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Road Rights- Bike-on-Bike Collisions

By Bob Mionske

More bikes on the road means safer roads, as drivers learn to keep their speeds legal and to drive more carefully. But before the roads get safer, there’s a learning curve where drivers adjust their habits and take cyclists into account.

But how does the increasing number of bikes on the road affect other cyclists, and who’s at fault in a bike-on-bike collision? First, as our numbers grow, so does the need to learn how to ride safely around other cyclists.

Riders experienced at riding in groups—for example, competitive cyclists, club cyclists, and touring cyclists—have already developed the skills necessary for riding safely with other cyclists. For cyclists new to group riding, this is part of the learning curve.

But still, crashes happen, and they can involve any number of factors. In a race or on a training ride, two riders might cross wheels, or maybe an improperly glued tubular tire comes off. On a group ride, passing too close to a solo cyclist who is unaware of the fast-approaching group may result in one or more cyclists going down. On a trail, somebody might make unsafe passes. On a city street, a cyclist might be riding head down, or against traffic, or without lights at night—and of course, somebody might just blow a stop sign and broadside another cyclist. Somebody makes a mistake, and there’s a crash.

If a cyclist was careless and caused another cyclist to crash, the cyclist at fault may be responsible for the other cyclist’s injuries, including things like medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

With competitive riding and other organized group riding, there’s an added wrinkle: a liability waiver will likely be involved, in which the cyclists agree to assume the risks inherent to their sport. In racing, crashes are one of the risks inherent to the sport, so when you race, you’ve assumed the risk of crashing, even if the crash was caused by another rider’s negligence. This means that the negligent cyclist can’t be held liable for your injuries. However, there are limits to this—for example, you have not agreed to assume the risk of being injured by another rider’s recklessness, or even worse, an intentional act.

Whatever the cause, bike-on-bike collisions are going to become more common, as more people, many with only recently-acquired riding skills and little understanding of safe riding practices, take up cycling every year.

The good news is that riding skills improve with practice, and understanding how to operate a bike safely around others improves with education and experience. And that means, over time, as we adjust to seeing more bikes on the roads, we will all learn how to make biking, and our roads, safer.

Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.

 

This article, Bike-On-Bike Collisions, was originally publiched on Biycling on July 26, 2012. 

Now read the fine print:
Bicycle and the Law, Bob MionskeBob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske's practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
 
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to mionskelaw@hotmail.com Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
Important notice:
The information provided in the "Road Rights" column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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