Are Bicyclists Required to Use Bike Lanes?

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When bicyclists ride down a roadway with a bike lane and travel slower than traffic, California law requires them to use a bike lane except when passing, avoiding hazardous conditions, approaching a red light, and making a left turn. These requirements ensure the safety of bicycle riders and everyone on the road.

Practically, this means that other motorists MUST also keep a lookout for bicyclists, and anticipate that they have a legal right to exit the bike lane. The law requires motorists to keep a 3 ft. buffer and move over to the left lane if they are able to. Why? This is to protect bicyclists from the devastating consequences of an accident.

California has over 100 bicyclists fatalities and over 10,000 injuries due to collisions annually. With so many incidents, California residents express concern for those inhabiting roads and question the safety and maintenance of bike lanes within the state. If you or your loved one suffer severe injuries in a California bike accident, speak with Attorney Pajman Jassim without delay. It is critically important to preserve evidence, collision reports, witness statements, and policy bodycam footage and photos.

Who Is Liable for a Bicycle Accident in California?

Most California bicycle accidents occur in collisions with motor vehicles on roadways. While the person responsible for the accident is generally the motor vehicle driver, others may hold some liability for the crash.

Where You Can Ride

If you’re moving as fast as traffic, you can ride wherever you want. If you’re moving slower than traffic, you can “take the lane” if it’s not wide enough for a bike and a vehicle to safely share side-by-side.

The law says that people who ride bikes must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable except under the following conditions: when passing, preparing for a left turn, avoiding hazards, if the lane is too narrow to share, or if approaching a place where a right turn is authorized. (Cal. Vehicle Code 21202)

Unfortunately, some motorists and even the police don’t understand cyclists’ right to “take the lane.”

This is one of the many reasons you need to contact an experienced and knowledgeable bike accident attorney at Jassim Law if you are involved in a crash.

The caution required of the driver of a motor vehicle when passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction on a highway is governed by Veh. Code § 21760, which requires that the driver must pass in compliance with the requirements applicable to overtaking and passing a vehicle, and do so at a safe distance that does not interfere with the safe operation of the overtaken bicycle, having due regard for the size and speed of the motor vehicle and the bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and the surface and width of the highway [Veh. Code § 21760(b)].

That statute also provides that when passing a bicycle, the driver of the motor vehicle must provide at least 3 feet between any part of the vehicle and any part of the bicycle or its operator, and when overtaking or passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction and in the same lane of travel, a driver must, if another lane of traffic proceeding in the same direction is available, make a lane change into another available lane with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law, before overtaking or passing the bicycle [Veh. Code § 21760(c)].

When unable to comply with those directives due to traffic or roadway conditions, the driver must slow to a speed that is reasonable and prudent and pass only when doing so would not endanger the safety of the operator, taking into account the size and speed of the motor vehicle and bicycle, traffic conditions, weather, visibility, and surface and width of the highway [Veh. Code § 21760(d)]

Often, the investigating officers incorrectly place some or all the fault on the cyclist. Why? Because many officers are not properly trained in accident investigation, and the laws that pertain to bicycle collisions.

Another reason police tend to place blame on the cyclist is that often the cyclist is too injured to give a statement, too injured to tell their side of the story, or taken from the scene in an ambulance before a thorough investigation.

That means the investigating police officers only obtain the statements of the other parties, who can be self-interested, incomplete, or downright false. Unless there’s a crime involved, i.e., an intoxicated driver, the police usually simply take statements, identify the parties, and make a report. They are not concerned with determining who is legally at fault, and they leave that to the parties and their attorneys.

Too often, untrained and uninformed laborers, landscapers, construction workers, and other workers place hazards and obstructions in bike lanes, which put the cyclist in danger and require the cyclist to maneuver out of the bike lane area and into the roadway traffic. Too often, the outcome is catastrophic. The cyclist may be able to hold the person(s) or companies who created the hazards accountable.

Merely putting up a few traffic cones is not enough to safely warn, or control the flow of traffic. The result is that the cyclist is put in extreme danger, with catastrophic consequences.

With certain exceptions for utility or public utility vehicles, newspaper delivery vehicles, and garbage trucks [see Veh. Code § 21211(c)–(e)], no person shall stop, stand, sit, or loiter on any bikeway as defined in Sts. & Hy. Code § 890.4, or on any bicycle path or trail if the act impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist [Veh. Code § 21211(a)]. Neither shall any person place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or other object on any bikeway or bicycle path or trail that impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless it is necessary for safe operation or it is in compliance with the law [Veh. Code § 21211(b)].

These exceptions DO NOT apply to simply anyone who claims to be working on the side of the road or blocking/impeding a bike lane. These are narrow exceptions.

While we often see workers block and obstruct bike lanes, that does not mean that it is legal, safe, or acceptable. Such hazards and obstructions are often created without regard for the safety of cyclists, and the dangerous situations they are put in.

If a bicycle malfunction occurs and results in a severe accident, the rider may also hold the designer, manufacturer, or distributor responsible for the losses they incur after an accident. Determining who is liable for an accident can be challenging and requires a thorough investigation of the evidence. Your lawyer MUST have the knowledge and resources necessary to collect vital evidence and information for your claim and showcase the other party’s negligence. This is another reason why you should not delay or wait to hire a San Diego personal injury attorney.

Types of Damages Can You Recover in a California Bicycle Injury Claim

A major reason bicycle accidents often result in catastrophic injuries is the simple fact that cyclists are extremely vulnerable when compared to forces of impact from a vehicle, which today is often a large SUV or truck. Even with the best protective gear, such as a helmet, a cyclist is extremely vulnerable.

While the specific damages you are eligible for depend on the circumstances of your accident and the extent of your injuries, consider the following common recoverable damages:

  • Non-Economic harms (Pain and suffering)
    • Loss of enjoyment of life
    • Physical Impairment
    • Disfigurement
    • Mental suffering
    • Pain
    • Anxiety/Grief
    • Inconvenience
  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses
  • Cost of prescription medication
  • Lost wages or income (past and for the future)
  • Loss of companionship
  • Damages for the injury to a spouse or registered domestic partner (Loss of Consortium)
  • Wrongful death damages for spouses and children, including adult children
  • Punitive damages

Having an attorney that is an expert, experienced, and passionate about the law and how injuries affect your life, and the lives of your loved ones is crucial to recovering your full damages.

Not every attorney has the resources and expertise to obtain full justice for you or your loved one. An experienced attorney will have the tools and resources to accurately calculate and present your damages to a jury and the adversarial insurance company. At Jassim Law, we have the resources and access to the nation’s top experts to investigate bike collisions.

California allows those injured in bicycle accidents two years from the collision date to file a claim against the responsible party. However, the sooner you speak with a knowledgeable lawyer, the more time they have to gather medical documents and evidence. As soon as you can, contact Jassim Law to start your bicycle accident claim today.

If a government entity holds any liability, you only have 6 months from the collision/injury to file a claim. This unusually short deadline often prevents injured parties from obtaining full justice if a claim is not filed on time.

Work With a Highly-Qualified California Bicycle Accident Attorney at Jassim Law Today

When another person’s careless actions result in life-changing harm, you deserve to hold them accountable and recover the compensation necessary for a full and smooth recovery.

This is civil justice in the United States.

With over 20 years of experience protecting the rights of California residents and keeping communities safe, Jassim Law utilizes expert witnesses and professionals to prove the responsible party’s fault and negligence. Our San Diego personal injury lawyers understand your challenges and will offer knowledgeable legal guidance to provide the best possible outcome for your claim.

Schedule a free consultation with Attorney Pajman Jassim by calling (619) 630-2680 or completing our contact form today.