Although intersections tend to pose just a small risk to a cyclist, an intersection is the most dangerous part of the road for someone riding a bicycle. While just over 10% of bicycle accidents involve a car, almost half of the accidents take place at an intersection.
To help minimize the risk of an accident at an intersection those riding a bike should make themselves as visible to car drivers as possible. They will also need to make sure that they understand all of the road rules, and recognize the dangers of an intersection. It will also benefit cyclists if they ride through an intersection with care.
Who is Responsible for the Accident?
If you tend to ride your bike through an intersection you may want to understand the rules of liability, in other words, who is responsible for the accidents. Please note that cyclists who do not follow the rule of the roads and who do not keep an eye out for vehicles may be liable for the accident. On some occasions, a cyclist who has followed the road rules but was still hit by a car may find that they are blamed by the driver of the vehicle and the police for causing the accident.
In order to avoid being found liable for an accident involving a car, a cyclist must learn and follow the rules of liability.
How to Avoid Accidents at an Intersection
Intersections can be quite risky for cyclists for a number of reasons:
- Drivers often forget how fast bicycles can travel.
- Drivers don’t always expect to see a cyclist on the road, and therefore fail to look out for them.
- Drivers often fail to see a cyclist as the bike may not be very visible.
The next time you are cycling on the road you may want to remember these points. You may also want to take a few extra precautions by:
- Being as visible as you can by wearing reflective clothing, and using lights on your bike.
- Making sure you keep an eye out for cars.
- Learning how to ride defensively.
- Understanding how to move in such a way that you can avoid a collision.
Who Could be at Fault?
You should be aware that in almost every part of the United States a bicycle is thought of as a vehicle. So, just as drivers of cars have to follow the road rules, cyclists have to as well. When a collision occurs at an intersection, the liability or fault is usually determined by tho had the right of way.
Right-of-way Rules when there are no Traffic Signals
When vehicles approach an intersection where traffic signals are not present the vehicle that arrived there first has right of way. If two vehicles arrive at the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right has right of way. Just so you are aware, this is the case when you are approaching an intersection that is controlled by stop signs.
If the intersection is made of up a minor street that is intersecting with a major one the traffic coming from the major street has right of way.
Right-of-way Rules when there are Traffic Signals
When there are traffic signals at an intersection the right of way is controlled by the signals. If a signal cannot detect a bicycle the cyclist may want to:
1 – Move closer to the sensors in the road or wait until it’s safe to cross or
2 – Use the crosswalk
However, there are some other factors that you may have to consider, and these depend on the kind of intersection you’re at, and whether a car is moving straight through the intersection or turning through it. In each of these cases, a cyclist will need to use defense techniques to help them avoid an accident.
Common Situations Involving Bicycles and Cars at Intersections
– Accidents at Stop Signs
Almost 10% of all accidents at an intersection take place when a cyclist approaches a stop sign, but the driver of a car doesn’t. After the cyclist has stopped they then travel into the intersection and in front of the car that has right of way. In this case, the cyclist will be at fault.
Just over 9% of accidents that take place at an intersection occur when the cyclist has right of way but they are on a street that does not have a stop sign. A car may approach from a street where there is a stop sign, and after the driver has stopped they make their way into the intersection. The driver might do this even if the cyclist has right of way. In this case, the driver may be at fault. However, if the cyclist was riding against the traffic both the driver of the car and the cyclist could be at fault.
Some of the best ways to avoid having an accident at an intersection are to:
- Be as visible as you can by wearing reflective clothing, and using lights on your bike.
- Make sure you keep an eye out for cars.
- Approach the left side of the lane as you get closer to an intersection. This will make you much more visible to car drivers.
– Riding Against the Traffic
Anyone who rides a bit against the traffic will be breaking the law. Not only could a cyclist get into trouble for riding their bike this way, but they may be more likely to have an accident. In fact, riding against the traffic is one of the main reasons why a cyclist sustains injuries. This is because drivers do not expect to see a bicycle traveling the wrong way.
When a cyclist is riding against the traffic they are also heightening the risk of hitting other cyclists.
– Failing to Yield
Failing to yield is considered to be the 3rd most frequent type of accident that takes place at an intersection. The cyclist comes to a stop at an intersection that may or may not be controlled by traffic signals, and them moves into the intersection without even yielding. This may be because they did not see the car or they inaccurately judged the car’s speed or distance. In a case such as this, it is the cyclist who will be found at fault.
– A Car Turns Left
When a cyclist and driver of a car approaches an intersection and they have done so from opposite directions, the driver of the car turns left. Here is where they collide with a cyclist simply because they have not seen them, or they have misjudged their speed. In this case, it is the driver who will be found at fault.
Some of the best ways to avoid having an accident like this at an intersection are to:
- Be as visible as you can by wearing reflective clothing, and using lights on your bike.
Make sure you keep an eye out for cars.
- Adjust your speed so you can brake if you need to.
- Taking the whole lane so you are more visible to cars.
- Avoiding the crosswalk as traveling over it will make you harder to see.
– A Car Turns Right
There are a few different factors that can cause accidents when cars make a right turn at an intersection:
1 – A car passes a bike as they both approach an intersection. The car then makes a turn to the right and it cuts the cyclist off.
2 – A bicycle slowly passes a car on its right, and the car turns to the right and hits the bicycle.
3 – Both a bike and a car have stopped at a light, and once the light changes the car makes a right turn and cuts off the bike.
In these situations, the driver of the car will be found at fault, but there are some things a cyclist can do to help reduce the likelihood of these accidents occurring:
- Keep an eye out for cars and use a mirror, making sure to check it as you get closer to the intersection.
- Get ready to brake suddenly if a car does cut you off.
- Move closer to the car lane, or take the whole of the right lane as you move across the intersection.
- Consider using the crosswalk, but be aware that if you do ride into it you could be hit by drivers turning left and right. Therefore, you should walk with your bike across the crosswalk rather than cycling across it.
- Do not pass a car on its right at an intersection or in a driveway. Slow down so that you are going the same speed as the car. Alternatively, you may want to take the whole of the lane and pass the car on its left-hand side.
- Try to stay out of a vehicle’s blind spot when you are waiting at a set of lights or you are about to approach it from behind.
Why Liability is Important
It would be wonderful if a cyclist could avoid being involved in any accidents. However, a cyclist who violates a right of way rule could be found liable for a car accident. What this means is that if the driver of a vehicle is hurt in the accident or their car is damaged the cyclist will be held responsible. If the cyclist was injured in the accident that they caused they may not receive compensation for their injuries, their medical expenses or any lost wages.
The ‘Almost Stop’
There is a liability rule that needs to be mentioned, and it is the ‘Almost stop’ rule. In some parts of the United States, if a cyclist does not completely stop when they are at an intersection they may not be able to recover any compensation. This may well be the case even if the driver of a car is thought to be for the most part responsible for the accident. This is why it is so important for you to completely stop when it is required by law.
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