Cycling can be a great way to stay fit, have fun and benefit the environment. However, it can also be a dangerous hobby if cyclists, and drivers, do not follow certain safety protocols.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2015, 45,000 cyclists were injured and 818 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles. As injury and fatality rates continue to rise each year, it is important for cyclists to be informed of local laws and ways to stay safe.
Examples of Arizona bicycle laws include:
- Stop for stop signs and red lights (ARS 28-644).
- Always use a white headlight and a red rear reflector when you cycle before sunrise or after sunset (ARS 28-817).
- Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks (ARS 28-792).
Bicycle Accident Liability
Most crashes between motorists and cyclists happen at intersections. Generally, when the accident is the fault of the motorist, it is because they failed to yield the right-of-way to the cyclist. Oftentimes, this occurs when the motorist turns in front of a cyclist, or pulls out from a stop sign, or driveway, into a cyclist’s path.
Many times, a cyclist is severely injured when they have been in an accident with a motor vehicle due to the drastic size difference and the cyclist’s lack of protection. If the accident is the fault of the driver, many times a civil suit will be brought against the at-fault driver based on negligence. Other possible claims include: hit-and-run, bike lane violations, tailgating, wrongful death, bicycle manufacturer defects, dangerous road conditions and drivers running stop signs or red lights.
Bicycle injury claims are generally regarded as personal injury claims and must be filed within two years from the date of the accident. Barring certain circumstances, Arizona has a two-year personal injury statute of limitations. However, this time limit can be shortened to as little as six months if a claim is brought against a governmental entity.
Bicycle Safety Tips
According to most states’ laws, cyclists have the very same rights and responsibilities as motorists. Therefore, it is important for a cyclist to understand that although vehicles should be on the lookout for them, they also have the same responsibility to look for vehicles and follow traffic laws. Other safety tips that cyclists should consider include:
- Wear a helmet. Almost seventy five percent of fatal bicycle crashes involve a head injury. California’s vehicle code 21200(a) requires any person under 18 that is operating a bicycle on a street, bikeway or bicycle path or trail to wear a helmet. Although Arizona (some local municipalities have enacted their own laws) and Colorado do not have laws requiring helmets, it is a simple and effective way to help ensure safety.
- Before each ride, make sure that your bicycle is ready to ride. Inspect your bike to make sure all parts are secure and working properly.
- Check your tire pressure and inflate tires properly.
- Always wear a visible piece of bright or reflective clothing when riding during the day.
- When riding at night, always wear something that reflects light. Make sure that you have reflectors on the front and rear of your bike (lights are required).
- Remember that a bicycle is considered a vehicle and must obey all traffic laws. Make sure to stop at stop signs, follow traffic signals, and stay within lane markings.
- Bicycles do not have turn signals so it is important to signal your moves to others.
- Before entering an intersection be proactive and look both ways to observe the traffic.
- Stay alert at all times, watching for potholes, cracks, wet leaves, storm grates, railroad tracks, or anything that could make you lose control of your bike.
- Although vehicles should be looking for cyclists, just as cyclists should be looking for vehicles, it is important to try and stay out of a driver’s blind spot.
- Many cyclists get injured when a parked vehicle opens their door and hits the cyclists (getting “doored”). Make sure that you ride far enough from the curb to avoid unexpected parked cars. However, if you must ride close to the curb, look ahead at parked cars to anticipate if a driver or passenger may open their door.
Cyclists are not the only ones that need to be aware and proactive. Drivers also need to be aware of cyclists and follow certain safety protocols, including:
- Understand that cyclists have the same rights on the road as vehicles.
- Accept that cycling is a great transportation option, which is only gaining in popularity. Drivers need to adjust their attitude that cyclists are, “in their way.”
- Cyclists and drivers have the same laws and share the roadways equally.
- At intersections make sure that you have looked in your blind spots before making right or left turns.
- Give cyclists at least three feet of clearance. Of course, cyclists cannot go as fast as a vehicle, respect their speed and do not tailgate them.
- Be proactive when you drive and look around. Do not be on your phone.
- Look before you exit your vehicle to eliminate the possibility of a cyclist getting “doored.”
Cycling has endless social, physical and financial benefits. Whether you are commuting to work, adventuring in the mountains, or cruising down the boardwalk, be proactive about your safety in order to keep you, and your family, from becoming a bicycle collision statistic.