Bicyclists have a right to share the roadways with automobiles and have a duty to comply with the rules of the road. But bicyclists are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to safety measures when involved in an accident with an automobile. While the driver of a vehicle has the entirety of their vehicle to protect them during a collision, bicyclists have literally nothing to protect them from injuries when they are involved in an accident.
Bicyclists in Texas have the right to share the road, and must stay as far as possible to the right hand side of the road, flowing with traffic. Bicyclists may deviate from the right hand side of the road when passing other cyclists, preparing to make a left turn, hazardous conditions prevent the bicyclist from using the right hand side of the road, the road is too narrow to permit a bicyclist and a car to safely share the roadway, or the road is a two-laned, one-way road – in which case a bicyclist could ride on the left-most side of the road. As a general rule, bicyclists should stay off of sidewalks.
Liability for Bicycle Accidents Involving Motor Vehicles
Bicycle accidents involving automobiles make up only a small portion of bicycle accidents; however, accidents involving motor vehicles are often some of the most serious accidents that produce terrible injuries. Bicycles are considered vehicles in Texas – just like a car or a motorcycle. This means that liability for a bicycle accident involving an automobile depends on who is at fault for causing the accident.
Texas is a modified comparative negligence state. What this means for bicyclists injured in an accident involving a car is that even if the bicyclist is partially at fault for causing the accident, the bicyclist may still be able to recover for their injuries so long as the bicyclist is not more than 51 percent liable for the accident. The bicyclist’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of their share of liability. If the bicyclist is more than 51 percent liable for causing their injuries, then the bicyclist is barred from recovery.
Automobiles Have A Duty To Pass Bicyclists Safely
Houston law requires that automobiles, light trucks and passenger cars who are attempting to pass bicyclists must do so at a safe distance of 3 feet or more. Larger trucks are required to safely pass bicyclists at a distance of no less than 6 feet. Vehicles also have a duty to yield the right-of-way to bicyclists at intersections.
Many bicyclists can be injured by a parked motor vehicle when a driver or passenger opens the door of the vehicle without first checking to make sure that no bicyclist is approaching. These types of bicycle accidents are referred to as dooring accidents, and can produce serious injuries for the bicyclist victim. Texas law aims to prevent these types of injuries by requiring vehicle occupants to look before opening a door on a motor vehicle to make sure that opening the door can be done safely. Liability for dooring accidents often lies with the vehicle occupant because opening the vehicle when it is unsafe to do so is a violation of state law, and thus is the grounds for a negligence claim for the injured bicyclist.
Tips for Safe Biking
To avoid accidents, and decrease the risk of being negligent if a bicyclist is involved in an accident, bicyclists can take certain precautions to enhance their safety. A few tips include:
- Complying with the state and local laws that apply to bicyclists and sharing the roadways with vehicles.
- Remain mindful of what the laws are concerning biking, but also be mindful of the laws that apply to automobiles, keeping mind that drivers may not always comply with the law.
- Maximize visibility at all times, which includes wearing bright or reflective clothing, having an adequate number of reflectors or blinking lights on the bicycle and using appropriate signalling techniques to indicate to others on the road what you plan to do next.
Use the proper safety equipment when operating a bicycle. Helmets are required to be worn under Houston ordinances.