Bicycle Safety: How to Not Get Hit by Cars

by Staff Blogger | November 14th, 2022

Commuting by bike is a great way to reduce vehicle emissions while staying in shape. However, it’s common for cyclists and drivers to have trouble sharing the road. In 2021, an estimated 7,639 bicyclists were injured or killed by traffic accidents in the state.

If you want to enjoy riding your bike more often, don’t let the fear of car accidents stop you. Learn about bike safety tips in California with Berg Injury Lawyers.

How Safe is it to Bicycle in California?

While California has made an effort to improve cyclist safety, there is a significant risk of accidents when riding on the road. In 2020, 3.4% of the state’s fatal crashes involved cyclists. The threat to cyclists is more significant in some counties: Los Angeles County saw around 15,000 bicycle crashes between 2017 and 2021, while Sacramento County saw 2,319 crashes.

Cyclists have far less protection than vehicle occupants, leaving them at greater risk of injury or death in a crash. A Sacramento personal injury lawyer can help you recover compensation if you’re injured in a bike accident.

Tips to Avoid Getting Hit by Cars

A collision between a cyclist and a car can leave you seriously injured at best and prove fatal at worst. Luckily, there are ways to reduce your risk of getting into a crash.

  • Wear a Helmet and Reflective Gear

In California, you’re legally required to attach reflectors to your bike. At a minimum, you must have white or yellow reflectors on the side and the front and back of your pedals, a headlight on the front of your bike, and a red reflector on the back. Some people also attach reflectors to their tires or a red light to the back of their bike.

While these requirements are meant for night biking, reflective gear catches and reflects light at any time of day, making you more visible on the road. You can also attach reflective gear to your clothing and helmet to further increase your visibility to drivers.

  • Stay Aware

Failing to pay attention to the road can increase your risk of being struck by a car. The California Vehicle Code outlaws riding your bike while wearing a headset, headphones, or anything limiting your ability to hear what’s happening around you. While there are no laws against cell phone use while biking, distracted biking is just as dangerous as distracted driving.

Similarly, avoid biking under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These substances make it difficult to remain aware of your surroundings and react quickly, and it’s outlawed in California.

  • Use Bike Lanes When Possible

Bike lanes are specifically designed to accommodate people on bicycles. Some bike lanes have posts installed between the bike lane and the street, providing extra protection against vehicle collisions. If the road contains a bike lane, use it.

If there is no designated bike lane, ride on the right-hand side of the road. Although California law does not expressly prohibit using your bike on the sidewalk, try to avoid it; if the sidewalk ends unexpectedly, you could be forced into the road.

  • Use Hand Signals

Just as cars use turn signals to alert other drivers that they’re turning or changing lanes, bicyclists are expected to use hand signals to let drivers or cyclists know if they’re turning or stopping. Before you turn or stop, you should:

  • Signal a left turn by holding your left arm straight out.
  • Signal a right turn by holding your left arm out with your elbow bent, so the tips of your fingers point toward the sky.
  • Signal a stop by holding your left arm out and bending your elbow, so the tips of your fingers point toward the ground.
  • Be Cautious Around Intersections

Approximately 26% of fatal car accidents involving cyclists in 2020 in the United States occurred at an intersection. Always look before you cross the street, as sometimes drivers overlook pedestrians or cyclists when making a turn.

  • Stay Out of Car Blind Spots

Cars are bulky, making it challenging for drivers to see someone next to them or behind them. Ensure the driver can see you from their window or side or rearview mirrors.

  • Avoid Biking at Night

Darkness reduces visibility for drivers and bikers alike, and cyclists are easier to overlook due to their smaller size. Ride your bike during the day to ensure you aren’t obscured by darkness. If biking at night is unavoidable, wear lighter-colored clothing and make sure you have reflectors and a working headlight.

What to Do if You’re Hit by a Car While Cycling

Even if you take all proper precautions, you can still fall victim to a car accident when biking. If you’re struck by a car while riding your bike, ensure you:

  • Seek immediate medical attention. Cyclists have less protection against the impact of a car and are more likely to suffer serious injuries.
    • Call the police to report the accident. The police must file an accident report for all vehicle collisions, including ones with cyclists.
    • Gather contact information for witnesses. While cyclists have right-of-way, California is an at-fault state, so the driver who hit you may claim that you violated the rules of the road in an attempt to declare you “at fault” instead. Witnesses to the crash can confirm you were not at fault.
    • Get in touch with your insurance company. Many car insurance policies provide coverage to pedestrians and cyclists who are struck by a car.
    • Consult with a lawyer. A skilled personal injury lawyer can file a claim against the driver and obtain damages for your injuries.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a car accident, Berg Injury Lawyers is ready to review your case. Our law firm can help you earn the compensation you deserve. Schedule a free consultation today.