Cars and bicycles often collide when they are mixed together on big city roads such as in San Francisco. Despite bicycle lanes, signs admonishing motorists to safely Share The Road, and traffic laws, these collisions between bikes and cars happen in San Francisco and the Bay Area on a daily basis. So, who is usually at fault?
Initially, when you read the linked article discussing whose at fault when bikes and cars collide, it would seem that the bikers are most often at fault; however, the statistics of this report have been misinterpreted and the actual facts will not support this conclusion. We are awaiting the revised report which will show that car drivers are at fault more than twice as often bicyclists.
We do know that bicyclists are usually the losers when it comes to any physical altercation between a car and a biker, but should they really be listed as the party at fault as often as the police reports would indicate? I say no.
As a San Francisco Bicycle Accident Attorney I represent a lot of San Francisco bicyclists who are hit by cars, busses and trucks, and sometimes even motorcycles, and I must say that the San Francisco Police lists the bicycle rider as the at fault party in almost all police reports. This does not necessarily mean that the cyclists are the ones at fault, or that the fault lies completely with the cyclist.
Many of my best cases have started out with the police report firmly against my client. Does that mean that we do something tricky to get around the report or its findings? Not at all. It means that in a bicycle accident case, the details make the case, and the police are not the judge or the jury when it comes to reasonable bicycle riding. In most of my cases the bicyclist has behaved reasonably and the police fail to recognize that the bicycle has been following the vehicle code. In other cases, where the fault may be shared by the cyclist and the motorist, the police name only the cyclist as the at fault party.
I believe that police naturally list the cyclist as the at fault party most of the time, even though the cyclist has done nothing wrong.
Is it prejudice or residual anger from Critical Mass rallies or just plain lack of time to look more deeply into the facts of the accident? Most users of the road, particularly motorists, do not want to share the road with bicycles, and most do not give the bicyclist the respect or the right of way afforded to other vehicles using the roadway.
So, since the above study depends on fault information gathered from police reports, I would take that with the proverbial grain of salt. And, let’s see what the revised study demonstrates in detail before we blame the bicycle riders again.
Feel free to contact me free of charge to discuss this issue further.
Claude A. Wyle is a partner of Choulos Choulos, and Wyle, a San Francisco based law firm dedicated to representing clients who have been injured by the wrongful conduct of individuals, corporations, public entities, and businesses. Mr. Wyle also frequently sits as a Judge Pro Tem for the city and county of San Francisco.