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Bicycle Buffer Zone Laws

More than 1,000 fatalities in bike accidents occur every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Bike accidents injure another 130,000 people annually. Most of these accidents involve a negligent driver. Despite governmental efforts to raise bicycle safety awareness, these numbers continue to climb.

To make the roads safer for cyclists, states and cities nationwide have enacted laws that require a buffer zone between cars and bicycles. These safety laws are intended to decrease bicycle injuries and deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents. Read on to learn more about bicycle buffer zone laws, how they work, and the penalties you can suffer if you violate them.

What Is a Bicycle Buffer Zone?

Bicycle buffer zones are the added space that surrounds bicycle lanes. These buffer zones increase the space between bikes and cars or parked vehicles. These are usually marked with painted stripes. Sometimes, images of bicycles on the pavement denote the adjacent bike lane.

According to the U.S. Transportation Research Board, buffered bike lanes have numerous advantages over regular bicycle lanes. They make cyclists feel safer because they aren't riding directly next to traffic. When these zones appear near parking spots, bikers can also safely avoid drivers' "door zones," which helps prevent drivers from accidentally injuring bike riders. This makes commuting by bike safer and more enticing to a broader range of cyclists.

How Can Drivers Take Advantage of Bike Buffer Zones?

One of the defenses motorists raise when they are sued after a bicycle accident is that they did not see the bicyclist. Or they argue that the biker was riding too close to the traffic lanes. The bicycle buffer zone laws make it easier for motorists to see bike riders and avoid unnecessary accidents.

Drivers are not allowed to drive in buffer zones. Most motorists know this. They must also be careful when pulling in and out of parking spaces near these buffer zones. It is easier for drivers to see cyclists in areas that have buffer zone laws. In addition, motorists must be careful when opening their car doors. This will help avoid collisions and, ultimately, being named in a personal injury lawsuit.

How Are Bicyclists Supposed To Use Buffer Zones?

Buffer zones were created to keep bike riders safe. However, riders must use the designated bike lane. They aren't supposed to ride in the actual buffer zone. This zone provides a cushion between the cyclist and other motorists. It is not there to widen the bike lane.

Cyclists must also look for drivers and passengers exiting parked cars. This will help prevent door-opening injuries. Look at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) fact sheet to learn more about safe bicycle riding tips.

What Kind of Accidents Occur in Buffer Zones?

While bicycle buffer zones were intended to keep bicycle riders and motorists safe, accidents still happen. Not everybody uses the bicycle lanes and buffer zones the way they should. Nor do they obey the local traffic laws and bicycle laws. This causes avoidable motor vehicle accidents and serious injuries.

Some of the more common accidents that take place in and near bike buffer zones include:

  • Cars passing in no-passing zones
  • Distracted driving
  • Drunk driving and drunk cycling
  • Speeding
  • Weaving in and out of the bike lane
  • Driving too close to the buffer zone
  • Right-hand turn accidents

Any one of these bike accidents can cause serious injuries. If you are involved in a bicycle crash, you may need to file a personal injury claim. This is something a bicycle accident lawyer can handle for you.

If your personal injury attorney can prove the driver was at fault, you may be entitled to significant compensation.

Common Injuries Caused by Bicycle Accidents

You will likely suffer serious injuries if you're involved in a bicycle crash. Depending on the seriousness of your accident, you may need extensive medical treatment. Some of the more common bike accident injuries include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Organ damage
  • Internal injuries
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Road rash
  • Lacerations and facial disfigurement
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Whiplash

You will incur thousands of dollars in medical expenses if you suffer serious injuries. It's a good idea to meet with a bicycle accident attorney and see if you have a valid claim for damages.

Are You an Injured Cyclist? Get a Free Case Evaluation

Bicycle buffer zones may help reduce the number of bike accidents. Sadly, they don't eliminate all accidents. Whether your state has a law mandating buffer zones, it's in your best interest to contact an experienced attorney. They will help protect your legal rights.

Most law offices offer a free case evaluation. If you or a loved one have been injured in a bicycle accident, seek legal advice immediately.

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