Learn about California’s bicycle accident laws

Frank S. Clowney III

California has some of the busiest roadways in the country, and they’re often filled with both motor vehicles and bicycles. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when a motor vehicle and bicycle collide, it is usually the bicyclist that sustains more serious injuries. It is helpful to learn the basics of bicycle accident laws in California, to decrease the risk of a catastrophic accident.

Bicyclists in California have a duty to operate their bicycle in a safe and reasonable manner, the same as motor vehicle drivers. The California Vehicle Code states that a bicyclist can ride wherever they want on the road only if they are traveling at the same speed as motor vehicle traffic.

If a bicyclist is traveling at a slower speed, they must use the bike lane. There are two different types of bike lanes. The bike lane connected to the moving traffic is the “protected” bike lane, but once the lane separates from traffic from things like buildings, signs or parking lots, it is a “separated” bike lane and is not required to be used.

Stay on the right side of the road

Sometimes there is no bike lane available. Bicyclists are then required to stay close to the right side of the road, going with the direction of traffic. The exceptions to this are when making a left turn, passing or riding on a one-way street or narrow road.

Bicyclists are legally allowed to ride in a vehicle lane, depending on the circumstances. If they are approaching an intersection to make a legal turn or if the road becomes too narrow for a motor vehicle and bicycle to share, a bicyclist may use the vehicle lane.

Bike paths serve an important purpose. They are designed to keep bicyclists safe and reduce the chance of an accident. For that reason, the law forbids bicyclists from parking their bike or coming to a stop on the paths.

Even the most careful bicyclists can find themselves the victim of a bicycle accident, which can result in a host of repercussions including serious injuries, medical bills and extensive pain and suffering. Therefore, understanding the law and rights under it is vital.