While solo bicycle accidents are more common, collisions with cars and trucks pose a greater safety hazard. Similar to motorcycle riders, cyclists have little to no protection in an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 846 bicyclists died in traffic crashes in 2019.
Typically, the motorist bears most of the responsibility in an accident due to the vehicle’s size and the bicyclist’s risk of injury. Yet cyclists are not completely off the hook. As the COVID-19 pandemic saw a 75 percent surge in bicycle sales, it’s important for all riders to understand responsibility and appropriate riding behaviors to avoid an accident.
Is a Bicycle a Vehicle?
While certain states consider bicycles to be vehicles, Connecticut puts them in a semi-hybrid category. Despite this classification, bicyclists are expected to follow the same rules of the road as any vehicle.
Riders also have the same rights as pedestrians when using a sidewalk or crosswalk and are expected to ride with caution. More specifically, bicycle riders in Connecticut:
- Must only ride on the right side of the road with oncoming traffic, except when:
- Passing a vehicle going in the same direction
- Making a left turn
- Avoiding an obstacle in the road
- Making a right turn from a right-turn lane
- Riding along a one-way road
- Can ride on the sidewalk but have to yield to pedestrians unless the area specifically forbids sidewalk riding.
- Can ride side-by-side in groups of two but cannot take up any more space on the road.
- Are granted a minimum of three feet of space by passing cars and trucks.
- Are not allowed to use a parkway or state highway unless a bike path is provided.
- Must abide by state DUI and texting and driving laws.
- Must wear a helmet if under age 16.
- Need to stay visible at night with a front light that can be seen from at least 500 feet and rear reflectors and side material visible by at least 600 feet.
When Is a Motorist at Fault?
When an accident occurs, responsibility typically falls onto the motorist. When might a car or truck driver be found at fault for a collision with a cyclist?
- The motorist is not watching for bicyclists. They might fail to check their blind spots or look both ways before backing out of a driveway.
- The motorist makes a turn and runs into a bicyclist in the intersection. Although the rider has the right-of-way, about 45 percent of accidents involving a bicycle and car occur at an intersection.
- The motorist is driving distracted or recklessly, speeding or running red lights. If a bicycle is passing through the intersection and is not seen, these accidents can become fatal.
- The motorist is driving drunk, drugged or drowsy. Impaired judgment can cause a driver not to maintain at least three feet of distance from a bicycle rider.
Considering these factors, cyclists should always remain visible, ride defensively and observe the actions of other motorists.
When Is a Cyclist Responsible?
Although a bicycle is not considered a “vehicle” in Connecticut, cyclists are still expected to follow the rules of the road. Accidents can occur when a bicyclist is careless or negligent. Common factors that can put the blame on a cyclist include:
- Failing to follow traffic signals, including stop lights and signs
- Riding on the wrong side of the street
- Not riding with the direction of traffic
- Not giving a car the right-of-way at an intersection
- Engaging in negligent behaviors, like using a phone while riding
- Not riding in the bike lane when it’s required to do so
- Not using hand signals before making a turn
- Making an unsafe lane change
Bicyclists can also be held responsible for an accident with a pedestrian. To avoid a crash:
- Always be alert to pedestrians in the crosswalk and on the sidewalk
- Announce yourself as you approach by saying “on your left” or using a bell
- Stop or yield to pedestrians
- Minimize sidewalk riding and know a town’s rules for doing so
In all instances, your responsibility for an accident will be evaluated. Contributory negligence can lessen your compensation based on your share of the responsibility. If you’re found to be the primary cause of the accident, you will receive no award.
Children are exempt from responsibility in a traffic accident with the understanding they are still learning the rules of the road.
Were you involved in a bicycle accident and suffered life-changing injuries? Our bicycle accident attorneys can help get the compensation you deserve. To bring your claim to our team, contact Trantolo & Trantolo today.