Who’s Liable if a Car Hits a Cyclist Who Was Riding Outside the Bicycle Lane?

Liability isn’t always black and white. In a situation where a bicyclist is riding outside of the bicycle lane and is subsequently hit, who is at fault? Are there other factors that help determine the liable party? Individuals familiar with the legal side of traffic have shed some light on who would be considered liable under what circumstances. Keep reading to find out if your suspicions are correct.
Anderson Franco, Esq.

Anderson Franco, Esq.

Personal Injury Attorney at .

Liability Can Be Shared

In most jurisdictions, liability in a personal injury matter is not binary. Instead, liability can be shared amongst two people. If cyclists ride outside of a bicycle lane, the cyclist and the driver may share some degree of responsibility. Liability in such cases is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as the actions of the driver and the cyclist, local traffic laws, road conditions, and other relevant circumstances.

Driver is Liable in the U.K.

If a car hits a cyclist on the road, it will be likely the driver has been negligent in not keeping a proper lookout.

This is emphasised in the new edition of the Highway Code introduced 29 January 2022, which gives a hierarchy of road users in terms of exercising their duty of care towards other road users. So drivers of motor vehicles have a higher duty of care towards more vulnerable road users such as cyclists.

If a cyclist is outside the cycle lane this will go to contributory negligence – that is the cyclist’s own negligence may be found to have contributed to the accident. If contributory negligence was found, damages would be reduced. This would be judged on a case-by-case basis.

All these cases are fact sensitive. If a cyclist had good cause to be outside the cycle lane (maybe because it was obstructed ), then it is less likely contributory negligence would be found.

So primary liability would usually remain with the driver in these circumstances unless the cyclist had been cycling in a very dangerous manner.

Tim Robinson

Tim Robinson

Solicitor at .
Rick Musson

Rick Musson

Law Enforcement Officer and Senior Crash Investigator Consulting with .

The One Not Following Traffic Laws

A bicyclist can ride on public roadways. They’re required to follow the same traffic laws as vehicles. So, if a vehicle hits a cyclist who was following traffic laws, the vehicle driver is at fault. If the bicyclist was not following traffic laws, the bicyclist is at fault.

Determining the fault in this situation is similar to determining the fault in a car vs. car crash. The one not following traffic laws will be at fault.

If a cyclist is traveling the wrong way on the road, they’re in the wrong. One common scenario is a bicyclist traveling the wrong way down a sidewalk. When a vehicle pulls out of a parking lot, they should scan the sidewalk for pedestrians.

Since bikes are not supposed to be on the sidewalk, drivers don’t typically scan far enough down the sidewalk to see a fast-moving bicycle. Then, the driver pulls out and hits the bicyclist. In this situation, the bicyclist is at fault.

Bicycle vs. vehicle accident fault must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The More Careless Party

It is up to the court system to decide who is at fault in cases of collisions between drivers and cyclists. The responsibility could fall on either the cyclist or the driver, depending on who was more careless in that particular situation.

To decide who was responsible for a bike crash, authorities need to identify which party had the right of way: the cyclist or the driver. Whoever has the right-of-way must wait until it is safe before going ahead. The other person should yield and not move forward. Suppose the driver had the right-of-way and the cyclist was riding outside of the designated bicycle lane. In that case, it can be assumed that the driver was not negligent and is, therefore, not liable for any damages.

However, if it can be proven that the driver acted recklessly or without due care, they may still be held accountable even if the cyclist was riding in an area without a bicycle lane. The driver must be able to demonstrate that they were not negligent in any way and that the cyclist’s actions were solely responsible for causing the crash. In this case, the cyclist may still be held liable for damages.

Tariro Goronga

Tariro Goronga

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