Motor Vehicle and Bicycle Accidents
Bicyclists are treated as motor vehicles though they do have certain rules and regulations that apply only to them. Consequently, cyclists must obey all traffic laws including speeding, stopping at red lights and proceeding only on the green and not riding through stop signs. Bicyclists also must ride to the right side of a traffic lane or in the bike lane. Many accidents between motor vehicles and bicyclists occur because one or the other did not obey a traffic law, was impaired or failed to see the other.
Situations involving motor vehicles and bicyclists that lead to accidents include:
- Opening a car door into the path of an oncoming bicyclist
- Entering a bike lane in front of a cyclist
- Getting too close to a cyclist
- Turning in front of an oncoming cyclist
- Rear-ending a bike
Bicyclists are entitled to ride in traffic and down the middle of a lane so long as they are not impeding traffic and they keep up with other vehicles. A cyclist may leave the right side of a traffic lane or a bike lane to make a left turn, to avoid debris, or if the lane is too narrow and unsafe to ride side-by-side.
Motorists are generally required by traffic laws to maintain a safe space while passing, which is usually about 3 feet. A car may not pass until it is safe to do so and a cyclist has no obligation to slow down or move out of the way to allow the vehicle to pass. It may take an accident reconstruction expert to measure the width of the traffic lane, car, bicycle, parked car if applicable to determine if the motorist was engaged in unsafe practices.
This same principle applies to determining who had the right of way in a right-turn accident. Again, a motorist may not turn without doing so safely. A car may enter the bike lane, if present, to make a right turn but only if the motorist confirms that no cyclist was alongside the auto or was far enough away. A cyclist does not have to slow or stop for a car preparing to turn right; this is the obligation of a motorist though common sense is advisable to avoid an accident.
Bicyclist should still exercise caution at all times and not ride into the path of a turning vehicle if the cyclist could have avoided the collision. Other safe practices that some municipalities require of bike riders include:
- Wearing a helmet
- Have flashing lights on the back of the bike and/or front if riding at night
- Using hand signals for turns
- Being cautious when riding near parked vehicles
- Moving over to allow traffic to pass
- Carefully merge to the left if intending to make a left turn
- Avoid riding next to cars at intersections
- Use eyewear
Bicyclists should assume that motorists do not see them and make efforts to avoid collisions even if it is the motorist’s responsibility in that situation.