Bike crashed into my car. Whose fault?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Bike crashed into my car. Whose fault?

    Let me start off by saying the biker and his bike were completely unharmed. He managed to stay upright and was going relatively slowly. There's a small dent in my 10 year old car that I'm not worried about. Let me explain the situation as best I can to see if there is anything I could/should have done differently. I've attached a crude drawing to aid with the explanation.

    This is my account of the situation, without commentary, which I'll save for last: I was in a left hand turn lane trying to cross oncoming traffic that had stopped for a red light on a city street. A gap was left open by the stopped cars so that I could cross. I began to cross when I saw a cyclist several cars back (maybe 50ft) coming my direction. He was going fairly slowly, maybe 12-15mph on his road bike. I decided to stop to let him pass, though I was in his path a bit. There was ample room (5-8 feet of street, then a sidewalk, then an empty parking lot) for him to go around me. Instead of going around me, he continued to ride, then at the last second slams on his brakes and skids into the front right corner of my car. He and his bike glanced of the fender and hood and remained upright. I had my windows open, so I asked if he was ok and apologized. He said he was fine, shrugged it off, and went on his way.

    I assume that this was at least partly my fault. I honestly couldn't see him coming behind the row of cars, though it's probably technically my responsibility as the vehicle crossing traffic to make sure it is safe to do so. Having said that, I did see him with what I thought was plenty of time for him to either stop safely or go around me. I thought I was doing a courteous thing by letting him pass. He probably didn't want to go in front of me for fear that I may actually start moving, though I suspect that maybe he wasn't paying close attention because he should have been able to avoid me without a problem. Does he bear any responsibility since he was riding between stopped cars?

    What are your opinions of the situation. Should I, as a biker, have known better? Do you think any of the blame is his?

    I'm having a really bad bike day. Today was to be my second commute of 7.5 miles each way. Today is Bike-to-Work day in my area, so I went to a rally this morning, then started my commute to work. The rally was a couple of miles in the opposite direction, so I passed back near my house, went another half a mile, and then flatted. I was already running a bit late, so aborted my commute by walking back to my house then driving instead of fixing the flat. Now I have an accident with a biker in the same day? Should I read something into this?
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  2. #2
    A mean teen...
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    I think that guy could've done with some glasses or woken up a little more! Judging by the way you were I'd say it's the cyclists fault considering you were stationary.

  3. #3
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    So the cyclist would have had a red light? And you were stationary? Entirely the cyclist's fault.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by emtnate
    So the cyclist would have had a red light?
    And you were stationary?
    Entirely the cyclist's fault.
    Unless the light changed after I started crossing.
    I was at a dead stop for several seconds before he hit me.

  5. #5
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    If he ran a red, the obviously his fault. Hell, since you were there for a while, seems like the guy just wasn't paying attention.

  6. #6
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    I assume you were in the intersection, and traffic was blocked when the light went red? - then awaiting a clear spot to continue on?
    Atleast in Cali, if you are already in the intersection, as the light changes, you still have the right-of-way (common sense) - just because someone gets a green, it does not give them the right to go ahead and plow into your car simply because you are in the way ( of course other state laws may vary, but I don't see this one varying IMO).
    If that's the case - or any other presented before my post, then it's most definitely the cyclists fault. I'm sure you must feel guilty being that you were in a car and he was only on a bike. ( I WISH more felt that way even when they are clearly at fault).
    Try not to lose sleep over it - AFIK you are in the clear... good on ya for having a conscience tho Most of the time it's the other way around...
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  7. #7
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    It sounds like he was not paying attention or his attention was diverted, somewhat confirmed by his reaction. It also sounds like you were paying attention and were attempting to prevent an incident.

  8. #8
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    I may have been unclear regarding the cars stopped for the lights. There were several cars stopped at a light, which would be at the very bottom of the drawing I created, then behind them was the gap I went through, then more cars, the first of which created the gap so I could get through. When I saw the biker he was several cars behind the car that let me though. The point of impact was not at the traffic light, and he didn't run a red light. He was riding past all of the cars that were stopped. I was crossing completely legally through stopped traffic at the designated place to do so.

    I appreciate the support. I do feel guilty though not completely responsible. If in fact he wasn't paying attention, I hope he has a good laugh about it over a beer tonight. I'm just hoping he's not seething inside over the idiot driver that pulled out in front of him, though I think that's unlikely based on his reaction.

  9. #9
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    So, was traffic flowing the same way as the biker?
    (I think I know whats going on)
    were you crossing a line of traffic to a road / intersection that had no light? - (IE. red-light behind you)
    If that's the case*** the cyclist has the right to pass on the right of stopped cars. You have the 'luxury' of bisecting stopped traffic.
    It's a very grey area, I know... but technically the cyclist was in the 'right-of-way'... no way for you to really see him - no way for him to really see you.
    It's sketchy - those situations...
    But if that is the case I described, you are 'technically' at fault.
    ***caveat - California law

    *NOTE - as a commuter, I frequently look out for situations as you (maybe I) describe. I kinda feel it would be stupid to blow past an area where people might be turning in/ crossing...almost like it's my fault for being a dumb-ass for not recognizing a gap in stopped traffic - what do you really think that gap is for? Possibly the cyclist felt 'stupid' too. I'm just glad all were OK
    Last edited by highdelll; 05-15-2009 at 02:30 PM.
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by highdelll
    So, was traffic flowing the same way as the biker?
    (I think I know whats going on)
    were you crossing a line of traffic to a road / intersection that had no light? - (IE. red-light behind you)
    If that's the case*** the cyclist has the right to pass on the right of stopped cars. You have the 'luxury' of bisecting stopped traffic.
    It's a very grey area, I know... but technically the cyclist was in the 'right-of-way'... no way for you to really see him - no way for him to really see you.
    It's sketchy - those situations...
    But if that is the case I described, you are 'technically' at fault.
    ***caveat - California law
    Yeah, that's pretty much the case. The only thing I question is whether he did actually have the right of way. He's a vehicle right? If it were a motorcycle instead of a bicycle that would have been illegal for him to do. Of course most cyclists, including myself, do this I don't know enough about traffic/bike laws to know for sure. I'm in Maryland. Like you said, it seems like a grey area. I said in my original post that I thought maybe it was my fault b/c I was crossing traffic, and therefore had the responsibility of making sure it was safe to cross, but at the same time I don't feel like I could have done anything differently, apart from having seen him earlier and not pulled out.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmccully
    Yeah, that's pretty much the case. The only thing I question is whether he did actually have the right of way. He's a vehicle right? If it were a motorcycle instead of a bicycle that would have been illegal for him to do. Of course most cyclists, including myself, do this I don't know enough about traffic/bike laws to know for sure. I'm in Maryland. Like you said, it seems like a grey area. I said in my original post that I thought maybe it was my fault b/c I was crossing traffic, and therefore had the responsibility of making sure it was safe to cross, but at the same time I don't feel like I could have done anything differently, apart from having seen him earlier and not pulled out.
    I can't say for sure if the cyclist had the right to pass in your state (I edited a 'caveat' in my post - dunno if you saw it.
    But check this out... in Cali, it is totally legal for a motorcyclist to 'split-lanes'. So, say you're stopped on a 5-lane FWY in traffic... It's perfectly fine for a bike (read motor) to blow past you on the left (or right) between 3-4' of space between essentially 'parked' cars @ 65 MPH.
    I would assume though, a cyclist should still be able to maintain on the far right hand side in any state - I, of course can be (and frequently am ) wrong

    I might add though, that does not give a cyclist immunity... sure, most right hook accidents happen because the auto-driver is at fault (over-taking a cyclist , then turning right in front of him/ her). But the law does not provide for total impunity for the biker/ cyclist...
    For instance, if you were to roll alongside of someone turning right (signal must be on) and got hit because they turned, you would be found at fault - due diligence I believe (please done quote me on it - ok, go ahead ).
    Same w/ bikers... If someone makes a lane change, and you get cut off in stop-and-go traffic while going 60 and the motorist properly signals - you're gonna lose in court.
    Last edited by highdelll; 05-15-2009 at 02:54 PM.
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  12. #12
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    I think I remember seeing in another thread that a motorcycle can only do that in CA and maybe a few other states. But you're probably right about bicycles still being allowed to do it.

  13. #13
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    Right or not, I'll bet he was anticipating that you would clear his path before he arrived, and let his eye wander.

    I was stopped at a red light in a car, and 2 kids on one bike came around the corner and off the sidewalk, hitting my car. Doing the responsible thing, I called the PD since they were kids and scraped up a little.

    I got a ticket for "negligent driving". All I did wrong was stop in a normal position for a red light. I beat the charge in court, but that just goes to show that deep hold of that old wive's tail about it always being the motorist's fault.

  14. #14
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    If the cyclist was some distance away, was traveling slowly, AND you had enough time/space to see him, react, and stop in the middle of the intersection, then it sounds like you actually had enough time to go across safely. Something isn't adding up with the description. But I wasn't there, and so take your word for it.

    That said, if the cyclist's direction had a red light, he shouldn't have entered the intersection to begin with and he's in the wrong.

  15. #15
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    Seems like the cyclist's fault to me, maybe for two reasons. First, you started to make a left turn when it was safe, because of a gap in oncoming traffic. From your drawing and description, it seems oncoming traffic had stopped to avoid blocking the intersection. Then you observe new oncoming traffic, stop, leaving room for the cyclist to pass, but for whatever reason, they run smack into you, while you are stopped, yielding to them.

    Secondly, the cyclist was passing stopped traffic on the right. Now between parked cars and right lane traffic is where we often / usually ride. But when traffic is stopped, technically a cyclist could be considered to be "passing on the right". And it sounds like the cyclist could just as easily been taken out by a motorist traveling in the same direction deciding to take a quick right at that intersection to avoid the congestion ahead.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by SatelliteBiker
    If the cyclist was some distance away, was traveling slowly, AND you had enough time/space to see him, react, and stop in the middle of the intersection, then it sounds like you actually had enough time to go across safely.
    I almost definitely could have crossed safely before him, but I was trying to be courteous and let him go first. The whole thing was definitely weird and didn't add up. I posted here because the crash didn't make sense and I wanted to figure out if I could/should have done something differently.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmccully
    I almost definitely could have crossed safely before him, but I was trying to be courteous and let him go first. The whole thing was definitely weird and didn't add up. I posted here because the crash didn't make sense and I wanted to figure out if I could/should have done something differently.
    I can understand that, sometimes just wait a little extra for a slow rider/car to pass. As others have said, perhaps the cyclist was distracted with something else while approaching.

    Heck of a location to get distracted, though!

  18. #18
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    I agree with everyone else - definitely the cyclist's fault here... If you had time to see them coming and stop to let them by, they should have been paying enough attention to spot a car in their way!

    OTOH, last year I flew over the hood of a car when it caused the high speed version of this accident, pulling a sudden left through a gap in heavy traffic, such that I hit the front right of the hood at full speed... If only they had been as cautious as rmccully...

  19. #19
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    Very coincidentally, I just read this earlier today. It is your exact scenario and the biker was found to be in the wrong.

    http://www.stc-law.com/bikerightstay.html

  20. #20
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    I know you were being courteous, but it seems like you might have froze up a bit when you saw the cyclist, instead of just driving through which would have avoided the incident all together.

    This happens to me all the time when I'm riding either at stop signs, or turnouts. I don't expect for motorist to wait for me at stop signs or turns when they have plenty of time to make the turn, and the case of stop signs the right of way, I time a lot of my riding expecting that cars will behave, just like I was in another car, and when they freeze up and panic I just end up waiting for them to finally make up their minds. It actually makes me more nervous riding in front of a stopped car then when a car pulls out in front of me when I'm a reasonable distance away.

    The biker really should not have hit you, and probably wan't paying attention, but again If I was riding I wouldn't swerve in front of your car unless I made direct eye contact with you first, more likely I'd just screech to a halt and wait for you to cross.

  21. #21
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    I don't think you were at fault at all. I think we can apply a "rule of reason" here.

    You were making a reasonable left turn into a driveway through a gap between cars stopped for a light. It isn't reasonable to expect anyone to spot a cyclist sliding through the half lane along a line of stopped cars. It is more reasonable to expect a cyclist riding between stationary cars and coming to a gap to be alert to possible crossing traffic, for example someone coming out of that same driveway.

    Lastly, from your description the cyclist had time and space to safely avoid a collision, so it appears he wasn't acting responsibly.

    The situation would be different if you were timing a left through a gap among moving cars, where a cyclist would have no reason to expect someone to be turning left.

    In any case the cyclist hit you, and if there were consequences would probably be found at fault, as the general rule calls for speed consistent with the situation, and his was excessive under the circumstances. Fortunately there were no serious consequences so it's a case of "no harm - no foul"
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  22. #22
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    It's no different if he were driving a car. He was at fault. I travel on my Surly 75% of the time. As cyclist, when we use the road, we are under the same rules of traffic as a vehicle. We can get citations as a car would..at least here in Michigan.
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    LOL I know this is a bit older thread, but there was a VERY similar situation with a friend of mine, but relatively late at night. The light turned green for him at an intersection and he started to go, but some dork on a bike had decided to go flying through the crosswalk, basically running the red light, and ran into the side of my friend's car.

    There was a cop sitting at the corner, and actually stopped the guy on the bike as my friend kept going. I'm curious as to why my friend wasn't required to stop also. Maybe the guy on the bike was drunk.

    Either way, people tend to sympathize with the bicycle/motorcycle all the time, when a lot of times it's the bike's fault.

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  24. #24
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    Years ago, we were up in Northern California visiting my Aunt and Uncle. My parents were driving through a small town to get to this fishing spot when the town drunk came flying out of an alley to the right and crashed into the side of my parent's car. My Dad didn't even have time to avoid him. Fortunately, a woman who knew this guy saw the whole thing. Her response to him was "Well so-and-so, I see you did it again!" She then said to my parents "It's OK, you can go. I'll handle this."
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  25. #25
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    I work in the in the insurance industry in California. Let me provide some insight based on my experiences. It all hinges on whether or not the cyclist was legally allowed to be traveling in that lane. If he was legally allowed to be traveling in that lane then it would probably be your fault. Imagine if it were two lanes of cars coming towards you in the opposite direction with the closer lanes traffic stopped for the light and a gap left open but the further lane having no cars. If you began your turn, saw traffic in the further lane, stopped, but the oncoming car still hit you it would most likely be considered your fault for not waiting until the intersection was clear. However if the cyclist was not legally allowed to be in that lane then it might not be considered your fault just like if a car had been traveling on the shoulder and struck you. However being that it was a bicycle a judge could still rule against you because they could consider them a pedestrian and pedestrians always have the right of way generally speaking.

    Consider yourself lucky that no one was hurt and that they guy didnít make a big deal about it.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeti2424
    I work in the in the insurance industry in California. Let me provide some insight based on my experiences. It all hinges on whether or not the cyclist was legally allowed to be traveling in that lane. If he was legally allowed to be traveling in that lane then it would probably be your fault. Imagine if it were two lanes of cars coming towards you in the opposite direction with the closer lanes traffic stopped for the light and a gap left open but the further lane having no cars. If you began your turn, saw traffic in the further lane, stopped, but the oncoming car still hit you it would most likely be considered your fault for not waiting until the intersection was clear. However if the cyclist was not legally allowed to be in that lane then it might not be considered your fault just like if a car had been traveling on the shoulder and struck you. However being that it was a bicycle a judge could still rule against you because they could consider them a pedestrian and pedestrians always have the right of way generally speaking.

    Consider yourself lucky that no one was hurt and that they guy didn’t make a big deal about it.

    The key aspect was that the flow of traffic that the cyclist was moving with had a red light. The cyclist has no privilege to blow the light. Cyclist blew the light and was at fault....but then again if it were OJ riding a bike in Cali who knows what would happen...lol
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrekJeff
    The key aspect was that the flow of traffic that the cyclist was moving with had a red light. The cyclist has no privilege to blow the light. Cyclist blew the light and was at fault....but then again if it were OJ riding a bike in Cali who knows what would happen...lol
    From the drawing it didnt look like the cyclist blew through the red light intersection. It looked like there was a red light, some traffic, and then a break in traffic(maybe one of those side street or parking lot intersections in whcih people leave gaps for those making unprotected left hand turns) where this took place.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yeti2424
    From the drawing it didnt look like the cyclist blew through the red light intersection. It looked like there was a red light, some traffic, and then a break in traffic(maybe one of those side street or parking lot intersections in whcih people leave gaps for those making unprotected left hand turns) where this took place.
    Yep. I'm still unsure of who was at fault in a legal sense, but I'm now convinced that he was at fault in a practical sense. The two aren't necessarily one and the same. Even I were fairly confident at the time that I wasn't legally at fault, I still probably would've responded the same way, i.e. not getting angry or wanting him to repair my car, due to inconsistencies in the law and different people's perceptions regarding the rights of cyclists on the road.

  29. #29
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    It all would hindge on "right-of-way" and a judges opinion. The bigger problem IMHO is that bike lanes are either not marked or non existent on many major roads. Just the other day I was traveling on a 3 lane (In each direction) street and the bike lane simply ended and the shoulder disapeared. There was barely enough room for a car in the right lane let alone a bike and a car. This would normally be when I would transition to a sidewalk except that there was no sidewalk either. Luckily traffic was light but I know that street and it isnt usually. Having marked bicycle lanes (especially on major roadways) would clear up a lot of confusion for both motorist and cyclist.
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