Archive for June, 2013

Bike riders drive me crazy!

Bicyclists – where do they belong?

While on vacation in Germany with my wife, I had the opportunity to have some time to myself while we were visiting friends. She was out wine tasting, and I stayed in to get some work done and relax. I found myself at a local park a few blocks from our friends’ apartment. After noticing the beautiful European streets, it was apparent that parking was a problem. Cars driving on century-old roads were forced to park either partly, or at times completely on the sidewalk, and very few Germans in the town had their own personal garage or driveway for vehicle storage.

This necessitated the large population of people using bicycles for local transportation (not to mention the nearly $8 per gallon prices for gasoline…). While walking through the park, I observed people riding on the streets, sidewalks and walking paths. My friends told me that it is great having people ride their bikes to keep the neighborhood “greener” and also help the congested parking situation, but they were frustrated with how they perceived the cyclist’s ownership of the road mentality.

While I won’t attempt to try and interpret German law (or anything German, really), California’s Vehicle Code sections 21202 deal with these issues squarely. Unbeknownst to many motorists, cyclists have many of the same rights and requirements as do motorists. To start, they are entitled use of the entire traffic lane if there is no clearly marked “bike lane.” This right entitlement, however, also comes with the requirement of abiding by the same laws as vehicles. Cyclists must signal turns and stops with the appropriate hand signals, must follow speed limits (if applicable), street directions and traffic controls (stop signs, traffic signals and others). 

While minors are required to wear a helmet while riding their bike, it is only suggested for adults. No matter the rider’s age, however, bicyclists are generally not allowed to ride on sidewalks as a safety precaution to pedestrians. (One of my personal pet peeves is when an inexperienced cyclist rides on the sidewalk and you have to do some sort of amateur ballet move to avoid being struck). Some cities have begun hanging signs advising riders that they cannot ride on the sidewalk, and enforce the violation through fines.

Whether you’re attempting to break Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France records (valid or not), or riding to work to save on parking, it’s best to know the rules and stay safe. Riding bicycles is a great way to explore our great city, get exercise and also save money and help reduce pollution.

As my German friends I stayed with would say: Nicht auf dem Bürgersteig parken, mit dem Fahrrad fahren! (“Don’t park on the sidewalk, ride a bike!”)

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Crosswalk with no stop sign or stop light. What do I do?

Do I have to stop at an uncontrolled crosswalk?

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side, of course. But, how did the tasty fowl get there?

Everyone is familiar with the pedestrian crosswalk at a traffic light or stop sign. The law requires you to come to a complete stop (at a stop sign or red traffic light), and because of the stopping requirement, any pedestrians wishing to cross the street may do so when it is safe.

But, what if there’s a marked crosswalk, but no stop sign or traffic signal “controlling” the area? 

People say that pedestrians always have the right of way; so what if they walked in a marked crosswalk in front a moving vehicle? Should the motorist be responsible?

In California, the law describes both the responsibilities of the pedestrian, and the motorist. However, they are not as cut-and-dry as people would think.

CA Vehicle Code 21950.  (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Because of the ambiguity of the laws, cases where pedestrians are injured after being struck by a vehicle are difficult, and the parties often share liability. Specific facts such as how many times a pedestrian looked for oncoming traffic, the visibility on the day of the accident, the speed of the motorist and a host of others all come into play for an investigation into the responsible party.

Moral of the story? Whether you are a pedistrian enjoying your latte on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in La Jolla, or a motorist driving to a business meeting downtown, make sure to be aware of your surroundings. Only enter the street or cross a crosswalk when it is safe to do so. There are many distractions in our beautiful city of San Diego, so stay focused and get where you are going safely! 

Have a question regarding pedestrian rights? Feel free to contact BONNICI LAW GROUP for a free consultation. 

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