Riding a bike is fun, healthy, and environmentally conscious. That’s probably not news if you’ve ever ridden one, but neither is the fact that cyclists are vulnerable to serious injury or death when bicycle accidents happen.
While there’s always a chance that you’ll encounter a negligent driver while riding, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and to mitigate the severity of injuries if you are involved in a crash. Read on to learn four key safety tips that all cyclists should know:
1. Obey the Law
You may already be familiar with the laws pertaining to bicycle helmet use and riding under the influence of alcohol, but many cyclists are unaware of—or choose to ignore—certain regulations that are intended to prevent bicycle accidents and injuries. For example, if there is a bicycle lane available, riders are usually required to use it. And in most cases, cyclists are prohibited from riding against the flow of traffic.
If you are hit by a vehicle while you are breaking a traffic law, there’s a chance that you won’t be able to recover any damages from the driver’s insurance company; however, this is not always the case. If it can be shown that the driver’s negligence contributed to the accident, you may still be able to collect compensation.
There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about certain bicycle laws as they pertain to liability in personal injury cases. For example, although cyclists are required to ride with the flow of traffic under most circumstances, this does not apply to riders who are traveling on sidewalks and crosswalks. If the police or opposing party asserts that you were at fault for a bicycle accident, it’s important that you speak to an attorney about your case since such accusations might be based on a misinterpretation of the California Vehicle Code.
2. Wear the Appropriate Safety Gear
The attire you wear while riding could be the difference between getting hit by a vehicle and making it to your destination unscathed. Bicycle safety gear is designed to both make you more visible and to prevent or reduce the severity of injuries in the event of an accident. Suggested safety equipment includes:
A Helmet That Meets Applicable Safety Standards: In the state of California, cyclists under the age of 18 are required by law to wear a helmet that meets the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials or the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Do not purchase a helmet unless it has a sticker or label that indicates it is in accordance with the applicable safety standards.
A Helmet-Mounted Mirror: A mirror will enable you to scan your surroundings without turning your head excessively. Helmet-mounted mirrors tend to vibrate less than handlebar-mounted mirrors, and they allow you to survey a large field of view with minimal head movement.
Riding Gloves: When falling from your bicycle, your instinctual reaction will likely be to extend your arms so your hands are the first points of contact with the pavement. This can result in devastating injuries to your palms. Padded gloves not only can prevent these injuries but can also reduce the stress on your hands during long rides and keep you warm in the winter.
Reflectors: All cyclists in California who ride at night are required by law to equip their bikes with yellow or white reflectors on each shoe, ankle, or pedal, as well as a red reflector on the back of the bike. We provide more details about this law below. Even if you don’t ride at night, it’s a good idea to use reflectors so nearby motorists—some of whom may be distracted by their cellphones—are more likely to notice you.
Bright Clothing: At the end of the day, it’s wise to do everything in your power to help drivers see you. In addition to using reflectors, consider wearing brightly colored attire, perhaps with reflective tape or materials.
3. Ride in Bike Lanes or Close to the Curb
As previously mentioned, the California Vehicle Code (CVC Section 21202) prohibits cyclists from riding in traffic if there is a bicycle lane available, under most circumstances. The logic here is simple; the farther you are from moving vehicles, the less likely you are to get hit. If, however, you are traveling the same speed as traffic, you can ride in the motor-vehicle lane. Otherwise, if there is no bike lane available and you are traveling slower than traffic, you must ride as close as practicable to the edge of the roadway or to the right-hand curb. The only exceptions to this rule are when you are:
- Overtaking or passing a bicycle or vehicle that is traveling in the same direction;
- About to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
- Forced to move to avoid an obstacle; or
- Approaching a right turn.
4. Use Reflectors When Riding at Night
While we’ve already discussed the use of reflectors in a previous point, this equipment is so crucial that it deserves a section of its own. Under California Vehicle Code Section 21201, the following are required when riding a bike on a highway, bikeway, or sidewalk “during darkness:”
- A white lamp that can be seen from at least 300 feet away on either side of the bike and in front;
- A reflector (yellow or white) on each shoe, ankle, or pedal that is noticeable from the front and rear of the bike from at least 200 feet; and
- A red reflector on the back of the bike that is noticeable from at least 500 feet when in front of a moving vehicle’s headlights.
Discuss Your Claim with a Bicycle Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you’ve been injured or lost a family member in a bicycle crash, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks to discuss your case. Attorney Michael Waks can answer your questions in a free consultation and help you determine the most strategic way to approach the claims process. Call (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Form to set up a free case review.
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