Spontaneity can be a wonderful thing at the right time.  Without it, romantic comedies would be devoid of any draw, haunted houses would lose their edge, and comedy would be rendered predictable and humdrum.  However, predictability has its place in the realm occupied by automobiles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Traffic laws are constructed to promote predictability, so that people know how to conduct themselves responsibly and safely.  Those using the road have a responsibility to behave predictably for the sake of others.  Bicyclists, in particular, are obliged to be predictable, as their small size and small number make them harder to spot and keep track of.  Because bicycle accidents are still a relatively common occurrence in the States, and because the aftermath of such accidents can be so devastating, there are several precepts that all bicyclists should follow.

1. Use signals.

Probably everyone has encountered (and later complained about) drivers that execute turns without putting their blinkers on or forget to turn them off again before it comes time for them to make another turn.  This behavior is not only aggravating; it is also potentially dangerous, since safety on the roadways depends upon clarity.  Unexpected maneuvers play upon people’s fears and, in worst-case scenarios, upon their reflexes.  To avoid subjecting some fellow driver to startlement, use the legally required bicycle turn signals to show cars which way you intend to go before darting out in front of them.

2. Keep to your side of the lane.

While bicyclists are entitled to their own lane, it’s courteous to hint at your next move by staying on the side of the lane that anticipates where you will be going.  When turning left from a lane that allows for either straight shots or left turns, stay in the left side of the lane.  When making a right, drift toward that side prior to the turn.  When complementing turn signals, these subtle clues can be enormously helpful to motorists.

3. Stay off sidewalks whenever possible.

While a sidewalk is less likely to accommodate a snorting dragon of a motor vehicle, there will likely be more obstructions in the narrower pathway.  Since bicyclists have the same obligation not to mow down pedestrians that cars have to watch out for them (and because bicycle/pedestrian collisions are as great a hazard to bicyclists as they are for pedestrians), the sidewalk is to be avoided whenever it is practical to do so.

4. Vocalize

Signaling is the legal requirement, but it isn’t always sufficient to alert others of what you’re up to (particularly when you’re biking along the sidewalk).  It never hurts to call out your signal aloud for the benefit of those people who are in front of your or for some other reason have not noted your approach.

5. Yield the right of way when you are in a better position to do so.

On off-road paths without signals or set-in-stone regulations on who has the right of way, an unwritten law is that bicyclists carry the chief responsibility to yield to less confident bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters, etc.  The rule of thumb is that the bigger you are, the more conscious you are expected to be of your size:  on roads accommodating both pedestrians and bicyclists, the bicyclist is expected to yield.

One context in which you should never have to yield is if you have been injured in a bicycle accident resulting from another person’s spontaneity and lack of consideration for your presence on the road.  If this has been your experience, and you have run into a brick wall with your insurance claim, personal injury attorneys Christensen & Hymas can help.  Christensen & Hymas have a long, proud history of representing the victims of bicycle accidents with integrity and compassion—to find out what they can do for you, call for a free consultation at (801) 506-0800.