Bicycles are treated similarly to vehicles as they, too, must obey the California Vehicle Code (CVC). As a general rule, bicyclists have the same obligations and responsibilities as drivers of vehicles, which include:
- Follow the Vehicle Code: Stop at stop signs and red lights, and obey any other law/regulation applicable to cars/vehicles.
- Go With the Flow of Traffic: Ride in the same direction as traffic, and if crossing on a one-way street in the opposite direction, walk the bicycle on the sidewalk.
- Ride on the Right Side of the Road: If you are riding at the traffic speed, you may ride in the traffic lane. If moving slower, ride as close to the right-hand curb or edge of the road as practicable. There are several exceptions to this rule when overtaking and passing another cyclist, readying to make a left-hand turn, and when “reasonably necessary to avoid conditions…” that would make the right-hand side unsafe to ride along (CVC 21202).
- Use the Bike Lanes: If the road has a bike lane, and you are moving slower than traffic, you must use this lane. Use the correct signal and exit when it is secure.
- Yield to Pedestrians: Pedestrians always have the right-of-way, even if they are not using crosswalks.
- Do Not Stop In the Crosswalk: Like cars, stop at the stop walk and not in it.
- Ride With Safety Equipment At Night: Lights and reflectors are needed at night. You or your bike must have a white light visible from a 300 feet distance. The cycle must also have a flashing red light with a reflector, white or yellow reflectors on pedals, shoes, ankles, and reflectors on the bike’s front, back, and sides.
- Wear a Helmet: If you are under the age of 18, you must wear a helmet, though everyone should wear a helmet. Bicyclists are at an increased risk of fatal head injuries, many preventable.
- One Ear Must Remain Uncovered: Wearing headphones, earbuds, or earplugs in both ears is not allowed.
- Bike Must Be of Regular Size: The bicyclist must be able to stop and support the cycle with at least one foot on the ground and take off safely.
- Working Brakes: Bicyclists must have a working brake and be able to make one wheel stop on the pavement.
What Is the Penalty for Not Wearing a Helmet?
The punishment for not wearing a helmet is a ticket and a fine. A parent who has been ticketed for their kid’s failure to wear a helmet to have the ticket can have their fine reversed when they demonstrate they have bought a helmet for the child.
Wearing a helmet is only one element when determining whether liability exists in a bicycle accident. Helmets defend against skull fractures, but whether or not they protect against concussions effectively has recently been challenged. If a minor wasn’t wearing a helmet when they were hit, and a skull fracture or other preventable head injury resulted, their parent bears some fault for failing to prevent the injury.
Are There Consequences for Hitting a Pedestrian with No Injuries?
It is essential to mention that just because a pedestrian was struck by a car does not mean that the motor vehicle driver is the party at fault. Therefore, before any criminal or civil liability is assigned to the driver, the at-fault party will be determined.
For instance, suppose a driver is driving along a downtown street with a green light, and a pedestrian runs out in front of their car and is subsequently struck by the car. There will likely be no consequences for the driver for hitting that pedestrian in that circumstance.
However, suppose in the same case, it is established that the motor vehicle driver was speeding while driving downtown and then struck the pedestrian who ran out in front of them. The driver may be held both civilly or criminally liable for hitting the pedestrian in that circumstance.
As noted above, more often than not, a pedestrian accident results in severe injuries to the pedestrian. Nevertheless, there are circumstances where a pedestrian is struck by a motor vehicle, and the injuries are minor or nonexistent. There may be no criminal or civil penalties for either party in such cases. It is essential to mention that some injuries may not be readily apparent in a pedestrian accident. Therefore, even if the pedestrian says that they are fine at the time, bruising, internal bleeding, soft tissue injuries, or broken bones still may have happened.
Frequently, pedestrians may state that they are okay after an accident. This is likely due to the adrenaline rush that happens following a collision, which in turn causes the person’s pain threshold to increase. This adrenaline rush can last for hours or even days. Nevertheless, that same pedestrian may encounter substantial pain days later. This is why police reports are often made at the scene of a pedestrian accident to ensure that both parties have the other party’s info, should they wish to proceed with filing a claim against the other.
Sometimes, there was no damage to the pedestrian, but there was still damage to the driver’s motor vehicle. In such circumstances, a police report evidencing the pedestrian suddenly appearing in front of the driver may assist the driver in filing a claim with their insurance company. The police report may also help the driver of the motor vehicle combat any ensuing criminal or civil liability that they may encounter.
Additionally, it is essential to mention that even if there were no injuries to the pedestrian, a motor vehicle operator might still be held strictly liable in some circumstances. For instance, if a driver is speeding in a school zone and hits a kid walking across a crosswalk, they will be strictly liable for that pedestrian accident, regardless of whether or not the kid is injured.
Additional Regulations and Privileges for Bicycles
Further, some regulations specifically pertain to bicyclists, including:
- Bicycles are not permitted on freeways;
- Bicyclists cannot ride under the influence of alcohol or mind-altering drugs;
- Passengers on bicycles are not permitted unless there is an intended, affixed seat on the bike;
- Cities and counties decide whether bicyclists are permitted on sidewalks;
- Bicyclists are not permitted on toll bridges unless authorized to do so by the California
- Department of Transportation; and
- Bicyclists can use a cell phone (this does not mean you should).
Depending on the municipality, bicyclists are sometimes permitted on sidewalks. As previously mentioned, cyclists must always yield to pedestrians, and drivers of vehicles must yield to pedestrians and cyclists. In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown enacted the “Three Feet for Safety Act,” which says drivers must give cyclists at least three feet of space or slow down until they can safely pass. Failure to do so may result in fines and civil and criminal liability in the case of an accident.
What Other Areas of the Law Concerns Bicycles?
In addition to traffic citations and fines, bicyclists may be held civilly accountable for any injuries they may have caused. This tort liability and even criminal charges may result if the bicyclist’s actions were reckless and caused extensive harm.
Should I Seek Legal Help?
If you have been charged with a traffic offense while bicycling, you may want to speak to a California criminal lawyer. An experienced attorney will be able to inform you of your rights, help you construct your case, and offer you guidance on how to proceed.