"THE BASICS OF BICYCLING ACCIDENTS"
Now that the worst of the Summer heat is behind us and the temperature is beginning to slowly cool, we are now experiencing the perfect weather for riding one’s bicycle. This time of year is when bike-riding it at its peak. In fact, biking is today more popular than ever before in the state of New Jersey and the country at large. The League of American Bicyclists reports that the number of people commuting to work on a bicycle has increased by an average of 46% in each state since 2008. Unfortunately, however, as the overall number of people riding their bicycles has increased, so too has the number of bicycling-related car accidents gone up.
Overall, motor vehicle accidents involving a bicycle are not nearly as common as car-on-car accidents. The Bike and Walk Alliance reports that in 2015 there were 45,000 reported accidents between cars and bikes, down from 50,000 the previous year, while driving safety organization Driver Knowledge estimates that about 6,000,000 car-on-car accidents occur each year. But the relative infrequency of bicycling-related car accidents as opposed to traditional car accidents should not be misconstrued to mean that biking accidents are rare phenomenon. In fact, New Jersey ranks 23rd in the nation for bicycling accident fatalities according to Governing.com. This means that New Jersey is in roughly the 50th-percentile for bicycling accident fatalities in the U.S. Specifically, in 2012 for example – a particularly bad year for biking accidents in New Jersey – our state experienced 14 bicycling-accident deaths. And while this only makes up about 2.4% of the state’s motor vehicle accident fatalities, as the number of people riding their bikes in the state is growing, this statistic is expected to grow.
Studies show that most of these fatal bike accidents occur in urban areas such as Camden, Newark, and Atlantic City, for example. Therefore, if you live in a more populous city in New Jersey and you have joined the bicycling trend, there are some basic safety rules of the road you must be aware of, including the fact that, by state law, you are required to follow the same rules that govern motorists on the roadway.
The Law Regarding Bicyclists in New Jersey
In New Jersey, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as a drivers of motor vehicles. This means that you must:
Signal before you make a turn
Stop at all red lights and stop signs
Give pedestrians in crosswalks the right of way
Additionally, you should familiarize yourself with the New Jersey Bicycling Manual, produced by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, available on the “Resources” tab of our website. The manual outlines additional laws that apply specifically to bicyclists in New Jersey, including:
Any individual under the age of 17 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or being towed by a bicycle
Bicycles must be equipped with bells or other audible devices, but not sirens or whistles, and the device must be audible from at least 100 feet away
Like motorists, bicyclists must keep to the right and ride in single file lines when on the roadway
Bicyclists who ride at night must equip their bikes with front headlamps that emit white light that can be seen from at least 500 feet away and rear lights that emit red light across the same distance
Bikes must have red rear reflectors
Bicyclists must be equipped with brakes that make their wheels skid when braking on clean, dry pavement
Here in a helpful infographic explaining some important bicycling safety tips in the state of New Jersey:
Contrary to popular opinion, while most believe that riding their bike on the sidewalk is safer than riding in the street, in many municipalities throughout New Jersey, ordinances have been passed outlawing bicycling on the sidewalk so as to prevent accidents with pedestrians. You should check your city’s local ordinances to determine if you are permitted to ride on the sidewalk.
If your city has not outlawed riding on the sidewalk, you should nonetheless use good judgment to determine whether it is safer for you to ride on the sidewalk or on the roadway. In heavily populated areas with large amounts of pedestrian foot traffic, bicycling in the roadway may be the safer choice, while in areas with busy roads or highways, riding on the sidewalk may make more sense.
Similarly, if you are a parent, you should advise your children as to the rules of the road while bike riding, and ensure they understand how to operate their bicycle safely, setting clear boundaries as to where they may or may not ride, and setting appropriate times that they may ride given present lighting and visibility conditions.
By obeying the laws outlined above together with those outlined in the New Jersey Bicycling Manual available on our website, and by exercising common sense and good judgment, you can help safeguard yourself against bicycling-related motor vehicle accidents.
What to Do in the Event of A Bicycling Accident
That said, accidents do happen. Even if you follow the laws and take all the necessary safety precautions, sometimes accidents are unavoidable. Therefore, in the event that you are involved in a bicycle crash involving a motor vehicle, it is important that you know what options are available to you so that you can properly seek treatment for any injuries you sustained and so that you can get secure a full financial recovery.
After any accident, you should seek medical attention right away in order to get your injuries properly diagnosed and receive treatment. In New Jersey, most people do not realize that provided you were involved in a bicycling accident involving a motor vehicle (as opposed to a biking accidents involving property – crashing over a pothole, for example – or involving a pedestrian) then for insurance purposes your personal automobile insurance policy applies. This means that provided you have valid car insurance, if you are in an accident with another vehicle while you are riding your bicycling, your auto policy applies, entitling you to pursue medical treatment under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits.
Additionally, if you or a loved one have been involved in a bicycling accident and sustained an injury, it is important that you seek the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can help ensure that you receive any compensation you are entitled to. Our personal injury attorneys here at Drinkwater & Goldstein, LLP – many of whom are avid bicyclists themselves – know the law regarding the obligations of motorists on the roadway with respect to bike riders, and will fight to get you the financial recovery you deserve. We provide free, immediate consultations over the telephone and there is no cost to you unless we secure a recovery on your behalf. Call us today at (856) 753-5131.