Is A Bicyclist A Vehicle Driver Or A Pedestrian?

In Arizona during 2015, there were 1,434 bicycle accidents in Arizona. In those accidents, 29 people were fatally injured and 1,276 bicyclists suffered injuries but survived. The vast majority of these accidents take place in clear weather conditions in broad daylight.

You may have seen bicyclists blocking street traffic or driving through lanes designed for automobile traffic and wondered if that is legal. Are they supposed to drive their bikes on the street with cars or on sidewalks?

Or, maybe a bicyclist caused an auto accident through reckless behavior in traffic. You may be wondering whether such an accident regards them as a pedestrian or a vehicle, when it comes to fault for the accident.

Bicycle Laws Are Varied and Can Be Confusing

Answers to the preceding questions lie in your individual state’s laws and local application of those state laws. The answers may even be more complicated than expected. These laws of bicycling can change quickly and require the knowledge of an experienced attorney in the jurisdiction where such an accident has taken place.

Bicycles are operated within an interesting area of the law, usually as a hybrid of pedestrian and automobile regulations. While it is not unusual to see a bicyclist riding their bike with pedestrians on the sidewalk, you would never see a car doing this without police being alerted to stop them. But then, you frequently see bicycles on the streets in traffic lanes, where pedestrians would never be without the same police stopping them.

Some states allow local jurisdictions to develop their own localized rules for bicycle riding and handling in traffic. This can confuse the subject of pedestrian versus vehicle even more, when individual localities within the same state operate under different rules.

As a general rule of thumb, most states and local communities consider bicycles a type of vehicle. This makes bicyclists subject to some, if not all, of their state’s traffic laws. In other words, bike riders must adhere to the rules of car drivers in these localities.

An example of such rules is a common state law that when bicycles are ridden in the street, the bike rider must observe all traffic control devices. This means the bicyclist must stop at stop signs and follow traffic lights of red, yellow and green.

A similar rule is that texting and riding a bike is penalized just as much as it is for texting and driving a car. Talking on a cell phone while driving a car in some states is illegal. The same may be true for riding a bike while talking on a cell phone. If anything, bicyclists are more vulnerable to their surroundings that car drivers, making these laws particularly important due to a bicyclist’s need to remain alert to his or her surroundings.

In some states, bicyclists must display a state-provided license plate on their bike for any road use. If they are caught riding their bike while intoxicated, they can be arrested on criminal charges just like a DUI or DWI driver operating a motor vehicle.

For bicyclists in some jurisdictions, they can be issued a traffic ticket, arrested and even penalized on their driver’s license for bicycle infractions. A driver in many places can lose their driver’s license if they ride their bicycle recklessly.

Other states have laws that only apply to bicyclists. In many jurisdictions, bike riders are required to ride as far on the right side of their traffic lane as possible when following the flow of traffic on roadways. Many states require use of specially marked bike lanes on streets and others require bicycle helmets.

It is rare for a bicycle operator to be considered a pedestrian under the law. They are more often considered a type of vehicle, but still not a motorized vehicle like a motorcycle. Bicyclists rarely are provided with absolute right-of-way for crosswalks, unlike pedestrians. In many places, riding your bike in a crosswalk will get you a ticket from police, because that is illegal.

Bicyclists are not immune from liability in accidents, whether those accidents are with other bikes, pedestrians or even automobiles. Pedestrians are not usually liable in motor vehicle accidents, although they can be in some circumstances.

Because laws vary so much from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is very important that you do not operate a bicycle without first getting to know your local laws.

When You Are a Victim in a Bicycle Accident

When you are a victim in an accident while riding a bike, or other type of accident involving a bicyclist, you will need to speak with an experienced, local bicycle accident attorney regarding your case. He or she will be able to clarify state and local laws for you, as to whether your case involves a bicyclist as a pedestrian, or a bicyclist that is liable under motor vehicle operation laws.

Anytime a bicycle accident occurs, it is important that you speak with a personal injury lawyer if you are not at fault. A personal injury lawyer will help you gain the compensation you need for your injuries, property damage or a loved one’s death. This compensation is designed to help you pay for medical expenses, lost income from the time of the accident and the future, property damage and other costs.

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About the Author

Attorney Lawrence Wolf provides strong legal representation for Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Cases.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Disclaimer: The felony, misdemeanor, traffic, criminal defense, drunk driving, DUI, theft, drugs, three strikes law, juvenile law, or other legal criminal defense information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results portrayed here were dependent on the facts of that case and the results will differ if based on different facts.