Bicycle Safety Tips for Commuters in San Francisco

There are over 60,000 people in San Francisco who rely on bicycles as a primary mode of transportation, from the daily commuter to the recreational cyclist. City streets have become ever-more crowded as two-wheel pedal power has become increasingly popular which has, unfortunately, increased the number of bicycle accidents in San Francisco. I seriously feel like I’m in a “bicycle traffic jam” when riding home from work on Market Street. For the most part, all cyclists are really respectful of each other, but there are also those who can be a little reckless and too much in a hurry. Here are a few tips to help us all stay safer and help our fellow cyclists keep things safe on our very crowded San Francisco streets.

Each year hundreds of people are sent to the hospital and dozens are killed in auto/bike collisions. While many times the driver of the automobile is at fault, bicyclists must do everything they can to avoid these accidents. This includes learning the rules of the road, preparing themselves to hit the streets, and knowing what to do in the case of an emergency. Protect yourself. Don’t end up in an accident, needing to contact a San Francisco personal injury attorney. While most of my clients are without fault for their accidents, almost all of them are blamed by the driver for some portion of fault. So, do your best to follow the rules of the road and avoid blame for someone Else’s mistake.

“Top 5 Rules of the Road” to Avoid Bicycle Accidents in San Francisco

There are a number of rules/laws of the road which pertain to bicyclists. Just as drivers behind the wheel of a car must abide by traffic laws, operators of pedal-powered vehicles must as well. These laws exist to help prevent bicycle accidents in San Francisco and every operator of a pedal-powered vehicle is responsible for learning and adhering to these laws. Failure to do so could result in police citations, injury, and even death.

1) Stay on the Street and Ride Right

Bicycles belong in the street not on the sidewalk. Unless you’re a child 13 years old or younger, you must ride your bicycle in the street—even in the absence of a bike lane. Riding on the sidewalk poses a danger to yourself and the pedestrians you’re passing.

As tempting as it may be, do not ride against traffic. Bicycles are regarded by the law as vehicles and must ride with the flow of traffic. Riding against the flow is dangerous and dramatically increases your risk of being involved in a serious bicycle accident in San Francisco.

(When walking your bicycle, you’re considered a pedestrian and should walk either on the sidewalk (if present) or against the flow of traffic along the edge of the road.)

2) Pedestrians Have the Right of Way

Both drivers and bicyclists must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. You may think of your bike as exercise equipment, a recreational toy, or a simple means of transportation but in the eyes of the law it is a vehicle and its operation is governed by the California Vehicle Code. Vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians. While bike/pedestrian accidents in San Francisco are uncommon, hitting an individual while on a bicycle can lead to life-threatening injuries or even death for both individuals involved.

Also, bicyclists cannot stop inside crosswalks. These lanes are designated for pedestrians only and you must leave them clear for foot traffic. If you block a crosswalk, you’re not only increasing the likelihood of an accident but also opening yourself up to citations from the SFPD.

3) Obey Traffic Signs and Lights

Most automobile-related bicycle accidents in San Francisco occur at intersections and usually involve one or both operators ignoring traffic signals. Don’t become a statistic! Bicycles, like any other vehicle on the road must obey all traffic signs and lights. This includes stop, yield, and one-way signs as well as the standard red-yellow-green traffic lights and blinking lights.

4) Always Pass on the Left

As tempting as it is to squeak by on the right, doing so can be deadly. One of the most common types of bicycle accident in San Francisco occurs when cyclists are struck by turning traffic. Cyclists—like automobile drivers— must always pass on the left. This is true even if the bike lane is on the right side of the street. Passing on the right can be a tough legal challenge even for the most experienced San Francisco personal injury attorney.

5) Be Aware and Be Visible

Your hearing is a valuable safety tool when travelling in traffic—use hands-free phone devices and portable music players responsibly. Legally, all bike riders must keep at least one ear clear of headphones or earbuds at all times.

Visibility is the number one contributing factor to all bicycle accidents in San Francisco occurring at dusk or after sunset. As a rider, it’s your responsibility to ensure that drivers can see you. Reflectors and a front white light are required by law. However, safe riders sue rear lights, bright or reflective clothing, side lights, and headlamps as well.

Rider Education Helps Prevent Bicycle Accidents in San Francisco

If you’re new to cycling or aren’t quite as comfortable as you should be on your bike, a proper education can help you avoid bicycle accidents in San Francisco. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition offers rider training courses, online resources, and many tips and tricks from professionals to help you learn how to safely operate your bicycle in San Francisco traffic.

If you are involved in a bicycle accident in San Francisco the first thing you should do is seek medical help immediately—even if you don’t think you’re hurt badly enough to visit the hospital. Don’t let the cost of medical attention keep you from getting the help you need. There are legal options available to help you cope with the financial burden of hospital bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Once you’re condition is stabilized, contact a San Francisco bicycle accident lawyer as soon as possible to learn what you should do next.