A Collection of Handy Legal Tips for Riders


I’ve been catching up on my Urbanvelo crawling and thought I’d pull together some bits and pieces from their regular Legalese column, which I found helpful for urban cycling…

1. What to Do After a Bike Accident

This one is all pretty much common sense, but it’s good to revisit it from time to time because frankly, after an accident, you’re so high on adrenaline and shock that it’s hard to be logical anyway. Good to have the routine down. I break many of these rules, based on my previous accidents. I have never called an ambulance or the cops, and I have virtually never had access to witnesses. But give it a read. I’m reminded how much of this I don’t do out of I guess wishful thinking and ego (I’m not hurt, I’m OK, tough it out…)
http://urbanvelo.org/cycling-legalese-b … ident-101/

2. The Legality of Biking Under the Influence

Lung and I have done our fair share of lit riding, in several meanings of that term, over the years, and frequently without incident, largely I think due to the fact that we weren’t DRUNK, just fuzzy, and when a certain someone WAS drunk, well, he’s got stitches to account for it. And of course, the SMART play is to only ride sober because even sober riding is a near-death experience. But for those that choose to engage and then rage, it pays to know what you’re liable for in the event of an event. In California, I was surprised to learn that we are not held to DUI laws… but we do have a BUI statute… with a surprisingly modest $250 max fine. I would wager that this would be levied at the casual, mildly intoxicated rider, or at sober riders being harassed I suppose. Were you to be drunk on a bike, I’m sure the cops would through public drunkenness laws at you and you’d be in hotter water. Other states treat BUIs as either unenforceable, or no different than DUIs, seemingly tied to whether that state sees a bicycle as a vehicle or not. But let’s not kid ourselves: it is, riding one lit is a bad idea, and when we, as consequence-aware adults do it, well, we should know what to expect. This article doesn’t mention the civil legal ramifications of drunk riding, however, which I would suspect are quite high. Collide with a pedestrian or their car (ahem) and you’re in for a financial squeeze.
http://urbanvelo.org/cycling-legalese-b … influence/

3. Where Should You be Riding?

As plenty of angry drivers will tell you, loudly, many people think bikes belong on the sidewalk, which is patently untrue and unsafe. However, there seems to be much dispute int he bike community about where and how to ride within the street itself. I’ve always said that you need to stay to the right unless unsafe to do so. It’s also common sense: riding in the middle of the lane, when it slows other vehicle traffic behind you, is a recipe for an altercation. But riders shouldn’t be afraid to get out into the lane when their are obstructions, unsafe road conditions, parked cars, taxis, slower riders, and so on. I think the key, as with most bike/car interaction, is respect. I hate seeing riders rolling two or three ride on a roadway. I hate seeing riders just randomly taking the lane. It’s bad mojo for all of us. But I also hate seeing riders panic because they feel wedged between car traffic and a rain gutter or something. The important thing to do is signal or ease out, don’t just swerve. Because we tend to lose in those situations on a mass comparison. In California: “Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” Cal. Veh. Code Section 21202(a). The law goes on to note a number of exceptions where a bicyclist may move out of the right side of the road such as when passing another vehicle or bicycle, when preparing to turn left and, importantly, “When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge.”
http://urbanvelo.org/cycling-legalese-w … e-roadway/

4. The Unseeing Eye

This was a great one. The columnist discusses the fallacy of the ‘I didn’t see the cyclist’ defense in civil negligence cases involving motorists striking bicyclists. I’ve often argued that it’s an unfair reality that cyclists are expected, and OBLIGATED, to make themselves seen through predictable riding. It’s unfair, but the basic problem with the ‘unseeing eye’ argument is that it’s generally a moot point, right? Doesn’t matter WHY they didn’t see you. A ghost bike is a ghost bike. I think about this often, as a cyclist who is also a motorist, and it stems from my motorcycle riding days: I’ve always been alarmed by how hard it is to see motorcyclists, let alone cyclists, in the road around and behind you, as they are frequently moving rapidly between lanes, accelerating at a different speed than the cars, and threading lanes between them. Add to all that the even smaller profile of a cyclist and the fact that some cyclists, including those of us here at Team Lope, have found occasion to thread the lane, ride in the lane with traffic, and so on. We are practically invisible, and that’s under the BEST CASE conditions where the motorists are alert. In this article, the columnist points out that not seeing the rider is no defense: if you can’t see safely, don’t move the vehicle. I think this is true. I’ve lived it, both as a motorist and as a cyclist. It’s just sad that in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re the cyclist who got mowed down.
http://urbanvelo.org/cycling-legalese-b … f-nowhere/

In addition, he goes on to offer these tips for maximum visibility:
http://urbanvelo.org/cycling-legalese-v … edictable/

I liked them all, and frequently argue with my better half for all of these things even as motorists, let alone cyclists. Assertive, predictable, highly visible. It pays. I never really gave much thought to operating a headlight during the day, but it’s funny, I drive with them on in the MINI…

And finally, related to the above, yes, if a motorist doors you, they are in the wrong. But it pays to not be doored in the first place.

Good stuff!


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