As California’s winter rains give way to sunny spring weather, many excited bicyclists are counting down the days until they can venture out on our roads once more. Nationwide, around 80 million bicyclists ride alongside cars. A large portion of them live in our state. Whether you’re a bike rider or a driver, this means you should be prepared to safely share the road.
Why Sharing the Road Matters
If you’re an American with a driver’s license, you’ve probably been told to “share the road” more than once. Yet, over 400,000 bicyclists end up in the emergency room each year after being injured in accidents. It’s clear our nation has more work to do.
For bicyclists, the benefits to knowing the rules of the road are obvious: No one wants their bike ride to turn into an ambulance ride. Drivers may be more resistant to this edict because they assume they are less likely to be injured in a collision.
This statistic is undoubtedly true, at least when it comes to physical injury. However, accidents aren’t just about who gets hurt. If you hit a bicyclist, the collision will go on your driving record and your insurance rates will go up. Furthermore, a severe or permanent injury may not be fully covered by your insurance policy. Once an accident victim hits your policy maximums, they may file a case against you—and you could end up having to help pay for their medical bills and other ongoing costs. Finally, no one wants to have the injury or death of another person on their conscience. Staying alert and aware of bicyclists can save you from having to face these consequences.
Safety Tips for Bicyclists
The first thing you should do as a bicyclist is learn the rules of the road. You are responsible for following all traffic laws, just like drivers. The more predictable your actions are, the safer you will be. This means riding with, not against traffic; coming to a full stop at traffic lights; and signaling your turns.
Bike riders should also be aware they are harder to see than other vehicles. With their smaller profile, bicyclists can be lost in blind spots or concealed by other cars. Oncoming bicyclists are harder to spot than other drivers and, unlike motorcyclists, do not even have engine noise to prompt attention. Boost your visibility by:
- Wearing bright clothing—neons and fluorescents are most effective
- Use a headlight and taillight as well as reflectors on the back of your bike and your pedals and wheels.
- Wear reflective clothing when riding at night
Drivers are responsible for being aware of their surroundings, but it’s always better to avoid an accident than to identify blame after being injured. Making yourself easier to see will keep you safer.
How Drivers Can Share the Road
When you’re driving, there are many demands on your attention. If you’re distracted or focusing only on one area of the road, you may miss less obvious hazards like bicyclists and pedestrians. The best way to prevent colliding with a bike rider is to make sharing the road second nature.
Bicyclists should always ride in the road, going the same direction as traffic. They may ride in bike lanes, shoulders, or the center of the lane. You should be prepared to come across them anywhere, and follow these steps to keep them safe:
- Look twice before turning, and always yield to bicyclists
- Leave an extra margin when turning out in front of a bicyclist—because they have a smaller profile, our brains perceive them as being slower than they are
- Check mirrors and blind spots before you merge or change lanes
- Slow down if you are passing a bicyclist, and leave at least 3 feet between them and your car
- Leave extra room when passing in inclement weather
- Look carefully for oncoming bicyclists before pulling out of a driveway, parking lot, or alleyway; re-entering traffic from the side of the road; or opening your car door
As a driver, you should never block a bike lane. You may need to cross one if you are turning or parallel parking; if you do so, check twice before moving into the lane and clear it as quickly as possible.
Know When the Risk of Serious Accidents Is Highest
Both bicyclists and drivers should be aware of risk factors that have nothing to do with each other. Accidents are more likely to happen, and more likely to cause serious injuries or death, under the following circumstances:
- On two-lane roads
- On roads with narrow lanes
- On roads with higher speed limits
- At non-intersection parts of a road
- Between 6:00 and 9:00 pm
When you’re in any of these situations, extra caution is called for. Drivers should know that, when a lane is too narrow for a car to pass a bicyclist, it’s legal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of the lane. In this situation, drivers must be patient until they reach a point where it’s safe to pass or the bicyclist can safely turn off the road to let them by. We understand the temptation to take your chances and speed around them, but the chance you’re really taking is on a bike rider’s safety. The risk of causing a serious accident isn’t worth the minute or two you might save.
Questions About a Bicycle Accident? Ask Us For Free.
If you or a loved one was injured in a bicycle accident, you should reach out to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you can to learn about your rights. The injuries you sustain in a bicycle accident could lead to missed work and high hospital bills. Knowing how you can recover compensation can help your peace of mind during this time.
Since The Law Office of Marshall Silberberg was founded in 2004, we’ve helped many victims file bike accident claims. Aside from making sure you’re cared for, we are dedicated to helping you hold negligent drivers accountable. Ask us how we can help maximize your compensation if you were badly injured.
Call our team for today at (949) 565-4281 for a free consultation. We have decades of combined experience to put toward your case.