In all parts of the United States, there are rules known as ‘Side of the road’ rules which state that cyclists are required to ride on the right-hand side of the road, or in a bicycle lane. However, some of the more common types of accidents that involve cyclists take place on the side of the road.
These accidents include:
- Being hit by a car that’s turning right
- Crashing into a car door that’s being opened
- Being brushed by a vehicle that’s passing
The good news is that the side of the road rules is combined with other laws that help to protect cyclists.
A bicycle has just as much right of way on the road as any other vehicle has. However, there are some specific laws that say otherwise.
When on the road a cyclist is entitled to ride in the middle lane and should be given the same right of way as other vehicles on the road. If you have been injured in a cycling accident and you are claiming compensation you might want to remind the insurance adjuster during your negotiations.
Bicycle Lanes and Side of the Road Laws
If a cyclist is not traveling as fast as other traffic the cyclist should ride on the right-hand side of the road, making sure they are on the very far right side. When it comes to cycling on a one way street the cyclist should ride on the far left.
If there is a bicycle lane located on the right of the road then a cyclist should use it.
However, there are some circumstances when a cyclist can leave the bicycle lane, these are:
- If the cyclist is keeping up with the traffic
- If the bicycle lane is far too narrow to share with cars that are passing
- If the cyclist needs to turn left
- If the cyclist needs to avoid road hazards such as debris
When a cyclist is on the road they very often have to ride quite close to parked vehicles, and here is where things can get interesting from a liability perspective. Liability principles that are used in terms of negligence state that no-one should open their vehicle’s door unless it is safe to. This means that an accident that’s caused by a vehicle’s door opening is usually the fault of the person who opened the door. If there was no traffic and the door of a vehicle was opened causing a cyclist to crash into it there may be an exception to the negligence rule. This exception involves the lack of traffic which completely eliminates the cyclist’s need to stay on the tight. In a case such as this, the person who opened the door could argue that the cyclist did not have to ride on the right and was therefore partly at fault for the accident.
Maintaining a Safe Space for Cyclists
All cyclists are to share the lane with any passing traffic, and in turn, all vehicles need to maintain a safe space for cyclists. As much as 3 feet is thought to be a safe distance, however, this is not always possible as some large vehicles tend to take up much of the road.
A vehicle that is coming up to a cyclist should not pass unless they know it is completely safe for them to do so. This means that the motorist may have to wait until there is enough room, or they may want to change lane if it is safe to do so. Please note that it is not up to the cyclist to move out of a vehicle’s way.
If you were in an accident that involved a vehicle bumping you in the same lane, their insurance adjuster may state that you were not on the far right of the road. You may want to then reply that it is up to the driver of the vehicle to wait until it is safe to pass. Therefore, bumping into you and knocking you down was not safe.
If you were bumped by a vehicle that is wider than a car you should think about measuring the width of the lane. Make sure you measure up to the line of vehicles that were parked on the road. You will then be able to work out how wide the vehicle was that bumped you. You should then measure the width of your bike, specifically at the handlebars. If you were bumped on a knee, for example, you should measure the distance between the position of your knees.
It if turns out that the vehicle that bumped you was quite wide and its width meant they could not pass you safely you could have a strong argument as the driver of the vehicle should not have even attempted to pass you.
The Right Turn
Bicycle accidents are most commonly caused by a collision with a vehicle that is making a right turn. While making the turn the car passes directly through the cyclist’s path, regardless of whether the cyclist is in a bike lane or on the road. Occasionally the driver of the vehicle turns right without even looking for a bike.
In these situations, the motorist will be liable for the injuries that are caused in the accident and any damage to the cyclist’s property too.
If you are currently suffering from a personal injury and are unable to read ‘Common Liability Problems in Bicycle versus Car Accidents’ please watch our Injury Pedia video so you can gain the Personal Injury Information and Answers you are seeking.