Most states treat bicycles as vehicles for the purpose of traffic laws. Bicyclists must follow all traffic laws that other motorists follow unless following the law is impractical because of the nature of a bicycle.
Bicycle safety requires that bicyclists know and understand traffic laws. Many states have specific traffic laws related to bicycles. Riders should also know and follow these laws.
Who Has the Right of Way?
Bicyclists must yield the right of way under the same conditions as motor vehicles. Therefore, a bicyclist must yield the right of way to pedestrians. They must also stop at stop signs and obey traffic lights.
Riders must signal turns and travel with the flow of traffic. They should also yield the right of way when directed to do so by a yield sign. When entering a lane of traffic, the bicyclist must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic in the lane.
When a bicyclist is traveling in a designated bicycle lane, motorists need to use caution when turning right. If the bicyclist is traveling straight through the intersection, the rider generally has the right of way.
The same applies to a bicyclist traveling through an intersection when a motorist makes a left-hand turn. The bicyclist has the right of way.
However, just because a bicyclist has the right of way, it does not ensure that a motorist will yield the right of way. A motorist may not see a bicycle approaching because the motorist is distracted or the bicycle is in the driver’s blind spot.
Therefore, bicyclists should never assume a motorist will act accordingly and yield the right of way. Bicyclists should take steps to avoid right-of-way accidents whenever possible.
How Can a Bicyclist Avoid a Right of Way Accident?
Being attentive and indicating your intentions are two ways bicyclists can avoid right-of-way accidents. A rider needs to pay close attention to traffic when approaching intersections. Look for turn signals that indicate a vehicle may cut in front of your bicycle.
Bicyclists should always use hand signals to indicate their intentions. Drivers are more likely to see a bicyclist when they use hand signals. Being visible to drivers is crucial. Wearing brightly colored bicycle helmets and clothing can help reduce the risk of a bicycle accident.
Never Admit Fault for a Bicycle Accident
If you are involved in a bicycle accident, do not admit fault, especially if you are unsure who had the right of way. It is best to consult legal counsel before making any statements or answering questions about the bicycle accident.
When giving your statement to the police officer, keep your answers short and honest. Do not embellish or try to explain that you thought you had the right of way. A lawyer investigates the facts of the accident to determine who had the right of way and who is responsible for the cause of the crash.
If the other driver was at fault for the accident, you might recover compensation for your injuries and damages. Even if you and the driver share responsibility, you could receive partial compensation for your damages.
Each state has enacted laws regarding contributory negligence or comparative negligence. Depending on the laws of your state, you could receive compensation for a portion of your damages based on the percentage of fault you have for the cause of the crash.
Can a Bicyclist Be Held Liable for Damages Caused by an Accident?
Yes, a bicyclist can be held financially liable for the damages caused by an accident if the bicyclist is at fault. For example, if a rider fails to yield the right of way at an intersection and causes a crash, the bicyclist could be held liable for damages. Because bicyclists are not required to have liability insurance, a personal judgment could be entered against the rider.
However, most bicycle accidents are caused by motorists. The bicyclist sustains the most severe injuries in a car vs. bicycle accident. The rider does not have the protection of a metal frame, airbags, and seatbelts to protect them from injuries.
Key Takeaways About Bicyclists and Rights of Ways
If you ride a bicycle, you have a duty to know and follow traffic laws in your state and town. It is important to review specific laws for bicyclists. Whenever you are on the road, use hand signals, ride in designated bicycle lanes whenever possible, and obey traffic signals.
Bicyclists have the same rights to use the road as motorists. They also have the same obligations to operate their vehicles in a manner that does not place others at risk of injury.