by Lauren DiCenso
While cycling is one of the healthiest and most environmentally friendly forms of travel, there are always risks while cycling alongside traffic. Unfortunately, cyclists are more often blamed for crashes with motorists. There are laws on your side that can help you if you’re ever involved in any kind of incident with motorists.
Here are some American laws every cyclist should be aware of.
- The 3’ Law
32 states currently have a 3’ cycling law, meaning that motorists have to pass cyclists with at least 3’ between the cyclist and the vehicle. Pennsylvania even requires motorists to give cyclists 4’ of space. These laws were enacted to prevent motorists from sideswiping cyclists while passing.
While the law will be on your side if you’re actually hit, what happens if someone passes you dangerously but there is no contact? While this is illegal, it’s very rare that this law is enforced. Some progress is being made in the 3’ effort. For example, the Chattanooga police department use a device that records how close a passing car is to a cyclist. Innovations like these will hopefully make the roads much safer for cyclists.
- Getting “Doored”
Getting doored is one of the scariest crash scenarios for cyclists. You’re either immediately hit by a sheet of metal, or you’re forced to swerve into oncoming traffic or directly in front of a passing car.
Fortunately, the law is always on the cyclists’ side in these scenarios. The 1969 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic made it illegal for a motorist to open his car door or leave a car door open without making sure that it cannot endanger other road users. Most states follow this law, and many government traffic organizations publish instructional guides on how to open a car door safely. Legally, dooring incidence should be an easy victory for a cyclist.
- The Idaho Stop
While it’s clearly advantageous to be ahead of traffic, most laws require cyclists to adhere to traffic regulations just as any motorist would. This means coming to a complete stop at any red light.
An exception to this rule would be known as the “Idaho stop.” Idaho and a handful of other states/municipalities allow cyclists to run red lights after coming to a complete stop and yielding to any other traffic. Additionally, you may find yourself stuck at a red light that won’t turn green because your bike is too lightweight to trigger the light cycle. In instances like these, the light is considered “defective” and you’re able to pass (while yielding to other traffic) after you’ve come to a complete stop and waited for at least one traffic light cycle.
Most cycling laws vary depending on your state and even town, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws. The more you’re able to prove you rode safely and legally, the lower your chance of ever getting hit with an outrageous insurance claim.
This article was created by Personal Injury Help (www.personalinjury-law.com), an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only. Be sure to review your local cycling ordinances to ensure you ride safely and legally!