Bicyclists generally have the same rights as motorists to use public highways and streets. A bicyclist must observe the rules of the road and traffic regulations governing motor vehicles except as specifically provided otherwise. 

Bicyclists are required to exercise ordinary care for their own safety. This means which must exercise the same level of care that prudent persons of like age, intelligence, and experience would exercise under the same or similar circumstances.  

A motor vehicle, such as a car, truck, or motorcycle, is not entitled to the right of way over a bicycle. The driver of a motor vehicle must exercise due care to avoid injury to a bicyclist.  

Can Bicyclists Be Negligent?

Bicyclists, like motor vehicle drivers, can be negligent when operating their bicycles on the road. If there is an accident, the negligence of a bicyclist may be used by a motorist as a defense to liability

For example, an adult bicyclist may be guilty of negligence if they turn in front of an approaching motorist without first checking for approaching vehicles. Another example is where a bicyclist fails to follow the speed limits of the road, resulting in an accident with a car.

Other common examples of bicyclist negligence include:

  • Not bicycling in the proper lanes
  • Failing to use proper turn indicators or hand signals
  • Bicycling while intoxicated

In cases where the bicyclist is filing a lawsuit for injury damages, their damage award can sometimes be reduced if their own negligence is a cause of their injury. In some jurisdictions, they may be prevented from collecting damages (depending on the circumstances as well as local laws).

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What If the Bicyclist is a Child?

Where a child is riding a bicycle, his or her negligence is measured by different standards than adults. A child bicyclist may be too young to be chargeable with negligence. Where the bicyclist is a minor, that bicyclist is chargeable only with such care as would be exercised by a prudent person of like age and experience. 

Although a child may have sufficient judgment to be held liable for negligence, he or she may not be held for such negligence where the bicyclist is so young as to be incapable of exercising any care or discretion.

Under certain circumstances, it can sometimes be possible to hold the parents of a child bicyclist liable for injuries they cause (though these types of laws can vary from place to place).

Should I Consult an Attorney for a Bicycle Accident?

Determining liability in accidents is complex and many times both parties are partially to blame. A local personal injury attorney can help explain the law and protect your rights so that you can recover damages for you injury or protect yourself from liability.