Bicycling anywhere can be a hazard. California is one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the US, but its bicycle death rate is also double the national average at 4% of all motor vehicle deaths.
The best way to avoid any injuries is for bicyclists and motorists alike to be safe. California recently enacted the Three Feet for Safety Act, which mandates that motorists give bicyclists at least three feet of space on the road and when passing. Violators are subject to a fine of $35. If an accident occurs, the fine jumps to $229 or higher.
Bicyclists have an obligation to be safe as well. California has state-specific laws bicyclists must obey. Try to ride in bicycle lanes whenever possible, and always wear a helmet, even though California does not have a law mandating that bicyclists wear helmets as long as they’re over the age of 18. A helmet has been shown to reduce the risk of head injuries by up to 85%. The only area of California that mandates that riders of all ages wear a helmet is Bidwell Park.
Bicyclists riding in traffic must maintain a speed as fast as normal traffic or ride as close to the right-hand side of the road as possible, unless special circumstances arise such as left turns or passing other bicyclists. Bicyclists may not hitch rides on other vehicles or ride while carrying an item that causes them to take both hands off the handlebars.
Bicycles must be equipped with at least one brake. They also cannot have handlebars that are higher than the rider’s shoulders or that is too big to allow a rider to come to a stop safely.
If riding at night, a bicyclist must have:
- One white headlight
- A red reflector on the rear of the bike
- A white or yellow reflector on the bike’s pedals or rider’s shoes
- A white or yellow reflector on the center of the bicycle (on each side)
But what if you’re a bicyclist and you get injured by a motorist? One thing you can do is to file a personal injury (PI) claim. First, you’ll need to determine who was at fault. California bicyclists have to obey the same rules of the road as motorists, and the most common cause of bike accidents is running a red light.
In the state of California, you have two years to file a personal injury claim from the date of the incident. The only exception to this rule is if you find an injury long after the accident occurred. In this scenario, you will have one year to file a claim after finding the injury.
For more information about California bicycle laws, check out the California Bicycle Coalition.
Deanna Power works for Personal Injury Law.