Bicycle Accident Rules and Liability

Ever see bicyclists driving on the road, in concert with cars? Did you know that in Virginia, the bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle and the bicyclist is a driver?

Bicyclists in Virginia have the same rights to the roadways and must obey the same traffic laws as the drivers of other vehicles. These laws include stopping for stop signs and red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using lights at night, yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks.

If a cyclist is not riding as fast as current motor vehicle traffic, the cyclist must ride as far to the right side of the road as possible. (On one-way streets, the cyclist may instead ride to the far left.) If a special bike lane is provided, usually on the far right of the roadway, a cyclist is required to use it.

A bicyclist may leave the side of the road or the bike lane:

  • If the cyclist keeps up with moving traffic;
  • If the lane is too narrow to share safely with passing cars;
  • To make a left turn;
  • To avoid debris or other hazards.

Space Given by Passing Motor Vehicles

Because a bicyclist has as much right to the road as does a motorist, a motor vehicle coming up behind a cyclist has a responsibility not to pass unless and until it is safe to do so. The motorist may need to slow down and wait until there is enough space, or change lanes. Except for moving to the far right of the lane, it is not the cyclist’s duty to stop or otherwise get out of the motorist’s way.

Liability in Bicycle Versus Vehicle Collisions

When a collision occurs between a bicycle and a vehicle, a determination of who is liable is usually case specific. In many cases, liability is based upon whoever had the right-of-way at the time of the accident. One example is a right turn right-of-way.

One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents is a collision with a car turning right. While making a right turn, a car passes through the path of a cyclist, whether the cyclist is traveling in a traffic lane or in a bike lane. Some of these accidents happen when a car passes a cyclist, then slows down while turning right, moving directly into the path of a bicyclist who has nowhere to turn. Or a motorist simply turns right directly into a cyclist without seeing, and often without looking for, the bike.

In either of these situations, the motorist is liable for the accident. One of the basic rules of the road is that a vehicle may not make a turn unless it is safe to do so. Because a cyclist has as much right to the road as a motor vehicle, and because side-of-the-road laws force cyclists to the right, a cyclist is entitled to continue straight through an intersection without yielding to a motorist turning right.

Been in a Bicycle Accident? Contact a Northern Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

Representing bicycle accident victims requires a team of aggressive investigators and lawyers all devoting their maximum effort to their clients. At the Avery Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys investigate every claim so that we may aggressively and zealously represent our clients and obtain the best possible results.

The Avery Law Firm knows the pain and inconvenience associated with a bicycle accident. Our attorneys are ready and willing to represent you in your case today. To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a Fairfax personal injury attorney, please call us at 703-462-5050 or contact us online today.