Decades ago, bicycles were thought of as the vehicles of children, used primarily for the enjoyment, adventures and explorations of those too young to drive. As traffic becomes more congested, and the population becomes more worried about getting enough exercise and protecting the planet from fossil fuels, bicycles have become more popular on city streets. They are put to increased use by commuters, delivery persons, college students, and those who simply find them a more efficient means of getting from one side of town to the other. Bikes are especially popular in Los Angeles, a city blessed with pleasant weather year-round.
Nonetheless, bicycles have a downside since those who ride them are much more prone to catastrophic injuries than those who ride the city streets protected by the external metal cage of a car, truck, or bus. Tragically, drivers who have collisions with bicycles are more likely to hit and run because of their fear of being held responsible for severely injuring the cyclist. If you or a loved one is seriously harmed by a driver while riding a bicycle, it is essential that you contact an experienced bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible.
Stay Safe by Obeying the Law
If you intend to bicycle in L.A., it is essential that you know the rules of the road as they pertain to cyclists. While it is legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in L.A. unless you do so “with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property,” riding on the sidewalk is illegal in other cities in L.A. County, so make certain you know the laws of the area you’re riding in. Other laws you should be aware of include:
- Children 17 years old or under are required to wear bicycle helmets
- Bicycle helmets sold in California must meet legal safety standards
- Bicyclists (throughout the U.S.) must ride on the right side of the street – with traffic
- Bicyclists must obey all traffic signals
- Bicycles, like cars, must pass on the left
- Cyclists must use hand signals to indicate their intention to turn
Remember: Although You’re Obeying the Law, Motorists May Not Be
Dangers abound on the roads of L.A., especially if you’re riding a bicycle. Be wary of:
- Distracted drivers who are texting, eating, gesticulating
- Drivers who speed, fail to signal, only come to rolling stops
- Those who open car doors into traffic without using “Dutch reach”*
* “Dutch reach” means turning to open the door with one’s right hand to make sure oncoming traffic is seen
Unfortunately, in spite of the increased prevalence of bicycles on the roads of L.A., many motorists drive without paying attention to two-wheeled vehicles. This means that as a cyclist you must take extra precautions in order to remain safe.
The Pros and Cons of Riding a Bicycle in L.A.
If you’re an ardent bicyclist, you know the distinct satisfaction of getting from one place to another using your own power. Add to that the more direct contact with your natural surroundings – the sun’s warmth on your face, the wind’s cool flurry – and you have a recipe for pleasure, even in the midst of city traffic. Anyway, you often have an advantage when there are traffic jams since you have more flexibility than those steering much more cumbersome vehicles. As a matter of fact, many people find they can cut their travel time by riding a bicycle through city streets.
The drawbacks to city bicycling, however, are also very real. If you have even a minor collision with a motor vehicle, you may be severely injured. If you experience the horror of a hit-and-run and are left incapacitated on the roadway, you are at great risk of being hit by another vehicle.
Though it may seem to you that the driver of the larger, much more powerful vehicle should be held responsible for your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering, California follows a system of pure comparative negligence when awarding damages to victims. This means that you (the bicyclist) may be deemed partially, or even totally, at fault for the accident. If so, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of responsibility you are determined to bear. This is why, no matter what your perception of the accident, you need a highly-skilled bike accident lawyer to fight for your rights after a bike accident.
Exercise Special Care While Riding a Bicycle
Though you have as much right to travel on city streets as any motorist, it is wise to take extra precautions by:
- Making sure that you’re visible by wearing bright colors, having reflective stripes on your clothing and your bike, and using front and rear light at twilight and after dark
- Riding with other cyclists whenever possible
- Paying attention to poor road surfaces due to weather, debris, or lack of repair
- Resisting the temptation to pedal through an intersection that looks clear
Although bicycling is a form of recreation as well as a practical type of travel, riding a bike in L.A. or any other city should never be taken lightly. When you exercise caution while bicycling, the life you save will more than likely be your own.