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When Bicycles Hit Pedestrians: Who’s to Blame?

The number of bicyclists in Southern California has grown significantly as more people use this eco-friendly mode of transport for daily commutes and healthy recreation. Although biking is a relatively easy activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, accidents can and do happen. There are weekend warriors who casually pedal in the wrong lanes, occasionally ignoring crosswalk signals, stop signs or encroaching on sidewalks earmarked for foot traffic. And then there’s the dilemma of shared spaces – pathways that are used by both bicyclists and walkers. 

When a cyclist hits a pedestrian and injuries result, who’s to blame? In accidents where property damage and physical harm are involved, it all comes down to who breached their respective duty of care. Just because you were the knocked-down pedestrian or bicyclist does not – in and of itself– establish fault. In these cases, insurance companies and the court determine liability based on laws of negligence.

Was the bicyclist traveling too fast, approaching the pedestrian from behind without adequate warning? Or was the pedestrian busy texting on their phone when they stepped in the cyclist’s path? Both parties must exercise a reasonable amount of attention and awareness to their surroundings – a concept known as “duty of care.”

Duty of care for pedestrians

Pedestrians owe a certain duty of care to others who are sharing the roadways or sidewalks. They are expected to exercise caution to avoid accident and injury. Distraction plays a large role in bicyclist-pedestrian accidents. Pedestrians who are engaged in conversation, walking their dogs, texting or listening to music, are at greater risk for an accident.

Other instances of pedestrian negligence:

  • Walking while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
  • Jaywalking despite oncoming traffic
  • Failing to use marked crossroads
  • Not walking in designated pedestrian areas

Duty of care for bicyclists

Bicyclists, just like pedestrians, are under a duty to exercise the same level of caution to prevent accident or injury to others.

A cyclist may be found negligent if they:

  • Ride in pedestrian-only zones
  • Violate traffic rules
  • Ride distracted
  • Ride under the influence
  • Ride without proper lighting at night
  • Travel above the posted speed limit
  • Fail to make their presence known (ringing a bell, etc.)

Bicycle-pedestrian accidents in California

Recent data on bicyclist-pedestrian collisions in California is sparse. The most recent study, published in the journal of Safety Research, indicates a downward trend in these accidents. Between 2005-2011, 6,177 pedestrians in California were involved in accidents with cyclists. The majority suffered injuries to the neck and head and were treated on an outpatient basis. Not everyone escapes serious injury, however.

In 2016, a reckless bicyclist knocked down an elderly woman who was using a marked crosswalk on the LA River Path. It was a hit-and-run accident that left the 64-year-old woman with severe injuries requiring hospitalization and surgery.

Superior legal advocacy in Los Angeles

Establishing negligence in a pedestrian-cyclist crash requires the investigative prowess of an experienced attorney. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the Ellis Law Firm has a long track record of success handling personal injury claims in Southern California.  Our award-winning team is committed to achieving the compensation our clients need and deserve. To discuss your case with an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer free of charge, call 1-800-INJURED. 

Additional Resources on Pedestrian -Bicycle Collisions:

  1. Cycling Weekly, New debate over who’s to blame as cyclist and pedestrian collide http://www.cyclingweekly.com/news/latest-news/new-debate-over-whos-to-blame-as-cyclist-and-pedestrian-collide-201606
  2. VeloSurance, What you need to know about cycling accidents with pedestrians https://velosurance.com/information-center/cyclists-what-to-know-accidents-pedestrians/
  3. NHTSA, Pedestrian Safety https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety
  4. com, The Rate of Pedestrians Injured by Bicyclists Is Going Down https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2014/10/the-rate-of-pedestrians-injured-by-bicyclists-is-going-down/381013/