Bike law change #7: Drivers should bear full responsibility for any accidents that occur in a designated bike lane

I was riding along Main Street in Santa Monica this morning when I met cyclist. You know how it goes — I’d pass him, then a few blocks later, he’d pass me; eventually, we struck up a conversation and started riding along together.

We were both riding in the bike lane, exactly where we were supposed to be, when a car pulled into a driveway just ahead of us. As we rolled past, the driver suddenly shifted into reverse and started backing up — just missing my new riding companion.

And it wasn’t like we were easy to miss. A couple grown men on bikes, one in a bright red jersey and the other bright yellow. But as he put it, for some reason, drivers just don’t seem to see us.

But let’s face it. There’s just no excuse for that.

The mere existence of a bike lane implies the presence of bikes. Which means that it should be the responsibility of the driver to anticipate cyclists, and be on the lookout for them. The bike lane should serve as a warning to any driver not to enter that lane for any reason without scanning every inch of that lane for bicycles.

There is simply no reason why any driver should ever turn into the path of a rider in a bike lane, back into a parking space without first checking for oncoming bikes, or opening a door a rider because he didn’t check his mirrors first.

None.

So let’s make it clear that those few feet of asphalt to us, and it is the responsibility of the driver to enter, cross or stop in the bike lane safely — not the responsibility of the rider to avoid him. And as a result, the driver should bear 100% of the responsibility for any accident that occurs with a cyclist riding safely, and legally, in any bike lane.

 

Alex reports on 50 cyclists who rode to reclaim the Ballona Creek Bike Path and score some serious tacos. LA Bike Rides ponders whether changing these laws is enough to get people out of their cars, or if there’s simply a perception that bikes are for kids, and grown-ups drive cars. And a rider in Montana wonders what it takes to make a Western state bike-friendly.

 

One comment

  1. [...] on bike lanes: For example, requiring that streets with heavy traffic also provide bike lanes; or placing full responsibility for an accident occuring in a bike lane on the driver; requiring that bike lanes be maintained in their original [...]

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