Woodland Hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg is handling more and more bicycle accident cases, particularly as the nice weather arrives. Also, the West San Fernando Valley, including Warner Center Woodland Hills and Canoga Park, are becoming more and more bike-friendly. Naturally, more people will start to use “peddle power.”
It seems that most bicycle accidents involve unique traffic conditions where either the bicyclist or the vehicle driver become confused. Many potential accident situations are actually addressed in obscure statutes that no one seems to read. Because auto versus bicycle accident can create catastrophic injuries, it is important to think through some of the potentially dangerous conditions in advance. Here are a few unusual bicycle laws that may prevent your next accident.
Bicycles are “Vehicles.”
It may be obvious in the abstract that bicycles are “vehicles” which should be driven on the roads the same as any other vehicle. Because of the freedom the bicycle provides, many bicyclists disregard normal safety patterns and ride opposite traffic, on sidewalks and strangely cross roadways. This causes accidents.
California Vehicle Code (CVC) § 21200 states that “Bicyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers.” That means: “It is against the law to ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.” (CVC 21200.5) Further, “Bicyclists may not wear earplugs in both ears or a headset covering both ears, except hearing aids.” (CVC 27400)
“Bicycles traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable except: when passing, preparing for a left turn, to avoid hazards and dangerous conditions or if the lane is too narrow.” (CVC 21202)
Do Bicycles have to Use the Bike lanes?
Does it freak you out when a bicyclist intermingles with car traffic on the roadway? Shouldn’t bikes be confined to the bike lane? California Vehicle Code (CVC) § 21208 states that “Bicyclists traveling slower than traffic must use bike lanes except when making a left turn, passing, or avoiding hazardous conditions.”
Further, “Bicyclists must travel on the right side of the roadway in the direction of traffic.” (CVC 21650)
But, remember, “Motorized bicycles may not be used on bike paths or trails, bike lanes, or other bikeways.” (CVC 21207.5) This is no small matter given the recent proliferation of electric bikes!
3-Feet for Safety Act
The most recent and somewhat controversial law is the 3-Feet for Safety Act. (CVC 21760) Many drivers are unfamiliar with the recent law and are confused about passing a bicycle on the roadway. Most bicyclists, however, agree that this new measure is the single biggest safety development ever. The law states: “When passing a bicyclist, drivers of motor vehicles must provide bicyclists with a three feet buffer between their motor vehicle and the bicyclist. If roadway conditions do not allow for a three feet buffer, the driver must slow down when passing a bicyclist.”
By keeping a 3-foot buffer many accidents are avoided. Also, this serves to reduce the chances that a vehicle will collide with a bicycle —-but, not even know that there was an impact.
Riding a Bicycle on the Sidewalk can be Hazardous!
While most people think that riding on the sidewalk is a good idea, it actually causes more accidents with vehicles than you might expect. Usually, the problem is not the “riding” part. The confusion arises at exits from driveways and at intersections. Drivers simply do not have enough time or vision to anticipate a fast-moving bicycle on a sidewalk.
When sidewalk riders come to an intersection, there is no “standard” way for them to cross the intersection. Do you ride off the sidewalk directly into the crosswalk? How can a driver react in time to prevent an accident? Do you go through the hassle of de-biking” and walking the bike in the crosswalk like a normal pedestrian? Most bikers change from a sidewalk rider to a “Street Vehicle” and ride intermingled with traffic. This is very dangerous.
The statutes do not provide much guidance. Los Angeles Municipal Code § 56.15: “Prohibits the riding of bicycles (or other human power devices) on sidewalks (bikeways or boardwalks) with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. So, it is okay to ride on the sidewalks. Just, do not become a menace to persons or property!
Remember that Your Own Automobile Uninsured Motorist Coverage Protects You Even When You are on a Bike!
Many bicycle accidents involve “hit and run” because either the driver does not know about the collision due to the desperate weights of the vehicles, or because the driver figures the bicyclist will never catch up to a fleeing vehicle to identify it. Most people do not realize that their own Uninsured Motorist coverage protects them in these situations.
However, to be covered, the bicyclist must report the accident to the police and report it to their insurance company within 24 hours (or as soon as practicable).
Bicycle riders are urged to use common sense given the extreme exposure to injuries when mingling with regular traffic. Even if you make some mistakes and anger a few motorists, bicyclists should feel protected. Los Angeles Municipal Code § 45.96.02: “Prohibits physical assault, threats, and intentional distractions against people riding bicycles.”
If you are in a bicycle accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney, like Barry P. Goldberg, immediately.