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Do cyclists have to stay in the bike lanes?

On Behalf of | Jan 30, 2023 | Bike & Pedestrian Accidents

Generally speaking, cyclists may typically leave bike lanes for various reasons. However, traffic laws in California might vary from one city to another. These laws can be important in personal injury cases due to the way that the state handles fault.

The person with the injury and another party might share fault — or who is to blame for an injury, in this case. The percentage of fault would be directly related to the amount of financial responsibility.

Cyclists leaving bike lanes

Traffic laws tend to protect cyclists or at least give them similar rights to motorists. This often, but not always, includes reasonable use of the main traffic lanes. Here are some examples of when leaving the bike lane might be legal:

  • Avoiding obstacles, hazards or debris
  • Passing when it is not safe to do so in the bike lane
  • When preparing for turns

It is typically necessary to observe the situation and signal the intended action. Additionally, bicycles moving with the speed of traffic might be able to ride outside of the bike lane for other reasons.

Sharing fault and sharing the consequences

Many injuries happen because of a combination of actions, such as violations of the law or lapses in a duty of care. Since California operates on a pure comparative negligence system, the extent to which a cyclist complies with local traffic laws may have a bearing on the amount of compensation available in a personal injury case.

For example, a cyclist who leaves a bike lane for no reason might be more at fault than one who leaves the lane for a legally protected reason. Because of this system, a personal injury lawsuit might feature an evidence-based negotiation to determine the exact percentage of fault each party has.