Understanding Bicyclist Rights and Rules

California Law

cyclistUnder California law, cyclists must obey traffic rules, such as stopping at red lights and traveling with the flow of traffic. They are also required to ride on the right side of the road, unless they are about to make a left turn. Your bike must have reflectors that are visible from the front, back, and side when riding at night. Also at night, a white headlight from the front must be attached to either the bike or the cyclist. Don’t forget either that in times when the travel lane is not wide enough for you and a driver to safely share the lane, you have the right to take control of the full lane of traffic by riding in the center of the lane.

Some rules may surprise you, as they certainly do me. Did you know that California law only requires cyclists under age 18 to wear a helmet? You are also permitted to wear headphones but only in one ear. These are examples of laws with which I urge you to use your best judgment. I cannot tell you what to do; I can only give you the facts and then leave it to you to make your own decisions. Just remember that, as a cyclist, you are much more vulnerable than any other drivers on our roadways; all of your senses and faculties need to be fully engaged and alert when you are on the road. Your attention needs to be fully focused on what you are doing. Later in this article, I will talk more about bicycle-related head injuries and the role that helmets play in preventing them.

Here is a good source for more statewide laws. However, some rules vary city by city, like rules for riding on sidewalks, so be careful and make sure that you know your city’s specific bicycle legislation. This is another great overview of select California Vehicle Codes (CVC) in English and in Español, with a link to a list of the L.A. County cities and their specific codes.

As a cyclist, you need to be aware of California bicycle law so that you know what is expected of you and what is expected of other road users. The greater your awareness, the greater your chances of winning your personal injury lawsuit and securing the compensation you deserve. 

The Three Feet for Safety Act

In September 2014, legislation known as the Three Feet for Safety Act took effect in California. This law requires drivers to leave at least three feet when passing a cyclist. If the driver cannot leave three feet, then he or she must slow to a “reasonable” speed and wait to pass until it is safe for the operator of the bicycle. The former law required drivers to keep a “safe” distance between them and cyclists but did not specify.

Ultimately, this law was amended to better protect the cyclist and hold other motorists responsible. However, this does not mean that accidents will not happen. It is not easy to judge three feet when you are driving, and many drivers may underestimate, putting them dangerously close to you. If you have a certain expectation of how near or how far cars should be from you and you are caught off guard as a car whizzes past, it could startle you and cause you to lose control—all because of a non-attentive driver. If you find yourself in a situation like this, you deserve compensation for your injuries. Reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney.

Protect Your Head: Wear A Helmet

Although the majority of injuries sustained during bike crashes are to the lower and upper extremities, perhaps one of the most serious injuries is to the head. According to the American Family Physician, 22 to 47 percent of injured cyclists sustained injuries to the head. Most of the time, these head injuries were the result of a collision with a motor vehicle. (Neck trauma is another bicycle-related injury that, although rare, is more commonly seen with motor vehicle collisions.) Head injuries are to blame for more than 60 percent of all bicycle-related deaths and for the majority of long-term disabilities.

Your best defense against head injuries (but not as much neck injuries) is a helmet. It is imperative that you wear a helmet—and make sure it fits correctly. According to the American Family Physician website, helmets reduce the risk of bike-related injuries to the head by 74 to 85 percent and to the nose and upper face by about 65 percent. This is huge, as head injuries are some of the most traumatic—if not fatal—injuries that result from bike accidents.

Unfortunately, most on-road cyclists choose to bypass this safety measure. Compared with off-road cyclists, on-road riders have a 60 percent higher incidence of head, facial, and dental injuries. Vehicular traffic adds an element of danger that should not be underestimated. Do not add yourself to this percentage—wear a helmet.

Other Safety Tips for Avoiding Common Bike Injuries

  • Is your bike functioning properly? Make sure to check periodically that everything is working as it should. It is especially important that your brakes are working.
  • Wear eye protection. When riding on the road, there are all sorts of things that can fly up and impede your eyesight. Your eyes are one of your most important senses when it comes to cycling. You need to protect your eyes from debris, dirt, and dust; the weather; and bright sunlight. Drivers have a windshield; you need protection, too.
  • Wear bright, reflective clothing at night so that other motorists can see you.
  • Use hand gestures to signal lane changes and turns.
  • Listen for quieter cars. Some of the newer hybrid and fully electric cars are significantly quieter and can be difficult to hear. Make sure to keep your ears open at all times and always look before you change lanes.

Get In Touch

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident due to someone else’s negligent or reckless driving, you deserve justice. You should not have to suffer through this painful time all on your own. Whether or not your injuries require long stays in the hospital, expensive treatments, physical therapy, or other modes of alternative therapy, they are likely very expensive. On top of all this, you may find yourself out of work as a result. Not only do you deserve justice, you deserve compensation to help you pay for your injuries and/or damages to your property. Please do not hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away. The more time you lose, the greater the difficulty in getting you the best possible outcome for your personal injury case. I would be happy to talk with you and answer any questions or concerns you may have. Call me.

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