Bicycle infrastructure has improved dramatically throughout San Diego. Bike lanes are now available in many areas of the city. Bicycle lanes increase bicyclists’ safety when sharing the road with motor vehicles.
Motorcyclists may be tempted to drive in the bicycle lane in San Diego. A bicycle lane is never as crowded as city streets. Driving in the bicycle lane can avoid traffic jams.
However, California Vehicle Code §21209 prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane except under specific circumstances. A motorcycle is considered a motor vehicle in California. Therefore, motorcyclists driving in the bicycle lane in San Diego could be issued a traffic citation.
The only time a person may operate a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle, in a bicycle lane is:
- When preparing to turn at an intersection within 200 feet of the turn
- When leaving or entering the roadway
- When legally parking
However, the code section does not prohibit using a motorized bicycle in a bicycle lane according to Code Section §21207.5.
Furthermore, motorcyclists riding in the bicycle lane could be involved in a tragic motorcycle accident. For the safety of the bicyclist and the motorcyclist, bicycle lanes are reserved for bicycles. Motorcyclists need to stay in traffic lanes with other motor vehicles.
Protecting Riders From Bicycle Accidents in San Diego, CA
San Diego County reported 3,796 bicycle collisions between 2016 and 2020. It had the third-highest bicycle crash rate of California counties. During the same period, 35 bicyclists were killed in San Diego County.
Bicyclists face risks that motorists do not face. A bicycle does not protect the rider from injuries during a collision. A car has a steel frame, airbags, seatbelts, and other safety features. Even when riders wear bicycle helmets and other protective gear, they can sustain severe injuries in bicycle accidents.
A bicycle accident can result in injuries including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Abrasions and lacerations
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken bones and fractures
- Damage to internal organs
- Loss of limbs and amputations
- Severe scarring and disfigurement
- Severe injuries to the hip, knee, shoulder, and elbow joints
A bicyclist may sustain permanent disabilities and life-threatening conditions. A rider injured in a bicycle accident could be entitled to compensation for their injuries, lost wages, medical bills, and other damages. A cyclist could recover money from the driver or another party who caused their bicycle accident by filing a personal injury claim.
While motorists owe a duty of care to avoid collisions with bicyclists, riders also have a duty of care to avoid crashes. A rider’s negligence in contributing to the cause of an accident could reduce the money they receive for a personal injury claim.
Therefore, riders should take precautions to avoid behaviors that could contribute to the cause of an accident.
Safety Tips for San Diego Bicyclists
Bicyclists have the same rights as motorists to use the road. Therefore, they have the same duty of care to follow traffic laws and avoid bicycling behaviors that can cause an accident.
Safety tips that can prevent bicycle accidents and reduce the risk of bicycle injuries include:
- Always wear a bicycle helmet that is designed for the type of bicycling and the rider
- Follow all traffic laws (refer to the California Driver Handbook)
- Wear protective gear, including gloves, elbow pads, knee pads, etc.
- Use lights and reflectors to increase your visibility, especially when riding at dawn, dusk, or nighttime
- Wear brightly colored clothing
- Never ride a bicycle after consuming alcohol or drugs
- Do not listen to music or use headphones while riding a bicycle
Parents need to teach their children about bicycle safety. Young children should never be allowed to ride bicycles without adult supervision, especially near roads, parking lots, or other locations where motor vehicles might drive.
Motorists Have a Duty of Care Too
As a motorist, you also have a duty of care to watch out for bicyclists. Bicycling is popular in San Diego. Therefore, your chance of encountering a cyclist when you drive your car or motorcycle is high.
Things you can do to avoid a bicycle accident include:
- Avoid distracted, impaired, and drowsy driving
- Slow down when approaching a bicyclist
- Give a bicyclist plenty of room when passing the rider
- Before turning, look for bicyclists who may be approaching in a bicycle lane
- Avoid “dooring” by checking for a cyclist before opening your car door when parking
By adopting safe driving behaviors and making a conscious effort to watch for bicyclists, you can reduce the risk that a bicyclist is injured or killed in a traffic accident.