The morning and evening commute has changed. Now more cyclists ride to work. For some motorists unaccustomed to sharing the road with bicycles it may seem as though cyclists do not always follow the same rules. Riders must follow the same rules of the road as drivers, and most do. Some tips can help ease the relationship between riders and drivers.
Cyclists face more risks since they do not have the protection of a steel frame like those who are riding or driving a car, sport utility vehicle, truck or van. Common motor vehicle versus bicycle accidents happen when drivers are not watching for bikes while making turns or opening their car doors.
Watch For Cyclists
A change in thinking requires motorists to assume that cyclists will also be on the road. A change in assumption can help motorists begin to look for bikes. This may mean looking to the right to check a blind spot before making a right-hand turn on a green light. Many drivers might not always check their right-hand blind spot. A cyclist has the same right as an automobile to go straight through the green light, but a bicycle travels in the bike lane on the right. Looking before turning can prevent an accident.
Parked vehicles pose a danger for cyclists riding at speeds up to 20mph in the bike lane. When a driver suddenly opens his or her door, it can cause a crash. Cyclists can fall into the main roadway and suffer severe injury after colliding with a door. An extra glance over a shoulder can prevent this from happening.
Making left-hand turns onto busy streets used by pedestrians and bicycles also requires extra caution. Most drivers pay attention for other cars, but they need to look at the bike lane before making a left-hand turn to ensure a rider is not approaching.
Right-of-way Rules Same for Motorists and Cyclists
In a Virginia case, this exact situation occurred. A minivan driver was making a left-hand turn. As a cyclist approached, he saw the minivan and was confident the driver saw him. He glanced down to check his speed. When he looked up the minivan driver was turning in front of him. The cyclist was unable to stop. He hit the minivan and was thrown from his bike suffering serious shoulder, wrist and thigh injuries.
The driver admitted not seeing the cyclist. In a subsequent lawsuit, however, the driver of the minivan argued that the cyclist's contributory negligence of glancing down caused the accident. Contributory negligence occurs if a person who is injured played a part in causing the accident and injury.
In this case, the trial court found the cyclist's contributory negligence was a proximate cause of the accident under Virginia law. The Virginia Supreme Court, however, reversed and ordered a new trial explaining that a jury could have found that the cyclist had no opportunity to avoid the accident even if he had not glanced down. Generally, a jury decides issues of negligence and proximate cause.
Speak With a Bicycle Accident Lawyer Today
A cyclist can be at fault for an accident, but bicycles do have the same right-of-way rights as motor vehicles. If injured in a cycling accident, it is important to consult a personal injury attorney who can advise of your rights and possible remedies. Schedule a free consultation today at Kearney, Freeman, Fogarty & Joshi, PLLCby calling 703-691-8333.