Do Cars Have the Right-of-Way Over Bicycles in California?

California law says that a bike is treated like a car or other vehicle for the purposes of vehicle codes and rights-of-way. This means that other vehicles on the road have to treat the cyclist like any other vehicle and cyclists should obey the same laws and other rules of the road. (CVC 21200)

Can a Bike Ride in any Traffic Lane?

Bikes can travel in any traffic lane just as motor vehicles do unless they aren’t able to keep up with the flow of traffic. Then they are required to ride in a bike lane going in the same direction of traffic or in the far right-hand side of the right lane. (CVC 21202)

When riding in the right lane, the cyclist is not required to ride behind a motor vehicle but can ride alongside, and the cyclist has the same rights to that narrow stretch of the right-hand side of the right lane as a vehicle in the traffic lane.

California’s Three Feet for Safety law requires motorist to give any bicycle in the far right lane three feet when passing. Also, if the motor vehicle wants to turn right from the right-hand lane, they are to yield to any cyclist riding properly in the right lane when they prepare to turn right.

Right-of-Way in a Bike Lane

A motorist also has to yield to a cyclist riding in a bike lane. This means that before a motorist can cross or enter a bike lane, they have to yield to the right-of-way of a cyclist if riding in the bike lane. This comes up most often when a motor vehicle wants to make a right turn and moves over from the traffic lane into the bike lane.

What Does the Right-of-Way Mean?

A smart cyclist knows that just because the cyclist has the right-of-way doesn’t meant that the motorist is going to give it to them. Sometimes this is because they don’t see the cyclist, or sometimes they just think that they have the right-of-way.

Having the right-of-way means that a police officer could give a ticket to someone for violating the right-of-way of a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, but it doesn’t mean that drivers are going to respect the rights of the cyclists. Police rarely give motorists tickets for violating a cyclist’s right-of-way until an accident happens, the at-fault person might get a ticket for causing the accident.

Right-of-Way and a Personal Injury

After an accident, the injured person can seek compensation from the at-fault driver, and then the right-of-way can be helpful in determining who was at-fault. However, California law says that a violation of a traffic law—including the right-of-way—does not automatically mean that the person is at fault in a personal injury case, rather the injured person must prove the other driver was negligent.

Admittedly, if a person violates another’s right-of-way, then good chances are that the jury will say that they are also negligent, but not always.

Injured? Contact a Specialist.

Bay Area Bicycle Law works with clients all over the State of California and is one of the state’s only personal injury law firms working exclusively with injured cyclists. We handle cases in your area, and there are many benefits to working with a specialist.

Contact us today for a free consultation by email or by calling 866-bicycle-law (866-242-9253). Years of advocacy for bicycle crash victims have seasoned our attorneys with the necessary skills to handle bicycle accidents cases with the utmost level of professional expertise. We will always offer you legal advice which is in your best interest.

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