Most motorists are aware of what their rights and responsibilities are on the roadways of this country. Or, at least they should be. After all, everyone is required to read the manual before taking the written portion of a driver’s test. But what about bicyclists? As Dallas bike accident lawyers, we’re painfully aware that many drivers possess a gap in their knowledge when it comes to the rights of the bicyclists who share the road with them.
Driver manuals usually cover how one should interact with other vehicles on the road, sometimes offering only a passing mention of safe driving practices around bicyclists or pedestrians who may be navigating the same roadways.
For example, did you know that a bicyclist has the same rights and privileges on the roadway that a motorist does? By ignoring or being unaware of bicyclists’ rights either as the operator of a motor vehicle or as a bicyclist, you might be more likely to become involved in an accident.
Plus, given that bicyclists are much more vulnerable on the road than drivers, it is likely that more serious injuries may result from such an accident. For that reason, motorists should read the information below and keep it in mind whenever they encounter bicyclists. By the same token, bicyclists also need to be aware of these rules and guidelines and ensure that they know their own responsibilities when navigating roadways.
Let’s review a few key safe driving practices to help you drive — and bike — safely next time you hit the road.
Understand State and City Bicycle Laws
Take the time to familiarize yourself with all rules and regulations regarding bicyclists in your city and in your state. As an example, some states require that you wear helmets whenever using public roads. In contrast, other states make this an optional part of your equipment.
You should also be well aware of how you are expected to operate your bicycle on public roads.
In Texas, bicycles are considered to be vehicles with equal status to motorcycles and cars. Any Dallas bike accident lawyer would tell you that means you are required to observe all the same traffic regulations and signs which might be installed along roadways. All stop signs and stop lights must be observed in the same way that motorists are required to observe them, and you’ll need to make sure that you’re always in the appropriate lane to allow a safe traffic flow.
Bicycle Responsibly and Best Practices
It’s good to keep in mind that you should observe a number of best practices when you’re biking on any roadway. These include:
- Stick to the right-hand side of the roadway and proceed in the same direction as all other vehicular traffic.
- Avoid weaving through traffic or darting in and out for any reason because this can be very dangerous behavior that motorists may not be able to react to quickly.
- Don’t cycle around stopped traffic when arriving at intersections, nor when there is a traffic jam in place on any roadway.
Probably the most important aspect of bicycle safety on the roadway is visibility. Make sure that your bicycle has adequate lights and reflectors so that you can be seen by those with whom you share the road. The more visible you are to all other people in the traffic flow, the more likely it is that you will avoid being involved in an accident.
Bicycles must also be equipped with brakes that allow passengers to stop within 25 feet when traveling less than ten miles per hour. A bicycle is considered a vehicle under the law if it has two wheels and hand brakes; otherwise, bicyclists can only operate them on bike paths or sidewalks where permitted by local ordinances.
When you’re riding your bicycle on streets where there is an obstruction such as parked cars or debris blocking lanes of traffic, it’s always safer for you to move away from these obstacles (if possible) while continuing in the same direction before returning to travel alongside them again.
The Rights of Bicyclists
First among your rights as a bicyclist is the right to use the open road, provided that you make use of that road in a responsible manner. This means that bicyclists have the same rights as motorists to occupy a lane but cannot obstruct traffic or unreasonably interfere with vehicle flow.
There are, of course, some motorists who become frustrated and angry with bicyclists. This may be because they’re not aware of a bicyclist’s rights, or they’ve come into contact with a small number of bicyclists who abuse the rules of the road and operate their bicycles in an irresponsible way.
In order to be considered a responsible bicyclist, you should be familiar with and make use of all road safety laws any time you are part of the traffic flow on a roadway. You have a definite right to be on the road and make use of public roadways, but with that, you also have a responsibility to operate your bicycle safely and responsibly and in consideration of the vehicles around you.
Who Has the Right of Way?
Do you have the right-of-way at an intersection just because you’re a bicyclist?
Generally speaking, the answer is no. As a biker, you are considered another “vehicle” and are subject to the same rules and regulations as motorists on the roadway alongside you.
Here are some cases where you as a bicyclist must actually yield the right-of-way to others:
- to any driver on your right, and this is the same rule which applies to all motorists who arrive simultaneously at an intersection.
- whenever driving on an unpaved road that intersects with a paved road
- at any yield sign
- when using an uncontrolled intersection at which another vehicle is already present
- at ‘T’ intersections where it will be necessary to yield to drivers who are already on the through road
- to all pedestrians who are making use of a crosswalk
- whenever you need to turn left
- whenever you encounter individuals with visual disabilities or those who are using a cane or guide dog.
Bicyclists should never attempt to insist on taking the right-of-way or assume that other bicyclists or motorists will back off and yield the right-of-way to them. The primary concern, whenever there is a right-of-way question, is that all individuals involved avoid any type of accident or injury. As Dallas bike accident lawyers, we advise you to yield right-of-way whenever a question arises rather than assume you have the right-of-way. It could save you and the other party from injuries, medical bills, and legal fees.
As a general rule of thumb, one of the best ways for you to stay safe on the roadways while still making use of your rights as a bicyclist is to be as predictable as possible to all those around you. Part of that is observing all the right-of-way guidelines described above, as well as avoiding any sudden, unpredictable movements like darting in and out of traffic.
Being predictable involves doing things like using hand signals to show your intention when turning or stopping and obeying all traffic signals where they are posted along the roadway.
The more predictable you are as a bicyclist, the less chance you have of sustaining injuries or having an accident,, and the better motorists will be able to react to your movements.
What it boils down to, in other words, is that being predictable on the roadways is simply a matter of observing all traffic laws like any other motorist and not making any sudden, unanticipated moves that might surprise a motorist. This is responsible behavior that will help keep you safe on the roadways while also ensuring that your rights are protected as a bicyclist.
Involved in a Bike Accident? A Dallas Bike Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you are a bicyclist, it’s important to be aware of the rights and responsibilities that come with using public roadways. Bicyclists have just as much right to use these roads as any other vehicle — so long as they follow certain guidelines. Knowing your local laws can help if there is ever an accident involving a bicycle and another type of vehicle.
If you’ve recently been involved in a bicycle accident by a negligent or hostile driver, contact a Dallas bike accident lawyer. We know how difficult it is to recover from serious injury or loss suffered due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness on our roads. Our attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare can help you maximize the compensation you deserve to cover your medical bills, lost time at your job, and more.
Let us fight for justice by taking care of this process while you focus on healing and getting back to your bike as quickly as possible.