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Protect Yourself When Cycling: Common Causes of Car-on-Bike Accidents in California

Most accidents between cars and bicycles are due to the failure of drivers to use proper care in the presence of bicyclists. The three most frequent causes of car-on-bike accidents are:

  • The driver of a car makes a right turn when a bicycle rider is riding across the street in a crosswalk.
  • Driver of a car exits a driveway and strikes a bicycle rider on the sidewalk.
  • Driver of a car strikes a bicycle rider while passing the bicycle rider.

You obviously cannot protect yourself from the carelessness of all drivers when you are on your bike, but you can increase your odds of avoiding serious injuries by assuming that every driver poses an immediate threat to your safety. Along with this defensive riding approach, you must follow the laws as they pertain to riding a bicycle in California. Operation of bicycles is covered in California Vehicle Code sections 21200 to 21212. While these code sections set forth the law and very good rules for staying safe while riding a bicycle, they are not the only laws regarding bicycle riders.

Local Laws Can Vary, Check With Your City or County

In addition to the California state law, each city and county may have its own local rules that cover riding a bicycle. For example, in the city of Los Angeles, riding a bicycle on a sidewlak is legal as long as it is done safely. In Santa Monica, however, local regulations prohibit riding on the sidewalk. If you are riding on the sidewalk and you are hit by a car exiting a driveway, in Santa Monica you would be accused of comparative negligence for the accident because you violated the local ordinance.

As a bicycle rider you are exposed and unprotected. Injuries to bicycle riders are more severe and long lasting than injuries to passengers in cars in most cases. Staying safe and accident prevention requires knowing the law and riding ultra defensively.


John P. Rosenberg
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