In San Francisco and all over California, in busy intersections and congested parking lots, danger seems to lurk around every corner for cyclists. Bicycle riders always need to be on the alert; particularly for distracted drivers and other motorists not maintaining a proper lookout for bikes when behind the wheel. Let’s take a look at these two particularly dangerous locations, intersections and parking lots, and see what bikers can do to try to stay safer.
From reviewing hundreds of San Francisco bicycle accident cases, I have learned that the most hazardous places for bikes are intersections. Many bicycle riders seem to believe that if they have the right of way, they will be safe and that motorists will obey all of the rules of the road. Well, motorists may not be as vigilant as you are, and also, many motorists do not believe that they should really be required to share the road. Whether they are distracted or arrogant, or just plain careless, motorists are likely to injure bicycle riders if there is any contact between them. So, it is up to bicycle riders to be on high alert and to protect themselves from negligent drivers.
All bicyclists should use extreme caution when approaching and moving through an intersection. Don’t be arrogant, and perhaps you should assume that the motorists just don’t see you if you want to avoid bicycle accidents. Be sure to use a bike lane if available, but if not – stay on the right-hand side of the road as far right as practicable, and ensure you’re following the rules of the road, stopping at red lights and letting drivers with green lights and turn signals have the right of way. One more hazard to look out for, in addition to the distracted drivers and people running red lights or the motorists making left turns right in front of you, are right-hand turn lanes. Don’t get stuck to the right of a right-hand turn lane if you’re heading straight through the intersection, as you’re likely to not be seen by the car making the right hand turn and may end up getting hit by the turning vehicle. Move over into the lanes that are headed straight through the intersection and allow right hand turning cars and trucks and buses to pass on your right safely, avoiding you by a wide margin. In our San Francisco bicycle accident practice, we have handled many cases for severely injured cyclists who have been struck and sometimes crushed by a right hand turning car or truck. If you feel that you may be cut off at the corner, let all of the motorists pass you. If you find yourself with a truck or bus to your left at the corner, Stop and make sure that the truck or bus does not crush you with their rear wheels.
Parking lots can also be a particularly hazardous place for bikes. Cars are always quickly pulling in and out of spaces, while their drivers fail to properly look for people walking or riding behind their vehicles. Do not assume that the car driver backing up has seen you; make it important to stay alert and give at least three feet of distance between you and parked cars at all times, creating enough space between to ensure you can avoid a collision even if someone starts backing out. Additionally, if the parking spots are parallel spots, always be on the lookout for swinging doors, opened by drivers and passengers that aren’t looking out for bikes headed their way. One piece of safety equipment that can be helpful in parking lots is a mirror, attached to your helmet or bike, allowing you to glance quickly behind you and ensure there is enough room for your to avoid moving cars without running into overtaking traffic, making sure you don’t cause one accident while you’re trying to actively avoid another!
Although both intersections and parking lots are dangerous places for bikes, all roads can be dangerous for cyclists if drivers aren’t paying attention and if cyclists ride without enough caution. Make sure you stay seen, make eye contact on the road, and always ride safely. Better to take a few extra seconds getting to your destination, and to ensure your safety, than risk your life trying to rush through these dangerous areas.
Hello, I’m Claude Wyle, a San Francisco personal injury and bicycle attorney. Have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered here? Feel free to contact me or visit www.ccwlawyers.com