With the warming weather and longer days, more people are deciding to take a trip on their bikes around our gorgeous state. However, it’s important to know the dangers inherent to riding a bike on Louisiana roadways, especially since in a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, the bicyclist suffers the majority of injuries.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 846 bicyclists were killed in traffic accidents. That’s roughly 2% of crash deaths in the U.S. Louisiana ranks second or third for most bicyclist fatalities in the states, with 728 bicycle injuries and 22 fatalities in 2019. Bicycle accident awareness is a major issue in our state.
If you’ve been in a bicycle accident, you could be suffering major injuries that could take months or even years to heal. Since May is National Bicycle Safety Awareness Month, the lawyers at Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys have compiled some of the top tips—for both riders and drivers—to keep cyclists safe on our Louisiana roads.
Tips for Cyclists
Bicycle safety awareness begins with you. Before you head out for a ride on your bicycle, make sure of the following:
- You’re wearing a properly-fitted bicycle helmet meeting standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Your bike fits you properly and all its parts function, including
- All the parts on your bike are properly secured and fitted
- Your bike is equipped with reflectors on the front, rear, pedals, and spokes
- You’re wearing bright clothing, ideally with neon or fluorescent colors
When you’re on the road, remember that bicyclists are subject to the same rules as motorists. Follow the rules of the road, and do the following to stay safe:
- Ride single-file in the direction of traffic
- Keep alert and watch for opening car doors and other hazards
- Use hand signals for turning
Finally, there are a few things you should not do as you ride your bike:
- Don’t hitch onto cars for a speed boost
- Don’t ride impaired by alcohol and drugs
Tips for Motorists
If you’re driving and see a cyclist ahead of you, remember bicycles have the same right to the road as cars. Help them stay safe by remembering the following tips:
- Pass bicyclists carefully, and allow three feet of clearance between you and them
- Look behind you for cyclists before opening your door or pulling out of a parking space
- Yield to bicycle riders at intersections
- Look for cyclists before making turns
- Respect bicycle lanes: don’t use them for passing, parking, or turning
- Drive sober, and always buckle your seat belt
Louisiana Bicycle Law
Bicycle laws vary by state and sometimes even by county, parish, or city. Louisiana has passed a number of laws pertaining to bicycling in the state:
- Motorists must “exercise due care” while passing a bicycle, and to leave a margin of at least three feet while passing.
- Children under the age of 12 must wear a helmet while riding a bicycle. Adults are not required to wear a helmet.
- People in motor vehicles must take precaution when they open their door on a highway to ensure they don’t endanger anyone. Also, no one is allowed to leave a car door open longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
- Louisiana makes it illegal to harass, taunt, or “maliciously throw objects” at a bicyclist.
- Louisiana does not exempt bicyclists from the requirement to fully stop at stop signs or to disobey traffic lights that don’t detect them.
- Louisiana law defines bicycles as vehicles, meaning that a cyclist has the same rights and duties as all other drivers and drivers must share the road with cyclists.
- When there is no bike lane, bicyclists must ride as close as practicable to the right edge of the roadway except in some particular circumstances:
- when passing another bicycle
- when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway
- when the lane is too narrow for a car and a bike to be side-by-side
- when approaching a right turn
- when on a multi-lane highway and preparing for a left turn
Bicycle Accident Causes
Louisiana is one of the highest-risk states to cyclists, with 728 bicyclist deaths in 2019 due to traffic accidents. There are a few key reasons that contribute to that grim statistic:
- Driving Under the Influence: Louisiana has ranked 9th in the country for drunk driving deaths per capita, and a drunk driver is less likely to notice a cyclist than a sober one. Be careful when biking, especially during Mardi Gras and other party seasons. Bicycle safety awareness requires a sober mindstate.
- Mild Weather: Bicycle deaths across the U.S. peak during the summer, when weather is nice and easy to ride in. Because Louisiana is warmer for more of the year, more people ride bicycles more of the time. This increases the risk for bicycle accidents.
- Hostile Drivers: Even though bicyclists have the same rights as motorists, many drivers believe that bicycles don’t belong on the road. In Louisiana, it’s illegal to harass cyclists, so if you’ve been injured by a driver harassing you, experienced bicycle accident lawyers can help you recover the damages you’re owed.
What to Do If You’re a Bicycle Accident Victim
If you were hit by a car while you were riding your bike on the street, you could be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve experienced. Many bicycle accidents result in major personal injuries requiring expensive hospital stays, lost work, and other hardships, and you shouldn’t have to bear those costs alone.
An experienced Louisiana bike injury lawyer can help you build your case against the negligent driver that caused your accident. Call Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys at 888.501.7888 for a free consultation on your bike accident injury case.