What if I rode my bike on the wrong side of the road and was in an accident?

Many people think that they’re doing the right thing, or the safe thing, or the legal thing by riding in the direction of oncoming traffic. That’s not the rule, that’s not the law in California. In California, you must ride your bike on the side of the road in the same direction as vehicles drive in your direction of traffic.

Now, because you were on the wrong side of the road, does that mean that the other driver gets off scot-free? Maybe, maybe not. Was the other driver also negligent in creating or causing this accident? Was the driver doing everything right and being reasonably careful? For example, let’s say somebody’s pulling out of a driveway. They look to the right, they look to the left for pedestrians because obviously pedestrians can walk on either side of the road in either direction. If they’re looking to the right and they don’t see you because you were on a bike and were quite a distance away, they probably don’t have any reason to believe that you would be coming at them from the right. Having checked and not seen you and being reasonably careful in checking, if they then proceed to make a right hand turn and your bike then collides with the car as it’s pulling out, there would be very little if any liability I think on the part of the driver.

On the other hand, suppose you’re riding a bike the wrong side of the road and the other driver who’s coming up that road, coming in the direction facing you, is not paying attention. They’re on their cellphone or doing something else and they drift over into the bike lane where your bicycle is. The fact that you shouldn’t be there is kind of a minimal part of the fault here. You shouldn’t be on that side of the road, but the real fault lies with the driver who is not paying attention and who would have seen you had he been looking where he was going. In that situation, the driver would have most, if not all, of the liability for causing the collision.

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