Sharing the Road with Bicyclists
According to data released by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 743 individuals died from cycling accidents involving a motor vehicle in 2013.
Florida had the highest percentage of cycling deaths, with 5.5% of all traffic fatalities being cyclists, and the highest fatality rate per million, with almost 7 deaths per million residents.
It also had the second highest number of cycling deaths in the nation, with 133 cyclist fatalities. With 250 million registered motor vehicles in the US, and almost 16 million bikes being purchased each year, the risk of cycling deaths is increasing at an alarming rate.
Although accidents are sometimes unavoidable, there are precautions and laws cyclists and drivers should be aware of when traveling on roads.
The 3 Foot Law
The most important thing to know is that, in most cases, cyclists have the right of way, much like a pedestrian. In fact, there’s a law in Florida that states a driver passing a bicyclist must leave at least 3 feet between the cyclist and the vehicle. If an accident occurs and the driver did not adhere to this law, the driver could be cited with a three-foot violation.
Check for cyclists when opening doors and pulling out of parking spaces.
If your car is pulled off to the side of the road, or parked in a parallel parking spot on a road, be sure to check your mirrors and look out your windows for cyclists before opening your car door. Not only does opening a door without checking risk injury to passing cyclists, it can also cause expensive damage to your vehicle if a cyclist collides with an open door.
Additionally, much like you would check for pedestrians and other vehicles when pulling out of a space, drivers should be sure to also check for cyclists. They move faster than pedestrians but are harder to see than vehicles, and a collision with a cyclist, even if the vehicle is moving very slowly, as it would coming out of a parking space, can not only cost the driver thousands of dollars, but they could also lose their license.
If there is not a marked bike lane, cyclists have the right to ride in the road with motor vehicles. Although cyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks, they’re also allowed to ride in the road. If a cyclist chooses not to use a sidewalk, they are legally allowed to ride on the right side of the road within the marked vehicle lane. Any pavement to the right of the white line outlining the lane is considered the gutter, and cyclists are not required to use this portion of the road.
Similarly, whenever there is a shoulder, cyclists are not required to ride in it, although they may if they prefer. Furthermore, like with pedestrians, it is the responsibility of the vehicles on the road to operate safely in the vicinity of a cyclist.
When turning right, or switching to a turning lane, check for cyclists. A cyclist has the right of way if they are proceeding straight and a vehicle is turning. Always make sure to check for a cyclist before shifting lanes or turning, even if there isn’t a bike lane on the road.
Bicyclists are legally allowed to exit a bike lane to avoid unsafe or hazardous conditions.
By law, cyclists can exit the bike lane temporarily to avoid hazards such as potholes, and obstructions such as branches or cars blocking the bike lane illegally. When you see a cyclist, always use caution, as they may have to pull out of the bike lane unexpectedly. This is one of the many reasons the three-foot law exists. It’s also important to remember that obstructing the bike lane with a motor vehicle for any amount of time, however short, is illegal.
Should an accident occur because a driver was blocking the bike lane, that driver could face legal repercussions.
Bicyclists are required to follow the same laws as motor vehicles, with regard to street signs and traffic lights; however, it’s important to remember that some cyclists may not respect these laws and could endanger themselves and drivers through different behaviors, such as ignoring stop signs or stop lights. The safest option for all drivers is to use extreme caution when driving near cyclists. Even if an accident isn’t the driver’s fault, it could cost thousands in damages and could even result in fatalities.
If you’re in an accident involving a bicycle and a motor vehicle, contact an attorney at the Shiner Law Group to make sure you’re protected. Shiner Law Group focuses on personal injury, auto accidents, car wreck injuries and slip and fall injuries in Florida.