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Avoiding Bicycle Accidents: Rules of the Road

| Mar 10, 2015 | Firm News

As discussed last week, California roads are becoming more and more crowded as bicycles and cars share the same roadways.  In order to share the road safely, both cyclists and motor-vehicle drivers must follow certain laws. (See Bicycle Safety Post)  The crowded road conditions have inevitably led to more car accidents and injured cyclists.  This week our bike accident lawyers discuss the rules of the road to help bicycles and cars safely share San Diego roadways.

Under California law, drivers should treat cyclists as another vehicle on the road. In doing so, drivers must obey all the traffic laws which apply to other motor vehicles. However, drivers must also follow a number of specific laws designed to increase safety in these shared conditions. The following is a list of some applicable laws regarding sharing the road with cyclists.

(1)    3-foot buffer zone: Drivers must give bicyclists a three-foot buffer zone at all times, including when passing. The three-foot buffer law represents a major change. Under the old law drivers merely had to maintain a safe distance, but the term safe distance was never defined. Under the three-foot buffer law, fines for violations range from $35 for passing too closely and $220 for causing a bicycle accident. The three-foot buffer zone also extends to situations where a driver cannot pass without crossing into the buffer zone; in those cases the driver must slow to a reasonable speed and wait to pass until it is safe to do so.

(2)    Bicycle Lanes: Bicycle lanes are constructed to allow cyclists their own space on the roadway. These lanes are to be safe havens where bicycles are able to ride without having to worry about cars. It is against the law for a motor vehicle to drive in a bicycle lane, unless one of the following exceptions applies: (1) to park in a permitted area; (2) to enter or leave the road or (3) to prepare to turn within the next 200 feet. Outside of these exceptions it is against the law to pass into the bicycle lane. In practical terms, these lanes should be treated as solid yellow lanes, which a driver cannot pass through.

(3)    Right Turns with Bicycle Lanes: In any situation a car is to make a right turn from as close to the right curb as practicable. This can be difficult in situations with bicycle lanes. When a cyclist is riding in the bike lane, and is ahead of the car that wants to turn right, the car must yield to the cyclist, let the cyclist continue through the intersection and then make their right turn. Thus, the driver should enter the bike lane when they are within 200 feet of the intersection and yield to the cyclist in making the right turn.

(4)    Injury Rule: Remember to respect and share the road because cyclists are entitled to ride on the road. If you are in an accident with a cyclist, then under law, you must attempt to render assistance and aid to the injured person. Failure to do so is against the law. An easy way to comply with this law is to call 911 and remain with the injured person until an ambulance arrives at the scene.

If you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident, contact an experienced Riverside and San Diego personal injury attorney to evaluate your claim.  The accident attorneys at Martinez & Schill LLP offer free consultations.  Call us at 619-512-5995 or (951) 400-4630.