Understanding Your Legal Rights as a Cyclist
Each year more than 450,000 Americans end up in the emergency room because of bike accidents. The most serious of these accidents typically occur because of collisions with automobiles. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 750 cyclists are killed in traffic accidents annually. Far too many of these accidents happen because drivers simply do not know how to share the road with cyclists. Unfortunately, many drivers view cyclists as a nuisance. Every driver must learn that cyclists have every bit as much right to the road as any automobile.
Three Legal Rights Every Cyclist Should Know About
- Cyclists can control a lane: Cyclists are generally travelling at a slower rate of speed than surrounding cars. However, a cyclist has just as much right to inhabit, and control, a lane as do these cars. For example, imagine that you are cycling down a one-way street with two separate lanes. You should be cycling in the right lane, so as to allow faster moving vehicles to pass on your left. However, you do not need to ride at the far edge or on the shoulder of that right lane. You have a legal right to ride in the center of your lane. On narrow streets this will protect you from being hit by an opening car door or from a driver trying to aggressively pass you within your own lane. Drivers have a legal duty to go into the other lane to pass you, just as if you were in another car.
- Cyclists can use the left lanes: Bicycles are legally obligated to follow traffic regulations. This means that cyclists must make any left turns from the appropriate left turn only lane or from the left most lane on the roadway. Cyclists have a legal right to use these lanes. Unfortunately, drivers are often not aware of this fact.
- Cyclists may make injury claims: A cyclist that has been in a collision with a vehicle has the same rights as does anyone in an automobile. This means that the responsible driver must immediately stop their vehicle, render aid and exchange up-to-date contact and insurance information. If you or a loved one has been injured while riding a bike, you should consult with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.
Four Quick Bicycle Safety Tips
- Always wear a helmet: A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that helmet use reduces the risks of traumatic brain injury by as much as 85 percent.
- Know the local traffic regulations: Bicyclists have just as much right to the road as automobiles, and they also have just much responsibility. Not only do cyclists have a legal duty to follow traffic laws, but doing so will dramatically reduce the risk of a serious accident.
- Stay aware of your surroundings: While you may be skilled enough to flip through your smartphone and still maintain control of your bike, it is never safe to do so. Traffic patterns can change abruptly, and you must always remain aware of what is around you.
- Keep yourself visible: When riding at night or in dark conditions, you should ensure that you have reflectors on your bike. It’s also a good practice to wear clothing that will make you stand out. You need to make yourself visible to all drivers.
If you are injured by a driver while you are biking, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney who will be able to assist you in recovering the compensation you deserve.
This blog post was written by Groth Law Firm, S.C. based out of Milwaukee, WI. Groth specializes in litigation and personal injury law and often represents bike riders injured in collisions with motor vehicles. For more information, see their website. Please note this blog is not an endorsement by ERIK’S of Groth Law Firm, S.C. This blog should not be considered legal advice. Laws vary by city and state, and you should check your local ordinances to see what rights cyclists have in your area.