information, and driver’s license information, if possible.
Bicycle Accident Attorneys, Guenard & Bozarth, LLP
Prevention is the best solution to reducing the risk of cycling accidents. Maintaining working equipment and keeping current on the laws that apply to cyclists will help you to avoid potential danger. Sharing the road with motor vehicles is a great responsibility, and accidents don’t always mean they are the fault of the motorist. Knowing where you are, where you are going, and how to protect yourself on the ride will keep you safely cycling for years to come. When accidents do happen, contact Guenard & Bozarth, LLP.