Sharing the Road: Cyclist Liability When Injured By An Automobile

By Melissa Fried

With its beautiful scenery, weather (minus the humidity), and lack of parking, Charleston is a very bicycle-friendly town. In the past couple of years, more bicycle lanes have been placed on busy streets and highways from downtown to West Ashley and East Cooper. More bike rental businesses have opened. And more bike racks have been placed at popular areas to encourage residents to be eco-friendly and commute via bike.

But, with that being said, many bicyclists ignore the rules of the road and swerve between parked cars, run stop signs and stop lights, and bike against traffic. Unfortunately this leads to many collisions between drivers and cyclists, and disputes over who is at fault for the bicycle accident. Many times, as a result of not obeying the same laws governing vehicles on the road, the cyclist is at fault and unable to recover for his or her personal injuries. Therefore, if you are going to take advantage of the opportunities afforded cyclists in Charleston, it is imperative that you are aware of and obey all the laws governing cyclists in South Carolina.

Common Misconceptions About Cyclists and Automobiles

One of the most common misconceptions is that it is safer to ride your bike against traffic rather than with traffic. Not only is this not safe as the cyclist cannot see signs and traffic signals, but it is actually illegal in South Carolina. Because bicycles share the roadway with automobiles, according to Section 56-5-3420 of the South Carolina Code, they must follow the same laws that govern the operation of automobiles. For example, bicycles must travel with traffic, stop at stop signs and red lights, and use hand signals before making turns.

Another misconception is that it’s okay for a bicyclist to ride his or her bike across a pedestrian crosswalk. Because bicyclists have the same rights as vehicles, a bicyclist should not ride his or her bicycle across a pedestrian crosswalk; instead, he or she should dismount and walk the bike across the crosswalk. Once you have mounted your bike and your feet are off the ground, the bicycle becomes a vehicle and must follow the same rules governing vehicles. Therefore, a bicyclist riding his bike on a pedestrian crosswalk is no longer a pedestrian and loses his right-of-way to traffic. Additionally, while it may seem that it is safer to ride your bike across the crosswalk, it is actually more difficult for vehicles to see the cyclists who are moving much faster than pedestrians. So, if you are riding your bike across a pedestrian crosswalk and a vehicle is turning right and hits you, you will likely be marked at fault for the collision.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle collision and want to know what your rights are, please contact the Joye Law Firm at (877) 936-9707 or use our convenient online contact for a free initial consultation.