Should Pedestrians Yield to Bicyclists in California?

Under California Vehicle Code (CVC) §21950 (a), all vehicles (including bikes) are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians walking on marked crosswalks and unmarked crosswalks at intersections.

According to CVC §21954 (a), however, pedestrians must yield to vehicles if they choose to walk across a street that doesn’t meet the following criteria: a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Common Sense And Comparative Negligence In Pedestrian Accidents

While these are the official laws, the California DMV stresses the importance of using common sense safety measures to avoid vehicle-pedestrian accidents in your specific situation. Indeed,  CVC §21950 (b) clearly states that pedestrians are not allowed to use their right-of-way to “suddenly leave a…place of safety” and cause a potentially dangerous situation on the roads. The CVC also notes that motorists are encouraged to exercise “due care” by slowing down near areas where there tend to be more pedestrians.

Keep in mind that California practices “comparative negligence,” which basically means both parties involved in an accident can be held partially responsible. It’s not uncommon for pedestrians to be assigned a percentage of fault in these kinds of accident cases.

Right-Of-Way for Visually Impaired Pedestrians

While there is some wiggle room in terms of the right-of-way for average pedestrians, the CVC takes a firmer stance on yielding to visually impaired pedestrians. According to CVC §21963, bicyclists and motorists are required to yield the right-of-way to people with visual issues who either use a white cane or a guide dog. Any motorist or cyclist who fails to yield to visually impaired pedestrians could face a fine between $500 – $1,000 or a maximum of six months in jail.

Pedestrian Crashes in CA And How You Can Prevent Them

According to the latest statistics from the CA DMV, about 22 percent of all vehicular accidents in California involve pedestrians. While the impact of a cyclist-pedestrian might not be as severe as a car, it could lead to serious injuries for both victims. It’s extremely important for all motorists and bikers to be cautious around pedestrians, especially at intersections.

A few good tips all bicyclists and motorists should keep in mind when riding in areas frequented by pedestrians include coming to a full stop at intersections and never passing another vehicle that’s braking for pedestrians. It’s also important to practice good eye contact and signaling to avoid potentially serious accidents.

For more tips on pedestrian safety in the Golden State, be sure to check out CA DMV’s webpage.

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