Avid teen cyclists may not make safer motorists, says GJEL Accident Attorneys. Rules of the road apply equally to cars, trucks, bikes. More bicyclists use this mode of transportation to commute; that means higher accidents are possible. Teen drivers are encouraged to use caution and be aware of bicyclists.

San Francisco January 20, 2010 — Teenagers who were avid cyclists as youngsters may not always make safer motorists once they get their drivers’ licenses, suggests GJEL Accident Attorneys, a San Francisco Bay area firm representing plaintiffs in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. Although rules of the road apply equally to cars, trucks and bicycles, there is often confusion about how they apply to the latter. Many child cyclists–or even adult cyclists–are never taught rules of the road before they begin riding.

“Especially in Northern California, where snow does not typically inhibit cyclists, everyone should learn early to share the road,” said Andrew Gillin, senior managing partner of Gillin Jacobson Ellis & Larsen (GJEL). “New or inexperienced drivers must use extra caution with more looks over the shoulder to ensure a smaller cyclist is not in a blind spot when turning, parking or opening a car door.”

Because new drivers are often focused on other motorists, cyclists face a greater accident risk from new drivers. The increase in bicycle commuters, regardless of age of rider, suggests the potential for higher accident rates with motor vehicles. A 2007 study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority shows bicycle ridership increased 15 percent in 2007 throughout the city over 2006 estimates.

In 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 698 pedalcyclists were killed and 44,000 injured in traffic crashes. With more bicyclists than ever using roadways, it’s imperative new drivers and riders of any age are keenly aware of how to share the road.

Cycling Rules of the Road

  • Cyclists are expected to know and follow basic safety rules while on the road. Unfortunately, there is no “driver’s” test to help teach bicycle safety; it’s the responsibility of every cyclist to learn the law as it pertains to sharing the road with motorists. A good idea is to contact the local police department or YMCA to register for bicycle safety classes.
  • Bicycles are considered vehicles in the same class as cars and trucks. When operating a bicycle, follow the same rules of the road as cars and trucks. Pedestrians have the right of way. Obey all traffic signs/lights. Use hand signals when turning. Ride on the road and not sidewalks. Use helmets. Outfit bikes/gear with reflectors, rear-view mirrors.
  • When there is no bicycle lane, cyclists are expected to ride on the road to the right of automobiles with flow of traffic. When making left turns, merge into open traffic into the left turn lane and signal. Do not squeeze between cars. Confidently take a spot in front of or behind a vehicle and wait for lights to change. Use caution when riding in bike lanes – both for the sake of other cyclists and motorists who cross a line.
  • As a bicyclist, you can legally leave a bike lane at any time; when doing so, use rear-view mirrors and/or looks over the shoulder to ensure motorists or other cyclists are not in close proximity.
  • Keep three feet between your path and that of a parked car; don’t “get doored!” When bike lanes dual as parking lanes, a motorist or passenger (especially children) may not look behind before opening a car door. Recently parked cars are red flags—look for cars that have not yet turned off their lights. If there are brake lights or tail lights lit up, be extra aware. These cars may also be preparing to pull out and leave the parking spot.
  • Bicyclists can receive a citation from a police officer if stop signs and traffic lights are avoided. There are more police officers on bikes now; make it a point to act like a motorist when on the road.
  • Cycling signals for left turns require left arm pointing directly out horizontally. When turning right, the left arm points upwards, vertically, with the elbow at a right angle. Alternatively, the right arm is used to show a right turn, but drivers can better view a left arm if a bicycle is in the far right lane. To indicate a stop, the left arm should point down, toward the road, again with the elbow at a right angle.

“If they have been following rules of the road as bicyclists, these habits should be old hat when teenagers take the wheel for the first time,” said Gillin. “In cities where more bike lanes are being built and bicycling is the new smart car, all motorists should use extra discretion to care for ‘vehicles’ in bike lanes.”


Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.