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Do California cyclists need more protection than a bike lane?

Bike lanes were created to provide cyclists with a safe place on the roads, away from the congestion of pedestrian traffic but separate from vehicles. The lanes can work when everyone is doing what they are supposed to, following the laws of the road. But what happens when just one individual’s actions fall below these standards? In most cases, it is the cyclist that suffers a brain injury, spinal cord damage or other serious trauma.

Advocates for bicycle safety argue that in some cases, the repercussions for drivers that put cyclists at risk are simply too meager. There are seemingly endless stories of cyclists that are involved in near-miss accidents, injured or even killed by a driver that violates a traffic law. In many of these cases, a driver walks away with only a minimal fine for a minor traffic violation.

“I think the bottom line is just personal responsibility for your actions,” said the wife of a cyclist killed in a California accident. “Especially when you kill someone.” The truth is that a lot of these cases involve a person that never meant to hurt another, never meant to get in an accident at all. Yet, their actions change the lives of victims and their families forever.

The husband mentioned above was killed by a driver that had crossed the center lane and forced another vehicle into the bike lane in which he was travelling. Although there is a question as to whether distracted driving was involved, police suspect that the driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. It wasn’t a case in which police immediately filed charges, nor may any ever be filed.

A personal lawsuit can pick up where the criminal court leaves off in California. Negligence includes those reckless and careless actions that don’t rise to a criminal level and yet cause some of the most horrific damages. The verdicts or settlements in this case are about addressing the harm caused to the victim.

Source:, “The Failure of ‘Share the Road’,” Georgia Perry, Jan. 7, 2014

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