Bicycle Accident: I Was Hit On My Bicycle
Bicycle accidents are one of the most common kinds of personal injury cases. This article addresses the responsibilities of bike riders and motorists on the roadway.
Duties of a Bicycle Rider
The California Vehicle Code states bicycle riders on streets have the same rights and duties as motor vehicle drivers. As examples, a bicyclist must ride in the direction of traffic. A cyclist should ride in a designated bike lane, or a safe lane position if riding at the speed of traffic. A cyclist should ride as close as practicable to the right curb if moving slower than cars.
Also, bike riders must obey traffic signals, including coming to complete stops at stop signs and red lights. Cyclists are obligated to obey posted speed limits, and signal maneuvers, especially when changing lanes or making turns.
The laws governing drinking and driving apply to cyclists. It is unlawful to operate a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In any personal injury case, the fault of a bicycle rider is decided by whether he or she failed to use that degree of care that a reasonable person in the same situation would have used. No formula exists to determine if a person did or did not exercise reasonable care. Each case is different and depends on the facts.
Violation of the Vehicle Code establishes a cyclist was negligent. For example, the use of headphones covering both ears is not allowed. The Vehicle Code provides that a person operating a bicycle may not wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears. A cyclist hit because he or she did not hear a motorist due to earplugs in both ears is negligent.
However, there are common factors considered by juries. Visibility is critical, especially at night. As an example, motorists must turn on headlights after dark. Similarly, a bike rider must use lights and reflectors at night. The front bike lamp must emit a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet. A rear red reflector needs to be visible from a range of 500 feet.
There is no statewide California law prohibiting operating a bike on a sidewalk. Some cities prohibit riding on a sidewalk. Others do not. Violation of a city ordinance is the basis for negligence. As an example, a motorist coming out of a driveway may not see a cyclist riding on a sidewalk in the opposite direction because the motorist is looking the other way for oncoming traffic. The cyclist is negligent if the city ordinance prohibited riding on the sidewalk where the accident happened.
All bicycles must have a working brake. The Vehicle Code makes it unlawful to operate a bike unequipped with a functioning brake that enables the rider to stop one wheel. Adults are not required to wear a helmet. Those under 18 years of age must wear a helmet. But even adults can suffer dire consequences by not wearing a helmet. The failure to wear a helmet can result in severe head trauma. Also, the defense will argue the failure to wear a helmet caused the head injury and not the negligent driving. Thus, the absence of a helmet affects your recovery. Unless there is a permanent and attached seat, riders are not allowed to have passengers.
A common accident involves riding on the sidewalk. For example, John stops to get gas. He leaves the station and comes to a stop at the edge of the driveway. He looks right for oncoming traffic. Ike is riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and against traffic towards John. John does not see Ike. John starts forward as Ike crosses in front of the car. The collision occurs. Ike is negligent, especially if there is an ordinance prohibiting riding on the sidewalk.
Another typical example involves lane changes. As an example, Kyle is riding his racing bike on the street along the right curb. Sally is driving her car behind Kyle and approaching. As she begins to pass, Kyle quickly moves into the lane getting ready to turn left at the next intersection. The collision occurs. Kyle is negligent for failing to look and failing to signal.