It’s not surprising that California leads other states in the number of fatal crashes. The state is home to many and receives lots of visitors due to its popularity.
However, busy cities and even busier roadways mean an increase in traffic accidents.
Take Downey, for instance, which isn’t even the biggest or busiest city in LA County. It has the fourth most dangerous intersection. With 36 crashes and 32 injuries courtesy of a single intersection, if you were an injury attorney in Downey, you’d likely be working overtime to ensure justice is served.
Besides motorists, the people who usually suffer fatal injuries in California are bike riders. Increasingly dangerous roadways and an increase in cyclists are a huge part of the problem.
If you tend to use bikes a lot in California, here are things you need to keep in mind:
You Must Follow Traffic Guidelines
While bicycles aren’t recognized as vehicles in California, as the rider, you’re still subject to the rules of the road. You’re not excused from following traffic guidelines just because you’re cycling.
It would be best to familiarize yourself with the California Vehicle Code because some of the provisions apply to cyclists.
When to Use Roadways
California laws don’t restrict cyclists from using roadways with other vehicles unless they are moving slower than vehicle traffic. In that case, bikers must use designated bike lanes.
If the road doesn’t have a bike lane, then you may use the road with other traffic but stick to the farthest lane on the right.
Remember that you’re still required to follow the same direction as the flow of traffic when using the road.
Other instances you’re allowed to use the roadway include when:
- Making a turn at an intersection or private road
- Avoiding dangers in the bicycle lane
- Passing pedestrians or other riders
It’s common to see people riding on the sidewalks, and they do that for various reasons. You may want to avoid the traffic where there’s no bike lane, or you may be heading in the opposite direction where the road is one way.
Regardless, it’s best to avoid cycling on a sidewalk unless you’re aware of the local guidelines because the rules on using sidewalks vary widely. Some jurisdictions allow it, and some don’t.
Santa Monica is one of the places where you’d be in trouble for riding on the sidewalk. The rule of thumb, if you’re unsure of the laws, is to walk your bike until you leave the sidewalk.
Wear a Helmet
For safety reasons, the NHTSA has made helmets a requirement for cyclists. Helmets are said to reduce the extent of head injuries by as much as 85%.
Considering bikes don’t have an outer body like cars, riders are more exposed, making a crash more dangerous. Wearing a helmet will at least provide your head some level of protection compared to not having one.
Bikes Should be in Good Condition
The law specifies that bikes should be in good condition and that the brakes and wheels are functioning well.
Neglecting your bicycle could land you in trouble in California.
Riders must also ensure that their bikes are adjusted for optimal control on the road.
You Shouldn’t Ride at Night
What makes accidents involving bicycles so devastating is the fact that only one party suffers. Cyclists are always at a disadvantage, and when crashes occur, they incur severe injuries that are often fatal.
For that reason, bicyclists are discouraged from riding at night due to limited visibility. Generally, motorists have difficulties seeing cyclists because they are usually in their blind spots. That problem gets worse at night.
If you must ride a bike at night in California, the law dictates that you should take measures to boost your visibility and assist drivers in noticing you.
State law requires the following if you ride in darkness:
- Have a lamp emitting white light
- Have reflectors and lights installed
- Wear visible clothing
- Install white or yellow reflectors on the pedals
Considering how vulnerable a bicyclist is when riding alongside vehicles, motorists in California have an obligation to look out for bikers and do what they can to provide safety.
However, as a rider, you’re also required to do your best to ensure your safety while riding alongside other traffic.