Who could forget the tragic events of Mardi Gras 2019 when a drunk driver plowed into a packed bicycle lane, killing two cyclists and injuring seven others? The crime, for which the driver was sentenced to 90 years in prison, was among the most egregious examples of a driver acting aggressively toward and with wanton disregard for cyclists. Crashes involving motor vehicles and bicycles in the Bayou State, however, are far from rare and are a growing problem as more people opt to make cycling their primary mode of transportation.
Cycling Is Safer Overall, But More Deadly Crashes With Motor Vehicles
As millions more Americans take up cycling to get around, cities and states have increasingly focused on bicycle safety measures, such as creating bike lanes and clarifying traffic laws as they relate to cyclists. Safety efforts such as higher helmet use among cyclists have helped significantly reduce Emergency Department visits due to bicycle accidents, which are down 41 percent between 2009 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At the same time, however, fatal crashes involving motor vehicles and cyclists have increased by nearly 40 percent. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 857 cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2018. Most cyclists who are killed are hit by light-weight trucks and most of those are hit from behind. Excessive motor vehicle speed plays a huge role in cyclists fatalities, as does time of day, with the hours between 6pm and midnight being the most dangerous for bicycle riders.
Louisiana Bicycle Riders
Bicycle ridership has grown across Louisiana over the last decade. This growth has happened most dramatically however in New Orleans, where our mild winters and flat roads make bicycle commuting ideal. Other factors that are helping encourage bike ridership in New Orleans are a city-run bike share program, strong advocate community, bike-friendly planning, and strong laws to protect cyclists. In fact, New Orleans now ranks fifth among U.S. cities with the most bicycle commuters.
Unfortunately, however, Louisiana also is consistently ranked among the most deadly states for cyclists. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Louisiana was the second most deadly state for cyclists in 2012 and fourth in 2016 with a rate of 4.7 cyclist fatalities per 100,000 residents. A recent report from an auto insurance industry publication found Baton Rouge to be among the top ten most dangerous U.S. cities for cyclists.
Louisiana Laws and Bicycle Safety
It’s important to understand your legal rights and responsibilities when bicycling in Louisiana, especially if you or someone you love has been injured in a bicycle accident. Under Louisiana law, bicycles are treated as vehicles for the most part, and bike riders are generally given the same rights and duties as drivers of motor vehicles.
Under Louisiana law, any person under the age of 12 riding a bicycle, as an operator or passenger, must wear a helmet.
Rules for Bicyclists Under Louisiana Law
- A bicyclist may not cling to a motor vehicle while biking.
- A bicycle may carry only the number of people for which it is designed.
- Bicyclists must come to a full and complete stop at all stop signs and red lights.
- Bicycles must ride as close as is practical and safe to the right side of the roadway except when overtaking another bicyclist, preparing to make a left turn, when necessary to avoid roadway hazards or vehicles, or when riding in a narrow lane.
- No more than two bicyclists may not side by side and in doing so may not impede motor vehicle traffic.
- Bicyclists must use hand or arm signals when turning and stopping.
Requirements for Bicycles
Bicycles are required to have the following equipment:
- Brakes that allow the bike to skid on clean, level, and dry pavement.
- A bell or other device (not a siren or whistle) capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least 100 feet.
- A white front-facing headlight and a red rear light, visible from at least 500 feet when used at nighttime.
Under Louisiana law, an electric-assisted bicycle must be rated no more than 50cc, have an automatic transmission, and have a maximum speed of 25mph on flat surface. E-bikes are considered the same as traditional bicycles under Louisiana law, except that riders must be 16 years of age or older and wear a helmet unless they have a health insurance policy with medical benefits over $10,000.
What Louisiana Bicycle Law Does Not Do
- Louisiana’s DUI statute does not apply to bicyclists (only to operators of motor vehicles), but an impaired bicyclist may be charged with public intoxication.
- Sidewalk riding is neither allowed or prohibited by Louisiana state law. Local ordinances typically address this issue.
- Louisiana does not require bicyclists to use any bike lane or path other than a normal vehicle traffic lane.
- Louisiana law does not require state bicycle registration but allows local governments to institute their own bike registration programs.
Other Vehicle Operators & Bicycles Under Louisiana Law
- Staying out of Bike Lanes. Motor vehicles are prohibited from operating in designated bike lanes except under very limited circumstances.
- “Dooring” Law. Louisiana law states that no person shall open any door of a motor vehicle located on a highway without first taking precaution to ensure that this action does not interfere with the movement of traffic or endanger any other person or vehicle. The law also prohibits leaving any door of a motor vehicle located on a highway open for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
- Passing Distance. An overtaking driver must exercise due care and leave a safe distance of not less than three feet when overtaking a bicyclist.
- Anti-Harassment Law. Louisiana specifically prohibits anyone from harassing, taunting, or maliciously throwing objects at a bicyclist with penalty of fines and even jail time.
Steps to take if you have been injured in a Bike Accident in Louisiana
- Call 911. Explain the situation and any injuries in as clear of language as possible: who, what, where. If there are no injuries, you will still need to report the accident to authorities if more than $500 worth of damage occurred.
- Take photos and gather information. Get insurance information from all drivers involved and take photos of the accident and damage. Get contact information from any witnesses to the crash.
- Contact a trusted attorney with experience in Louisiana car accident cases right away. Don’t admit fault or sign any settlement related documents until you have spoken with an attorney. Charbonnet Law Firm has won strong settlements for clients in the New Orleans area for years. Let our skilled, caring legal team protect your interests while you focus on recovering.
Contact The Charbonnet Law Firm Today
If you or a loved one has been injured in a bike accident in Louisiana, call the dedicated team of attorneys at Charbonnet Law Firm right away. We have been winning for our personal injury clients in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes for more than five decades. At Charbonnet Law Firm, we will help you understand your case and your options for compensation. If you choose to pursue your case, we will be there every step of the way, protecting your interests and fighting for the best possible outcome. Call today for a free consultation.