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Do Cyclists Have the Same Responsibilities And Rights as Drivers?

The beautiful California scenery and year-round warm weather make it a popular place for bicycle riders to enjoy a leisurely ride or commute to work. However, this also leads to more opportunities for bicycle accidents to occur.

Recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal that California bicycle rider deaths hit a 25-year high during the three-year period between 2016 and 2018, when 455 cyclists were killed in traffic collisions.

Many motorists and cyclists do not have a full understanding of the rights and responsibilities that they must abide by and expect from others on the road. Below, we discuss what traffic laws apply to bicycle riders and what protections they have in California.

California Traffic Laws That Apply to Cyclists

According to California Vehicle Code 21200, bicycle riders have most of the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers. In other words, nearly all traffic laws that apply to motorists also apply to bicycle riders, unless a certain application is impractical. For instance, bicycle riders are not required to wear seat belts like motor vehicle occupants.

Here are some of the provisions specified for bicyclists in regards to traffic laws:

  • Riding With Traffic. If you are riding as fast as traffic, you are permitted to ride wherever you want, including on the road with vehicles. You must keep on the right side of the road, except when passing, making a legal left turn, riding on a one-way street, riding on a road that is too narrow, or when the right side of the road is closed due to road construction.
  • “Taking the Lane” from Motorists: In the situations listed above, riders are permitted to “take the lane,” meaning they may ride in the middle of the lane instead of on the right side.
  • Using the Bicycle Lane. On a roadway with a bicycle lane, riders who are traveling slower than traffic must use this lane except when making a left-hand turn, passing, avoiding hazardous conditions, or approaching a point where a right-hand turn is authorized.
  • Mopeds and Electrical Bikes: Gas-powered and electric bicycles are not considered regular bicycles and these devices may not be used in trails or bike paths unless permitted by local ordinances. They require the use of helmets and riders must be 16 years of age or older to operate them.
  • Bike Path Obstructions: No one may stop or obstruct a bicycle path.
  • Sidewalks: City laws dictate whether bicyclists are permitted to ride on sidewalks; according to Irvine’s Sec. 4-7-201, City Code, it is legal for riders to use sidewalks.

Determining Liability in a Bicycle Accident

The state of California operates using a comparative negligence law when it comes to accidents, meaning that two parties could be found to have partially responsible for an accident.

In the event of a bicycle crash, this means that both a negligent motorist and a rider could be found to bear some fault.

According to the comparative negligence rule, an injured rider can still recover compensation, even if they were found to be partially liable for the crash. Their total award amount will simply be reduced by their percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if an injured rider is awarded $100,000 for damages, but found to be 20% at fault, their award will be reduced by $20,000.

Some situations that may lead to some arguments over fault in a collision between a bicycle and an automobile include:

  • The bicycle rider did not have the required lights or reflectors attached to their bike.
  • The bike rider was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • The bicyclist was riding in the road when they should have been riding in the bicycle lane.
  • The bicycle rider did not have properly functioning brakes.

Filing a bicycle accident claim often involves dealing with the insurance company of the at-fault motorist. These for-profit companies lose money when they have to pay out claims and, as a result, they often attempt to limit the liability of the driver that they insure.

Having an experienced bicycle accident attorney on your side from the very beginning of your claim can help you ensure that the insurance company does not unfairly lowball your settlement offer or try to put an unfair percentage of the blame on you.

Helping You Recover the Right Way

Bicycle accidents can lead to debilitating, painful, and disabling injuries. If you are injured in a bicycle collision due to a negligent, inattentive, or reckless driver, you should not hesitate to pursue a claim in order to receive the compensation you need to pay for your medical expenses, lost wages, emotional injuries, and pain and suffering damages.

When your health and future are on the line, you want someone on your side who you can trust will fight for your case while treating you with the compassion, care, and respect you deserve. At Gill Law Group, our clients are more than just file numbers. You are our top priority, and you have our word we will do everything in our power to help you obtain a favorable outcome.

Contact Gill Law Group at (949) 681-9952 to schedule your no-fee, no-obligation consultation today! We have two convenient office locations in Irvine and Brea and serve the surrounding areas of Southern California.

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