Myth or Fact: Four Legal Misconceptions All Bicycle Riders Should Know About
Just like cars and motorcycles, bicycles are legally considered“vehicles” in the USA. This means cyclists enjoy the same—if not more—legal protection as motorists.
Unfortunately, not everyone is on the same page when it comes to cyclist law. In fact, as bicycling becomes increasingly common in American cities, it seems misconceptions on bicyclist law are also on the rise.
In this post, we’re going to dispel a few of the most prominent myths surrounding bicyclist injury law. Whether or not you’re a cyclist, learning about these legal issues could seriously improve road safety.
Myth or Fact? – Busting Bicycling’s Biggest Misconceptions
Do All Bicyclists Need to Wear A Helmet?
No, bicyclists aren’t legally required to wear DOT-approved helmets in every US state. Indeed, most states have partial helmet laws that only require child and teen bicyclists to wear helmets while riding. There are even a few states with no helmet laws at all.
Of course, just because helmetless riding might be legal in your state doesn’t mean it’s particularly safe. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), well over half of American cyclists killed in crashes were not wearing helmets. The NSC also found that most of the 80,000 bicyclists admitted to ERs annually suffer from traumatic brain injury.
Dozens of scientific studies now confirm helmets can reduce the risk of cyclist fatality and head trauma. For instance, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that bicyclists who wore helmets had an over 85 percent lower risk of suffering serious head injuries. Members of the Center for Injury Prevention and Control also claim bicyclists can reduce crash-related trauma by about 70 percent.
Even though DOT-approved helmets are an undeniably safe choice, bicyclists shouldn’t fear taking legal action if they were injured without wearing a helmet. Just because you were riding helmetless doesn’t mean you don’t deserve compensation.
Do Cyclists Break More Rules Than Drivers?
Many motorists complain of cyclists breaking the rules of the road, but the data doesn’t support this prevalent prejudice. Indeed, a recent Danish study found that cyclists are over 10-times more likely to obey traffic laws compared with motorists.
As you might expect, cyclists are more prone to break traffic laws in areas without dedicated bike lanes. Even in these non-bike-protected areas, however, cyclists were on average more law-abiding than drivers.
Data from this study and others strongly suggest city infrastructure plays a huge role in modifying cyclist behavior. The more bike-protected zones there are, the less chance cyclists will risk breaking the rules of the road.
Are Bicyclists Allowed to Ride in the Middle of the Road?
It’s perfectly legal for cyclists to ride in the middle lane of trafficif they are able to keep up with traffic, or if riding to the right of the road would prove hazardous.While it might irk a few motorists, cyclists should know it’s within their rights to travel in this prominent position if they feel it will increase their safety.
Of course, it’s always recommended cyclists use bike-protected lanes when provided. If there aren’t any dedicated biking lanes, then cyclists should stay as close to the right curb as possible.
There are, however, many cases where both of these options aren’t viable or safe. For instance, cyclists could be traveling down a narrow road, poor road surfaces, or in a bike lane next to many parked cars. When cyclists feel unsafe, they could ride in the middle lane.
Is Riding on Sidewalks Is Better Than Riding On The Road?
Many people assume sidewalks are the safest option for cyclists. While this theory seems to make sense (cyclists are out of traffic, after all), most road safety experts would prefer bicyclists to ride on the road.
One reason cyclists should avoid sidewalks is because it reduces their visibility. It’s very easy for cyclists to end up in drivers’ blind spots, which could have disastrous consequences when turning or crossing streets. Obviously, cycling on sidewalks also puts pedestrians at great risk.
Not only is it unsafe for cyclists to ride on sidewalks, it’s often against the law. Many states and counties have laws prohibiting cyclists and e-scooter users from riding on sidewalks.
So, unless there’s really no other option, bicyclists should always ride on the road.
How to Find Out More Info On Bicyclist Safety
To learn more about bicyclist safety, you should start by searching your state’s DMV webpage. You could also find an overview of bicyclist laws on this interactive link put together by The League of American Bicyclists. Lastly, any bicyclists involved in an accident are encouraged to call a professional personal injury attorney for legal assistance. Talking with a skilled cyclist injury attorney can help you understand exactly how much you’re owed depending on the nature of your crash.