When we think of serious bike crashes, a speeding car or truck usually comes to mind. But not every bike vs. car collision involves a fast-moving motor vehicle, or a moving vehicle at all. Stationary vehicles, when illegally occupying the bike lane, are of particular concern to cyclists that are faced with the split-second decision of swerving into traffic to avoid the vehicle, or braking as hard as they can and hoping they stop in time. Below are a few examples of collisions caused by a drivers' poor parking choices.
Bike Crashes Caused by Vehicles Illegally Occupying the Bike Lane
There are a lot of things that a typical bike lane can potentially be used for. Bike lanes are often utilized as short-term (and long-term) parking spots. For condo owners to unload groceries. For lost drivers to fumble with their GPS devices. For "safely" responding to text messages. For pulling over to watch roadside wildlife. For taking photos. For a convenient spot to sell one's vehicle. For making U-turns. For landscaping trailers. For dropping kids off at school. The list goes on. However, there is only one legal use for a bike lane, and that is for cyclists to ride within it. If a motor vehicle is occupying the bike lane for any reason—save to move aside for an emergency vehicle—the driver is doing so illegally.
If you were injured in a crash caused by a vehicle in the bike lane, you have the opportunity to file a claim with the owner of the vehicle. However, winning such a claim does come with its own set of complications. While it may be easy to prove that the vehicle was in the bike lane unlawfully, it is another thing to prove that you took every reasonable measure to avoid the collision. Negligent drivers often do and say almost anything to defend their actions, or diminish the value of a victim's claim. The defendant may argue that you are partially or fully at fault because—for example—you were riding without sufficient lights at night, you were somehow distracted or riding recklessly, you crashed because you were riding in a group of other cyclists, or for any other number of reasons. As cyclists, we need to always be riding with reasonable care, and attentively. If despite those efforts, a crash occurs due to another's negligence, there is a possible claim to be made.
Illegally Parked Delivery Vehicles
Not only has online shopping failed to reduce vehicle miles driven by consumers, but it has actually added traffic to the roads. Moreover, some delivery couriers are often in a hurry to make their rounds and meet their quotas. In a recent article, it is reported that Amazon has actually ordered their delivery drivers to turn off Mentor—an app that Amazon uses to monitor the driver's speed—while they make deliveries (this, according to Vice). Former drivers contracted by Amazon have spoken out about how they were given demerits for not speeding. But speeding is not the only way that delivery drivers cause bike crashes. Parking in the bike lane has become the norm for many delivery vehicles. In the state of Colorado it is illegal for a delivery vehicle to park in a bike lane, stop halfway on a sidewalk, block an intersection or side road, or otherwise block the normal flow of traffic, even if the driver plans on doing so for only a handful of seconds.
Dooring is one of the most common non-moving car vs. bike crashes, and it can have devastating consequences. Dooring happens when a driver or other vehicle occupant is entering or exiting a parked vehicle and fails to look for approaching cyclists who are either in the bike lane or in the shoulder of the road. Hitting a car door even at low speed is likely to result in serious fractures, lacerations, and soft tissue injuries. Unlike a car-parked-in-the-bike-lane crash, a dooring collision can occur when the vehicle is occupying a legal parking space. Even if the driver was parked legally, they can still be liable for failing to check the bike lane, traffic lane, or shoulder of the road for cyclists before opening the door or for leaving the door open.
Construction Vehicles, Signs, and Cones
Not all road construction companies give much thought to how their work impacts those on two wheels. It is not uncommon for the bike lane or shoulder to suddenly disappear into a sea of orange cones, at which point cyclists must boldly merge with traffic. Other times, the bike lane or shoulder is peppered with large signs—hundreds of yards out from the actual construction—warning of road work ahead. This also forces cyclists in and out of the motor vehicle traffic lane. If you were trying to avoid cones or signs and had to merge with traffic, you were hit by a road construction vehicle that suddenly moved into your path, or you lost control because of a metal plate or pothole and collided with a vehicle, the road construction company or another party may be at fault. Additionally, a cyclist who crashes without colliding with a vehicle can still pursue a personal injury claim against the construction company.
Was the Crash Caused by a Moving Vehicle or the Parked Vehicle?
The problem with cyclists having to share the shoulder or bike lane with parked vehicles is that the cyclists must leave the bike lane/shoulder and merge with traffic, and many drivers are barely paying enough attention to drive in a straight line. Sometimes the decision for a cyclist to leave the bike lane has to be made in a matter of seconds, which doesn't give very much reaction time for drivers approaching from behind. Take the following example: a vehicle is legally parked on the shoulder of the road (not in an official bike lane). You move left to avoid the vehicle and get hit from behind by a driver who claims that you "swerved in front of them," when really they were texting or speeding and could have/should have allowed you space to safely navigate around the parked vehicle blocking your lane of travel. This type of case can be winnable, even if the official police report cites you as being at fault, though it may be a difficult case.
In some situations, multiple parties may be liable in this type of collision. If a car was in a bike lane (not just a shoulder) and you tried to maneuver around it, only to be hit from behind by an aggressive or distracted driver, the aggressive/distracted driver along with the owner of the parked car could potentially be held liable.
Contact Colorado Bike Law Today
Some of the most traumatic bike crash injuries are caused by stationary vehicles: facial lacerations, traumatic brain injuries, and spinal cord injuries can all result from riding into a parked car or truck, or being hit from behind while attempting to avoid a parked vehicle. If you or a loved one were injured in any type of bike crash in Colorado, do not hesitate to seek legal help. Call Brad Tucker with Colorado Bike Law at 303.694.9300 today to schedule a free consultation.