Safety Tips to Avoid Bicycling Accidents in Los Angeles

Bicycle commuting is a fun and environmentally-friendly way to get fit while getting where you need to go.  In a traffic-congested city like Los Angeles that boasts balmy weather most of the year, cycling can be a great alternative to spending hours in traffic or stuffed onto a crowded city bus.

Unfortunately, cycling in a city like Los Angeles comes with certain risks.  You don’t have as much protection as you would in a car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2016, there were 840 bicyclist fatalities in the United States—up 35% since 2010.  California accounted for 147 of those fatalities, or roughly 3.75 cyclist deaths per million population, ranking California as the seventh most dangerous state in the nation for cyclists.

Urban cyclists are at even greater risk: 71% of cyclist fatalities occur in cities like Los Angeles, due in large part to the higher population density and often perilous traffic safety conditions.

Here are some safety tips to help you avoid bicycle accidents and injuries while road cycling in the greater Los Angeles area:

1) Wear a helmet.  First and foremost: ALWAYS wear a properly fitting helmet whenever you ride, even over short distances.  A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent serious head injury if you are in a bicycle accident.

2) Be extra vigilant in low-light conditions.  Dawn and dusk are particularly dangerous times for cyclists—the period between 6:00pm and 8:59pm has the highest percentage of cyclist fatalities compared with any other three-hour period, regardless of the month.  This is due in large part to low-light conditions, making cyclists more difficult to detect for drivers.

It is imperative that you use both front and rear lights while cycling at times with anything less than full sunlight, including in overcast or foggy conditions.  It is also highly recommended that you wear a fluorescent vest or brightly colored clothing and affix reflective material like reflective tape to your bike or other equipment.

3) Follow the rules of the road. Under California law, bicyclists are considered vehicle operators just like any other vehicle on the road.  As such, riders are expected to abide by the same rules of the road, including obeying all traffic signals and signage, riding in the same direction as traffic, and coming to a complete stop at all stop signs.  Likewise, pedestrians in California always have the right of way, and riders must yield to pedestrians.

4) Drive defensively. Drivers are expected to share the road, and to be mindful and courteous of cyclists.  Unfortunately, these expectations are not always observed, and a cyclist’s best bet is to ride defensively.  Be aware of the location of all cars around you at all times.  Do not rely on drivers to account for your maneuvers—be sure to look behind you before shifting within a lane and use appropriate hand signals to communicate your intentions (for example, your intention to turn).  Bear in mind the mantra, if you can’t see a driver’s mirrors, then they cannot see you—in other words, do not linger in driver’s blind spots.  Leave as much clearance as possible between yourself and not only moving traffic, but also cars parked on the side of the road—crashing into a car door that has been thrust open by an unobservant driver or passenger can result in serious injuries to cyclists.

5) Never drink and ride. As with operating a motor vehicle, you should NEVER ride a bicycle while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  More than 20% of people who died in bicycle accidents in 2016 had over the legal limit of alcohol in their systems, and bicycling under the influence is a misdemeanor crime under the California Vehicle Code and punishable by a fine.

6) Don’t use your cell phone while cycling. This creates a significant distraction, taking eyes off the road and, unless using a headset, takes your hands off the handlebars. If using a headset, it makes it more difficult to hear what’s around you, including approaching vehicles.

What to do if you are Injured in a Bicycle Accident

First, seek medical attention.

Then, contact a bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible.

A bike injury lawyer is instrumental in protecting your rights, and can help you get the top medical attention you need. Over 30 years, The Dominguez Firm has resolved hundreds of cases totaling millions of dollars in recoveries for victims of bicycle accidents. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact our law firm today for a free consultation about your case at (800) 818-1818.

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