Q: Bicycle Accident Liability: How do I know if I had right of way?

Bicycles are no different than cars when it comes to right of way rules. According to Colorado law, bicycles are “vehicles” and cyclists have a legal duty to obey the rules of the road, including right of way. If you’re in a bicycle accident, liability could hinge on who had the right of way when the accident occurred.

Defining “Right of Way”

The term “right of way” refers to the precedence one cyclist or driver has over another. When two vehicles intersect and interfere with each other’s routes, right of way rules determines who gets to go first.

Colorado Statutes explain: “Every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this article [§ 42-4-1412].”

In many instances, road features such as signs and traffic signals make it clear who has right of way. This isn’t always the case; when there aren’t any signals, different rules apply depending upon the location.

Right of Way at Intersections without Signals

When two vehicles or bicycles are at an intersection with no signals or at a stop sign, whoever arrived at the intersection first will have right of way.

If they arrive simultaneously, then the vehicle to the right has the legal right of way. The only exception is if the intersection is at one major road and one minor street. In that case, whichever vehicle is on the major road will have the right of way.

Additionally, DriversEd.com has a few of important suggestions concerning right of way:

  • never insist on taking the right-of-way;
  • note that the law does not allow anyone the right-of-way. It only states who must yield; and
  • when a driver is legally required to yield the right-of-way but fails to do so, other drivers are required to stop or yield as necessary for safety.

The Prevalence of Cycling Accidents at Intersections

About a third (31 percent) of bicyclist fatalities in the U.S. in 2011 occurred at intersections, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There were a total 677 cyclist fatalities in 2011, eight of which occurred in Colorado.

Bicyclists should not only wear helmets, visible clothing, and avoid cycling in the dark when other motorists may have trouble seeing them, they should also familiarize themselves with the rules of the road. Motorists should do the same.

It’s often not so much that the drivers and cyclists aren’t aware of the rules of the road, but rather, they have a tendency to ignore the rules and oftentimes simply fail to look properly.

Whether you are the cyclist or the driver in an accident, if you or someone you love was recently injured in a serious collision involving a bicycle and a vehicle, speak to an attorney about how to move forward with filing a claim for damages.

Call an Accident Attorney for a FREE Consultation

In many cases, liability in an accident will all boil down to who had the right of way. If you were involved in a bicycle accident and wish to explore liability, we invite you to call attorney D.J. Banovitz for a free consult. Contact us today – 303-300-5060.