Bicyclists are common throughout California, and in some areas, they share the roads with motor vehicles. When a bike rider is on a roadway, drivers in cars and trucks must take reasonable precautions to keep the bicyclist safe. This means not only following all traffic control devices, but also slowing down or yielding to the rider in certain situations. But what about the bicyclists, what are the rules of the road for them?
State law does not categorize bicycles as vehicles, but bikers are still subject to California’s rules of the road, as well as certain provisions of the California Vehicle Code. One such law requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right side of the road as possible when other traffic is moving faster than the bike. That requirement does have a few exceptions, however, including one that allows the biker to move from the right side of the road when preparing to make a left turn at an intersection or onto a private road.
Another section of the California Vehicle Code provides that bikers who are moving slower than other traffic must use a designated bicycle lane, if one exists on that roadway. This requirement also has exceptions; for example, a rider can leave the designated riding lane if necessary to avoid hazardous conditions on the bicycle lane. Furthermore, bikers can leave the bicycle lane to pass another rider or pedestrian, or if necessary to make a left turn.
In addition to adhering to the Vehicle Code, bicyclists in California should also take any other reasonable steps to keep themselves safe while riding. Wearing a helmet, for instance, can help bikers avoid head injuries. While California’s Vehicle Code states that anyone who is under the age of 18 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, riders of all ages can benefit from wearing a helmet.
The rules of the road in California are supposed to help prevent bike accidents involving automobiles. Of course, even the safest bicyclists can fall victim to a negligent driver. Bicyclists who are hit by automobiles can suffer severe injuries because the rider has little protection, and cannot withstand an impact the way that a person in an automobile can. In these situations, the driver has legal responsibility for any resulting injuries.
How can Orange County riders be safer on their bicycles?
According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 48,000 people suffered injuries from bike accidents in 2013. Furthermore, 743 people died from bicycle accidents during the same year. These numbers are largely unchanged since 2001 when 45,000 biking injuries occurred and 732 people died in riding accidents. Given that biking is a popular means of exercise and transportation amongst people in Orange County, what can they do to make it safer?
The NHTSA has a list of 10 rules that bikers should follow to reduce their chances of getting injured while riding. Most of these rules are simple and logical, and any experienced rider should already abide by them. However, it never hurts to continually review these kinds of safety suggestions.
Helmet use is first on the NHTSA’s safety list; bicyclists should always wear a helmet. They can reduce head injuries by up to 85 percent, which can mean the difference between a minor bump on the head and brain damage. Another safety step is for riders to be sure that their bikes are properly adjusted so that riders can control their vehicles. This also goes along with ensuring that the bicycle, and especially the brakes and wheels, are in good working order. Furthermore, bicyclists should wear bright, visible clothing and avoid riding at night, if possible.
Just like operating any vehicle, the NHTSA cautions bikers to always stay alert while riding and to pay attention for anything dangerous in the bicycle’s path. When it comes to riding a bike near motor vehicles, riders should always travel in the same direction as the automobiles and they should ride in a straight and consistent path. Likewise, bikers must always check for traffic in the area and learn to obey all traffic laws.
In addition to using these common sense rules, riders should know that when they are on the street with motor vehicles, they are subject to the same traffic laws as the other vehicles. However, drivers in motor vehicles have a responsibility to watch out for bikers and to help keep them safe. A negligent driver can be just as dangerous to a biker as faulty equipment or obstacles in the biker’s riding path.
When cars and bicycles collide: Tips for CA cyclists
People choose to bike around town for a variety of reasons. Being able to exercise while in transit and having fewer constraints concerning traffic could be high on your list of advantages in cycling, but there are also risks.
Bicyclists stand little chance of holding their own in a collision involving a car or truck. Because bicycle accidents often prove devastating for riders, it’s important to understand the hazards you may face as a cyclist.
Safety concerns for California bicyclists
You undoubtedly want to do what you can to avoid a potential disaster, and the following matters are important to consider before getting on the road:
- Traffic laws: Cyclists and drivers follow the same traffic laws, and having a complete understanding of the rules of the road is a step in the right direction.
- Intersections: Intersections are a hot spot for collisions of any kind, but they can be especially hazardous for cyclists. It is therefore crucial to take time to look in all directions and signal properly before proceeding through an intersection.
- Awareness: For cyclists, awareness is imperative, as being aware of vehicles and obstacles nearby could help you identify a potential hazard in time to avoid a collision.
- Visibility: As a cyclist, taking measures to increase your visibility can help drivers notice you. This can include wearing bright-colored clothing and ensuring that you equip your bike with the necessary reflectors.
Following the rules of the road can go a long way in reducing the risk of an accident. However, you cannot control the actions of others. If a car hits you while you are out riding, chances are you will suffer some kind of injury.
What comes next?
Bicycle accidents can be life-changing, and if the negligent actions of another party cause you to suffer serious harm, it is important to know your options for obtaining full and fair compensation. For more on that, please see our bicycle and pedestrian accident overview.
California law specifies night riding equipment for bicycles
A bicycle is no match for a motor vehicle, and a collision between the two can lead to grave injuries and even death for the biker. Drivers have an obligation to look out for bikers and to take reasonable and appropriate steps to avoid accidents with them. At the same time, bicyclists should do all that they can to help ensure their own safety while riding on streets with automobile traffic.
If a driver in a car or other vehicle cannot easily see a biker, the risk of a collision increases. Visibility is especially important when riding a bike at night. Riders should always make themselves as visible as possible, which may mean wearing bright clothing while riding. They should also have the proper reflectors and lights on their bicycle.
In California, state law requires that anyone who rides in darkness must have a lamp on their bike that emits white light while the bicycle is moving. The light must also be bright enough to light up the area in front of the biker, and it has to be visible from at least 300 feet away and from either side of the bicycle. Furthermore, the bike must be equipped with a rear reflector that is solid red or flashes red light; the reflector has to be visible from 500 feet away when the bike is directly in front of a motor vehicle’s headlamps. Likewise, each pedal or shoe area of the bike must have a white or yellow reflector that is visible from the front and rear at a distance of 200 feet. Side or tire reflectors are also required under the California Vehicle Code.
Riding a bicycle at night requires some extra precautions, including having the proper equipment that complies with California law. Drivers should also do their part to avoid bicycle accidents by watching for people who may be riding at night.
What is a bicycle buffer zone in California?
Bicycling can be a good source of exercise; it is an environmentally friendly mode of transportation; and it can help to cut down motor vehicle traffic congestion on Orange County’s roads. Given the benefits of bike riding, it is no wonder that it is popular throughout California, and that the state has become more and more receptive to accommodating riders.
Special lanes, on certain roads, that are designated only for bicycles, are one example of how Orange County and other areas of California have moved toward making riding safer. Similarly, the creation of bicycle buffer zones is one of the newest methods of increasing rider safety. So what exactly is a bicycle buffer zone?
The California legislature passed a law that requires motorists to give at least three feet of space to bicyclists when the motorist is passing. This legislation, known as the “Three Feet for Safety” law, became effective in late 2014.
Any time that bikers share a roadway with motor vehicles, drivers should slow down and only pass the bicyclist when it is safe to do so. That is a good common sense and safety practice. But, the Three Feet for Safety law goes a step further by requiring that drivers only pass bicyclists when they can give the rider at least three feet of separation from the vehicle.
A bicyclist is extremely vulnerable in a collision with a motor vehicle, and bike accidents can easily result in serious injuries to the biker. Despite California laws aimed at promoting bicycle safety, a negligent driver is still a risk to riders. Bicyclists who are hit by automobiles can hold negligent drivers accountable through personal injury lawsuits.
Bike accidents: what is California’s Three Feet for Safety Act?
Bikers in Orange County should always be looking for ways to increase their safety when riding a bicycle. Safety is especially important for bikers who regularly ride on the area’s roadways. Bicyclists share the roadways with people in motor vehicles, which means that riders must be aware of them and take appropriate safety precautions to avoid an accident.
Bicycle riders are not the only ones who have a responsibility to adhere to safe roadway practices. Drivers in cars and trucks also have to do their part to help keep bikers safe. California’s Three Feet for Safety Act is a law that seeks to promote bicycle safety. People unfamiliar with the newer law may wonder what it is and what they need to do to obey the law.
The Three Feet for Safety Act became effective on September 14, 2014. The law requires drivers in motor vehicles to keep a distance of at least three feet when passing a bicyclist. Drivers who fail to adhere to the law are subject to a $35 fine. But the fine increases to $220 if the driver violates the law and a bike accident occurs and causes injury to the biker.
In addition to facing fines, drivers who violate the Three Feet for Safety Act could find themselves liable for any injuries that a biker suffers as a result of an accident. Bicyclists who are hit by automobiles can file legal claims against the motorist. Breaking any traffic laws, including the Three Feet for Safety Act, is evidence of a driver’s negligence. When a negligent driver causes an accident, the victim is entitled to recover for damages related to the accident.
All of California’s traffic laws are designed to help keep everyone on the roads as safe as possible. The laws only work, though, when people adhere to them at all times.
Hurt in a bike accident? Let a lawyer be your spokesperson
California and bicycles seem made for each other. The great weather and great scenery make a leisurely bike ride a pleasant activity for a day off work. For many people in Orange County, Huntington Beach and across all of Orange County, the bicycle is the vehicle of choice for the daily commute, a quick trip to the store, or as an alternative to a crowded bus ride to school.
Unfortunately, for cyclists, far more people choose to drive to get where they are going. Any place bikes and motor vehicles share the road there will be occasional interactions. When they happen, things seldom go in the cyclist’s favor.
Getting a handle on bike accident numbers
According to the NHTSA, an estimated 45,000 cyclists suffered injuries in crashes in 2015. Incredibly, research suggests that as few as 10 percent of bike crashes are reported to police, meaning the real number of injuries could be much higher. Approximately one-third of all bike accidents involve a collision with a motor vehicle.
Cyclist fatalities are also a major area of concern, especially in California. In 2015, 818 cyclists died in collisions, including 128, or more than 15 percent, in California alone. Bicycle deaths account for just less than 2 percent of all traffic fatalities; however, only 1 percent of vehicle trips in the United States are made on a bike. Clearly, cyclists are an over-represented demographic in this least desirable category.
Picking up the pieces after a serious bicycle crash
A wise rider straps on a helmet before hitting the streets, but sometimes that is not enough to prevent a serious injury. Injuries commonly suffered in bike-versus-car accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Abrasions/road rash
- Internal injuries
Any one of these kinds of injuries can cause long-term health issues and may require extended hospital care and rehabilitative therapy. There is also the potential to miss work while you are recovering. A very serious injury could prevent a return to work entirely.
Not all motorists show due caution around bicycles, and some drivers do not respect a cyclist’s right to use the road. Some may try to shift the blame from themselves to the innocent rider to try to avoid taking legal and/or financial responsibility for what happened.
If you choose to ride your bike on the roads of Orange County, you have a right to expect other drivers to respect your presence and allow you to travel safely. Anyone injured by a careless or negligent driver may wish to seek legal counsel and representation. A lawyer who truly believes in your right to ride will fight for the compensation you need and deserve for your pain and suffering.
NHTSA.gov, “10 Smart Routes to Bicycle Safety,” Accessed on Aug. 12, 2015
CalBike.org, “The Three Feet for Safety Act is now law in California,” accessed on March 9, 2015
California Bicycle Coalition, “The Three Feet for Safety Act is now law in California,” Accessed on Feb. 5, 2016
California Vehicle Code, “ARTICLE 4. Operation of Bicycles,” accessed on March 7, 2016