Bike Law 101: Beyond the Safety Corridor

May was Bike Awareness Month, with crowds of people gathering in Eureka and Arcata for bike to work rallies on designated bike to work days.  In a timely proposal, the City of Eureka is also considering installing striped bicycle lanes on Harris Street, providing additional bicycle friendly streets, but reducing the number of parking spaces available on Harris.  The Parking Place Commission will be discussing the issue at their public meeting in City Hall this Thursday (June 9, 2011, 4:40 p.m.).

The discussion about bike lanes illustrates the predominant role that bicycles increasingly play in many commuters’ lives as gas prices continue to soar.  With the increase in bike commuters, and the unfortunate increase in fatalities and serious injuries to bicyclists, it is becoming more important that bicyclists know their rights.  Many cyclists do not know they have the same rights under the California Vehicle Code to occupy the roadway as does a motor vehicle.  When a cyclist is hit by a vehicle, he or she is often shaken up and not thinking of the important steps necessary to validate their positions in court later.  Here is a brief primer:

For both civil and criminal cases, the most important rule to remember is to document, document, document.  Get complete information about the driver and the vehicle involved in the incident and file a police report.  Get the contact information from every witness available and preserve all evidence you have available.

Contact an attorney before contacting the driver’s insurance company.  Know that there may be ways to recover for your injuries even if the driver is uninsured.  You should be aware there are deadlines for filing a claim so you should attempt to find legal assistance immediately.  If you decide to handle the case without the assistance of an attorney, be aware that court cases must be filed within two years and if a public entity is responsible, claims must be filed much sooner.

The Janssen Law Firm has represented numerous injured cyclists in litigation and otherwise.  Our lawyers and legal staff support and are Humboldt bicyclists: Mr. Morrison and Ms. Michaels often cycle to work while Mr. Crowley is a member of the Humboldt Bay Bicycle Commuters Association and paralegal Nancy Holmes McPartland celebrated bike to Work Day in Eureka this year.