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Right Turn Bicycle Accident Claims

Right-hand turn bicycle accident claims are, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence in my experience in providing legal representation for cyclists. An increasing number of people in Los Angeles and throughout California are choosing to ride bicycles as a primary mode of transportation to their jobs. The League of American Bicyclists reports that nearly 1 million Americans are using their bicycles to commute. Between 2000 and 2013, the percentage of people who chose to ride bicycles to commute increased by 105 percent.[1] According to the U.S. Census Bureau, several large cities in California are leading the way for bicycle commuting.[2] While choosing to commute by bicycle is healthier for the cyclists and for the environment, the riders are much likelier to suffer serious injuries if they are involved in collisions. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities when they are operating their cycles on the roads as do other motorists. Among the most common types of accidents, collisions involving motorists turning right are especially dangerous.

Rights and responsibilities of bicyclists

Under California Vehicle Code § 21200(a), bicyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as do other motorists when they are traveling on the state’s roadways.[3] While bicyclists are supposed to ride as far to the right as they possibly can, they are allowed to take the lane in the following circumstances under California Vehicle Code § 21202:

  • When the cyclist is passing
  • When the cyclist is preparing to turn left
  • When necessary to avoid hazards along the side of the road
  • When drawing near to a place where right turns are allowed [4]

Some officers and other motorists fail to understand that bicyclists do have the right to take the lane when one of these exceptions apply. An experienced personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles may help you if you have been injured and have had fault wrongly attributed to you by the officer for taking the lane under one of these circumstances.

Under California Vehicle Code § 21650, bicyclists are supposed to ride in the same direction of travel as other motorists.[5] Finally, if there is a bicycle lane available, bicyclists must use it unless they are turning left, trying to avoid hazards, passing other cyclists or approaching an area where right turns are allowed.[6]

Right-hand turn accidents

While bicycle accidents may be caused by a number of different factors, some of the most frequently occurring involve right-hand turns by motorists. There are three types of right-hand turn accidents that are especially dangerous and that bicyclists and motorists should take care to avoid.

Bicyclist to the right of vehicles at red lights

In this scenario, a vehicle is waiting at a red light when a cyclist stops to the motorist’s right. When the light turns green, the motorist turns right, colliding into the bicyclist. Cyclists may avoid this type of accident by staying out of the blind spots of the motorists. They may stop slightly ahead of the stopped vehicle or directly behind it. They should be especially cautious about stopping at a red light to the right of a large bus or truck because of the difficulty these drivers have of seeing around the large vehicles. Bicyclists should not move past the vehicle when the light turns green because some drivers fail to use their right turn signals and might turn unexpectedly.

Vehicle passes and turns directly in front of cyclist, cutting the cyclist off

Another common right-hand accident scenario involves a car that is traveling faster than a cyclist near an intersection. The vehicle then suddenly turns right across the cyclist’s path, causing the cyclist to collide into the side of the vehicle. In order to avoid this type of collision, bicyclists can take the lane so that they are more visible when they are approaching intersections where right turns are allowed. They should also avoid riding on sidewalks before crossing the streets because doing so might make them invisible to drivers who are turning right. Before getting to the intersection, bicyclists should glance in their handlebar mirrors so that they can see the vehicles that are approaching them.

Passing slow-moving vehicles or bicycles on the right

Another common type of right-hand bicycle collision involves cyclists who are passing slow-moving vehicles or other cyclists on the right when they are approaching areas where right-hand turns are allowed. The cars then suddenly turn right, colliding with the cyclists. You can avoid this type of collision by not passing cars or cyclists on the right. Instead, take the lane and pass the slower vehicles on the left.

Negligence in bicycle accident cases

Motorists in California owe a duty of reasonable care to bicyclists who are traveling on the roads around them. A part of this duty includes the duty to follow all relevant traffic laws. Examples of negligent driving behaviors may include the following:

  • Failing to signal when turning
  • Speeding
  • Cutting cyclists off
  • Failing to obey traffic control devices
  • Aggressive driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Inattentive driving

If a driver committed a traffic violation which caused the driver to have a right-hand collision with a bicyclist, the violation may be used to show that the driver was negligent per se.

In order to prove negligence, cyclists must show that the driver owed a duty of care to them and that the driver violated the duty that he or she owed. The cyclist must then show that the breach of duty was the direct or proximate cause of the accident, that the cyclist was injured and suffered financial harm. 

Resources

1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/debraborchardt/2017/05/15/one-million-bike-commuters-are-attracting-retailers-attention/#281f6a2e738d

2. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/2016/comm/bike2work.html

3. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=21200

4. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=21202

5. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=21650

6. http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=VEH&sectionNum=21208

Copyright © 2017 · Steven Sweat

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About this Author

Steven M. Sweat, Personal injury law firm, Southern California, Los Angeles
Principle Founding Attorney

Steven M. Sweat, is the principal founding attorney of Steven M. Sweat, APC, a California personal injury law firm based in Los Angeles with offices throughout Southern California.  Steven was born in 1970 and grew up in Florida.  He attended Florida State University and graduated in 1992, Cum Laude.  He thereafter moved to San Diego, California where he attended and graduated from California Western School of Law in 1995.

For over two decades Steven has been litigating a wide range of civil claims.  He has been described as a "pit bull with a huge heart" and takes pride in helping...

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