As bicycles become an increasing popular mode of transportation in North and South Carolina with increased city living and the numerous bike sharing resources, injuries while riding a bicycle are also increasing. Many motorists believe that a bicycle on the road is a second class citizen, however they have every right and protection as another vehicle on the road. However, because bicycles are operated so differently from cars, truck, and motorcycles, there are some differences which are important for both motorists and cyclists to know.
A bicycle is a vehicle under North Carolina law. As such, the laws that control vehicles including red lights, stop signs, and driving under the influence apply equally to bicycles. What is very different is that there is a lot of flexibility on where a bicycle may be ridden. Cities are permitted to make their own laws and ordinances that control their roads and the laws can vary from place to place. If you are riding on the road, it may not be on fully controlled access highways, such as interstates. Also, you must ride with the flow of traffic. There is no North Carolina statute controlling if a bicycle may or may not be driven on a sidewalk. Some cities have provided bike lanes which are up to the rider on if they wish to use it, however the local laws will decide if they are required to use that lane. In Charlotte for instance, a bicycle may not be driven on a sidewalk in certain areas of the city, primarily located around “downtown”, but outside that area, they may be driven on the sidewalk. However, Charleston, South Carolina does not allow bicycles to be ridden on the sidewalk at any time. Hickory, North Carolina requires cyclists to use a bike lane if one is provided. If there is not one, then they are welcome to ride either on the road or the sidewalk. If you need to know if your city or town has required bike lanes or allows sidewalk riding, please consult www.municode.com and search your area.
Often, there is a disconnect between cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. Who yields to whom or who has the right of way can be confusing because a cyclists could be both a pedestrian and a motorist at different times. If you are on the road, then you are a vehicle, and you must follow the applicable laws. However, a vehicle that is emerging from an alley, building entrance, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian or person riding a bicycle approaching on any sidewalk or walkway. A cyclist must be aware which role they are occupying and make sure that they are following those rules.
Injuries from a bicycle collision, like any collision, can vary greatly. Unlike in a car, there is nothing between the cyclist’s body and the road. This can result in road rash, blunt force trauma, broken bones, and even death. Also unlike in a car, these injuries can result from seemingly minor collisions. Given the issues discussed above of how people often do not know who has the right of way on a bicycle and the stigma that motorists have against cyclists on the road, issues of who is truly at fault almost always come up. Knowing the law is just the first step. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor not only know the law that protects cyclists, but also have the experience in explaining that law and telling your story to the jury to best advocate for you. With offices located in Charlotte, Hickory and Greenville, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina, we are there to protect you from the mountains to the beach.
If you are injured in a collision when you are riding a bicycle, don’t let the insurance company tell you that you assumed the risk. Speak with an attorney that knows who the law surrounding bicycles and also knows how to fight to make you whole.