The California Vehicle Code generally considers bicycles on the road as vehicles, so cyclists need to know their rights and responsibilities on California roads. Many people enjoy cycling for leisure, for exercise, or as an eco-friendly alternative to driving to and from work. Bike lanes and the legal right to “take the lane” can help cyclists navigate California roadways more safely, but riding at night is always more dangerous than riding during the day. Consider the following tips to stay safe while cycling at night in California.
#1. Wear Appropriate Safety Gear
Cyclists should always wear helmets on the road, and California law requires all cyclists and bicycle passengers under the age of 18 to wear helmets. If you are riding at night, your bike should have working light fixtures and reflectors to make yourself as visible as possible to other drivers. Some cyclists may want to wear elbow and knee pads for additional protection.
#2. Make Yourself More Visible
Visibility is crucial for preventing cycling accidents at night. You can purchase a headlight for your bicycle, and reflectors are also important. Anything you can do to stand out to passing drivers will help keep you safer while riding, so refrain from wearing dark clothing and gear when riding at night.
#3. Keep to the Right Whenever Possible
Many California roads have bicycle lanes, but the Vehicle Code expects cyclists to stay as far to the right side of the road as possible whenever circumstances allow. Bicyclists should only take a lane and move to the left to prepare for a left-hand turn or to move out of a right-turn-only lane.
#4. Have Emergency Information With You
You should have your personal information and an emergency contact card with you at all times, even if you only plan on taking a short ride. These items will help police or other emergency personnel identify you and notify your loved ones if you are in an accident. You should also have a cell phone with you while riding for emergency use. California law does not forbid cell phone use while on a bicycle, but using one while riding is distracting and can be very dangerous.
#5. Check Your Route
If you are riding at night, it’s wise to plan your route before you hit the road. Biking at night can be daunting without a firm idea of where you are going. You can also investigate mounts for your cell phone that can attach to your bike’s handlebars, allowing you to set up your GPS navigation on a smartphone easily. However, be sure to refrain from tinkering with the GPS while in motion.
#6. Keep Your Bike in Good Shape
You should also regularly check your bike to ensure the tires have the right amount of air in them and the brakes work. When purchasing a bike for the first time, make sure it is the right size for your height and build and has the appropriate fixtures and wheel type for the surfaces on which you plan to ride. For example, you wouldn’t want to purchase a road bike with smoother tires if you plan to ride on back roads, dirt roads, or biking paths.
#7. Understand Your Rights
If you sustain injuries in a bicycle accident, you should know your options for securing compensation for your damages. If another driver caused your bicycle accident due to negligence, then you can file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver or whoever caused your accident. However, remember that California follows a pure comparative negligence law, meaning plaintiffs may absorb some liability if they contribute to their accidents. An experienced California bike accident attorney can help you better understand your options after a cycling accident in San Diego or wherever you reside.