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Orange County residents should know the bicycling laws and regulations in the county to prevent injuries and limit the chance of liability for an accident.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reports that each year, about 100 bicyclists die in road accidents and more than 10,000 suffer injuries from bicycle accidents. Don’t let that be you or one of your loved ones.
California prohibits riding bicycles under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and violations of this law may lead to heavy fines. It is also illegal for anyone between the ages of 13 and 21 to operate a bicycle under the influence, and doing so could lead to a delay of one year before the individual may exercise his or her driving privilege.
All bicyclists under the age of 18 must wear helmets at all times while riding bikes in Orange County. While no law requires helmets for riders over 18, wearing them dramatically reduces the chances of a fatal head injury in an accident. Bicyclists should purchase appropriately sized helmets with a functional strap that goes under the chin to protect the most vulnerable parts of the head. It is also advisable to wear eye protection while riding that protects against dust, debris, and harsh UV sunlight.
California also has specific laws for riding at night. Bicyclists should refrain from wearing dark clothing while riding at night and they must have a front lamp attached to the helmet or bicycle with a visible range of at least 300 feet.
All bicycles must have rear red reflectors visible from a minimum of 500 feet. Pedals must have a white or yellow reflector viewable from at least 200 feet. Tires must have a reflective coating, or each wheel must have a white or red reflector to increase visibility.
Bicyclists also have the right to “take the lane” as long as they move with the flow of traffic and signal appropriately. Bicyclists can use turning lanes the same as other vehicles as long as they yield to oncoming traffic and obey traffic signals just like any other driver.
Cyclists must also ride with the flow of traffic, meaning staying to the right at all times except on one-way streets with left-side oriented bike lanes. Riding against the flow of traffic may appear to make the bicyclist more visible to oncoming traffic, but this creates a serious risk, especially when it comes to drivers turning right into the path of the cyclist.
All California bicyclists should remember that they have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. This means cyclists should stay as far to the right as possible and use designated bicycle lanes wherever available. Bicyclists must also obey all traffic signals and signs just like all other drivers.
Bicyclists should use hand signals to indicate when they intend to turn. This helps other drivers anticipate cyclists’ actions and avoid accidents. An extended left arm indicates a left-hand turn while a raised left arm bent at the elbow indicates a right-hand turn. A cyclist can also extend his or her right arm to indicate a right-hand turn. Dropping one hand to the side of the bicycle with the palm facing behind the bicyclist indicates slowing or stopping.
Bicycle accidents involving cars and bicyclists almost always cause more damage to the cyclist, and anyone involved with such an accident should report it to the police immediately. Handle immediate medical concerns first, and then consider your legal options. If a driver caused an accident with your bicycle and injured you, he or she is liable for the resulting damages. Contact a reliable bicycle accident attorney in your area as soon as possible to start building a case.