December 5, 2020

accidents

“I was riding my bicycle down Oak Street, approaching Franklin Street when I realized my backpack was not closed properly, so I pulled over onto the sidewalk to adjust my backpack. As I jumped back on my bike, I noticed that the pedestrian walking signal was on, so I began riding through the intersection within the marked crosswalk. Suddenly a vehicle came racing down the street and struck me. I was thrown off my bike and fell to the ground. I was transported by ambulance to the hospital.

At the hospital, the attending doctor told me that I had broken my left ankle and it would require surgery. The driver is adamant that the collision is my fault because I should not have been riding my bicycle within the crosswalk. But he was driving so fast that even if I would have walked my bike across the street, he would have still struck me because he wouldn’t have had enough time to stop. I realize that maybe I shouldn’t have been riding my bike on the crosswalk, however, is there anything I can do to recover for my medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering?”

— Heather M. in Pacific Heights


Dear Heather,

I am sorry to hear about our accident. The short answer is yes, you may seek compensation for the economic and non-economic damages you suffered as a result of this collision. Economic damages include items such as property damage, medical bills and lost wages; non-economic damages are commonly known as pain and suffering, physical impairment and inconvenience. However, there are a few hurdles you will need to overcome in order to obtain compensation. Additionally, the compensation may be reduced by what is called, “Comparative Fault,” which will be discussed in more detail below.    

As a general rule, adult bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers under California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 21200. Therefore, under CVC 21200, it is unlawful to ride a bicycle within a crosswalk. In order to comply with California law and for your own safety, bicyclists should dismount their bicycle and walk it across the street within the marked crosswalk.

Many times, the police report will place the bicyclists at fault because they were riding within the marked crosswalk, which makes it more difficult for individuals to pursue a claim. It is not surprising that the driver of the vehicle is refusing to accept any liability as many insurance companies will rely on the police report and CVC section 21200 to place 100 percent of the fault on the bicyclist. However, if a serious bicycle accident occurs within a crosswalk, that does not automatically mean that you are precluded from recovering compensation for your injuries.

Based on the limited information you have provided, it appears that at the time you were riding within the crosswalk pedestrians had the right of way. This means that the driver of the vehicle had the responsibility to yield-to-pedestrians. Therefore, had the driver of

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Thanks to advocacy efforts across the country, the number of bicyclists on American roads has increased substantially over the past decade. As more riders are on the road, the likelihood of bicycle-related accidents increases. While many cities have taken steps to make roads a safer place for bicyclists, others have not. Until all cities embrace bicycle culture and initiate changes to the infrastructure, bicycle-related accidents will continue to be problematic.

Overview of Bicycle Accidents in the United States

Statistics show that while the overall number of bicycle accidents in the country is declining, the number of fatal bike accidents is on the rise. In 2015, there were 45,000 reported bicycle accidents in the United States, down from 50,000 reported accidents in the prior year. However, the number of fatal accidents increased by more than 12 percent during this same time.

Overall Decline in Bike Accidents

If more bicyclists are on the road than ever before, why are bicycle accidents happening less frequently? The answer may be due to the fact that advocacy groups have been successful in getting towns and cities across the country to embrace the bicycling culture.

“An increasing number of cities have added safety features – including bike lanes and protective medians – to its existing infrastructure,” says Sherwin Arzani, an attorney who handles bicycle accidents in Los Angeles, CA. Others have also ramped up efforts to engage the community about bicycle safety.

Drivers are encouraged to be alert of bicyclists and careful when sharing the road. Bicyclists have more information available to them about their legal obligations on the road and how they can help to prevent bike accidents.

Significant Increase in Fatal Bike Accidents

Fewer bike accidents are happening on American roads. However, a larger percentage of these accidents tend to be fatal. Why?

Reasons that the number of fatal bike accidents has risen include:

  • New bicyclists are less familiar with safe biking practices
  • Drivers are not using caution when sharing the road with bicyclists, and
  • Cities are planning, but have not implemented changes to infrastructure to support bicyclist safety.

Urban Bicycle Accidents

Statistics show that urban bicycle accidents (1) tend to happen more frequently and (2) result in more serious injuries. In fact, approximately 70 percent of all fatal bike accidents happen in our nation’s cities. Cities tend to have much more heavily-traveled roads and less flexibility to install bicycle safety features than suburban and rural areas.

Most Dangerous Cities for Bicyclists

Statistics show that the following cities tend to be the most dangerous for bicyclists:

  1. Albuquerque, NM
  2. Tucson, AZ
  3. Las Vegas, NV
  4. Phoenix, AZ
  5. San Jose, CA
  6. Columbus, OH
  7. San Francisco, CA
  8. Memphis, TN
  9. Philadelphia, PA
  10. Los Angeles, CA.

Most of these cities have seen a staggering increase in the number of bicyclists on the roads. San Francisco, for example, saw a 13 percent increase in riders between 2011 and 2016. The number of riders in Albuquerque has risen by more than 46 percent since 2000.

Safest Cities for Bicyclists

Smaller cities tend

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