Who Is at Fault When a Bicyclist and Driver Collide at an Intersection?

With so many people on the road these days, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists face many hazards. Bicyclists especially face dangers on the road, whether from cars, road work, or weather conditions. While only 11% of cyclists who are involved in traffic accidents are hit by a car, nearly half of these collisions occur at busy intersections.

You might think that because bicycles are smaller than cars and other motorized vehicles, the driver of the vehicle is automatically at fault in a collision. However, this is not always the case.

If cyclists fail to observe basic road rules, they may be at fault for causing an accident, even if they are the injured party. Cyclists must take precautions to protect themselves as they share the road with other vehicles.

To stay safe on the road and avoid collisions, all drivers and cyclists must be aware of their surroundings. They must proceed with caution within acceptable speed limits at all times, particularly when it crossing busy intersections.

Bicycles Are Also Vehicles

In most states, a bike is considered a vehicle. Therefore, it is imperative for cyclists to obey all traffic laws, particularly when it comes to who has the right of way at an intersection.

Intersections are the site of many cycling collisions, especially when there are no traffic lights to guide vehicles safely through. Even the most cautious drivers may not see a cyclist approaching. If they do, they may not be able to correctly gauge the speed of an oncoming bicyclist, thus leading to a collision when both enter an intersection.

In general, if an accident occurs when the car has the right of way, the bicyclist is at fault. Should the bicyclist have the right of way, and the driver of the car does not yield, the driver is liable for causing the collision. If you have been involved in an accident between a bicyclist and a motorist, contact Maggiano, DiGirolamo, & Lizzi P.C.

Road Rules: Which Vehicle Has the Right of Way?

At an intersection with no traffic lights. The first vehicle to arrive at an intersection without a traffic light or other signal has the right of way. In the case where two vehicles approach at the same time, the car on the immediate right is allowed to go first.

At an intersection connecting a main road with a minor road. If the intersection in question leads from a major road to a quieter side street, then the vehicles coming in from the main street are given the right of way. Bicyclists or drivers who do not yield the right of way are considered liable in a collision.

At an intersection with a traffic signal. When stoplights are present to guide traffic safely through an intersection, the right of way always applies to whoever has the green light and is driving straight down the road. Drivers turning on a green light must wait until the intersection is free to make the turn. A failure to stop at red lights will always make the offending driver or cyclist liable in the case of a collision.

At an intersection with a stop sign. Stop sign intersections can prove troublesome to both cyclists and drivers. About one out of ten intersection collisions occur when someone fails to stop at a stop sign.

If a cyclist rides through a stop sign into an intersection when a car has the right of way, the cyclist is liable for the resulting collision. The reverse is true when the cyclist has the right of way. Accidents will often occur when a vehicle stops at a stop sign where the cyclist has the right of way, but the driver does not see the bicycle and proceeds into the intersection.

Almost 60% of accidents involving stop sign intersections happen because the bicyclist is riding against the flow of traffic. Riding against traffic is not just a hazardous practice in general—it’s also against the law.

Most states consider bicycles to be vehicles, and all vehicles must obey the flow of traffic. It might seem like a good idea for cyclists to ride so they can see oncoming traffic, but riding toward other drivers will not allow them to react in time to unexpected situations.

Plus, drivers are not expecting to see a vehicle, bicycle or otherwise, approaching from the opposite direction on the same side of the street. Similarly, because cyclists move more slowly, they do not have time to move out of the way of a car moving toward them.

To avoid catastrophe, bicyclists must share the road, obey local traffic laws, and ride in the correct direction at all times.

Staying Safe While Sharing the Road

Many situations can result in a collision between a bicycle and a car. To prevent incidents like these, bicyclists and drivers alike must respect and understand the rules of the road. To stay safe, cyclists need to obey all signs, signals, and regulations to avoid collisions.

Cyclists can take additional precautions on the road, as well as make themselves more visible to drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists. Cyclists should take these measures to protect themselves while riding on the road:

  • Increase visibility at night by wearing brightly colored clothing with reflective strips, and install front and rear lamps on bikes
  • Observe all rules of the road
  • Proceed with caution through all intersections and yield to vehicles with the right of way

While everyone should take road safety seriously, bicyclists especially must be alert and ride defensively. It may be wise for bike riders to take a defensive biking class that teaches them how to maneuver quickly to avoid collisions. The League of American Bicyclists is a useful resource for finding a course in your area.

If you have been in a traffic collision in Colorado, contact an experienced auto accident attorney at Bell & Pollock P.C. Call (720) 613-6736 for a free consultation to understand your legal options, whether as a driver or a cyclist.