Burnett & Williams

Bicycle Rights of Way

Bicycle Rights of Way

Navigating the roads requires clarity and understanding, especially when cars and bicycles are present simultaneously.

Bikes vs. Cars: Understanding Rights of Way

Misunderstandings about the right of way are common and can lead to accidents, particularly in urban environments where bicycles are frequent participants in traffic.

As cities expand and the number of cyclists increases, it becomes crucial for all road users to understand the rights of bicyclists, particularly regarding who has the right of way. This knowledge isn’t just about preventing accidents—it could save lives, given the vulnerability of cyclists compared to motor vehicle occupants.

Intersections: Hotspots for Confusion

Intersections are notorious for bicycle accidents, with about 45% of bicycle collisions occurring at these junctions. The rules here can seem complex but are vital for preventing accidents:

  • Signaled Intersections: Just like cars, if a bicycle is at a signaled intersection, the right of way belongs to whichever vehicle the traffic signal allows to move first.
  • Unsignaled Intersections: When no signals are present, the vehicle in a lane without a stop sign has the right of way. If both a motorist and a cyclist stop at their respective stop signs, the one who stopped first proceeds first. Should they stop simultaneously, the vehicle on the right should go ahead—this means if a cyclist and a car stop simultaneously and the cyclist is on the right, the car must yield.

Other Traffic Scenarios

Beyond intersections, other rules apply consistently to both cyclists and drivers:

  • At a yield sign, the right of way must be given to traffic already on the road.
  • When merging, whether from a side street or a parking lot, it’s essential to yield to vehicles already on the main road.
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way, regardless of their actions. Both cyclists and drivers should yield, even if a pedestrian is jaywalking.

Liability in Accidents

Determining who is liable in a collision between a car and a bicycle often depends on who had the right of way. Intersection type and visibility play significant roles, but so do actions perceived as negligent, such as failing to yield properly. If an accident occurs, the responsibility typically falls on the party that acted recklessly.

Proactive Safety Tips

While not all accidents can be prevented, taking proactive safety measures can significantly reduce risks:

  • Never presume you’ll be given the right of way. Always confirm the other party is yielding before proceeding.
  • Stay vigilant of your surroundings. A common oversight is not checking blind spots or failing to look both ways, which might cause you to miss seeing a nearby cyclist.
  • For cyclists, visibility should be a top priority. Wearing bright clothing and using lights are effective ways to ensure drivers see you.

Legal Expertise Matters

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bicycle accident, securing experienced legal representation is crucial. At Burnett & Williams, our deep understanding of personal injury law and our commitment to detail ensures that every client receives the focused care and robust representation needed to navigate these complex cases. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation—our team is here to support and guide you through every legal step.