Getting around Houston can be difficult, even in a car or pickup truck. Houstonians have a variety of options in this bike-friendly city.
Groups like Bike Houston are always working to make the city safer for cyclists and increase bike-friendliness. As more bike lanes appear in and around Harris County, more people are opting to pedal for some or all their commuting.
But while The Bayou City becomes more bike-amenable, the city is #29 on a list of bike-friendly American cities. It’s not yet on par with Austin or other cities that are very bike accessible. Not all drivers are bike-friendly, either. The combination can mean an accident with serious injuries for the bicyclist.
In 2022, Texas had 2,347 bicycle accidents with 92 fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that a full 15% of accidents are caused by the “right hook.” This accident involves a bicycle and vehicle in the right lane and turning right. The vehicle passes the rider to the left but moves back into the right lane too soon, hitting the rider.
Drivers also cause accidents by:
• Running red lights
• Driving or following too close to a cyclist, sideswiping the cyclist
• Improperly changing lanes
• Failing to yield
• Not looking when turning
• Weather and road conditions
Another frequent cause is known as “dooring,” where a driver of a parked car opens their car door without looking, and not giving the cyclist enough time to stop or avoid hitting the door.
Many cyclists hit the stationary door head-on and may be thrown into traffic.
These are some of many causes of bicycle accidents in H-Town. Crashes at night can be even worse if a cyclist isn’t wearing sufficient reflective gear.
Texas Transportation Code §551.101 states that bicycle riders on Texas roads are considered the same as other vehicles and have the same responsibilities as other vehicles. But for many of the same reasons, bicyclists may cause an accident if they are:
• Weaving in and out of traffic
• Driving through stop signs and red lights
• Changing lanes unsafely
• Failing to signal
Cyclists who fail to follow Texas’ and Houston’s bike laws can be ticketed as well.
Many drivers assume that if a vehicle collides with a bicycle, it’s always the cyclist’s fault. A cyclist may be blamed for the crash, especially if they can’t answer for themselves at the scene of the accident.
Unfortunately, that’s an inaccurate assessment, especially by drivers who don’t pay attention to cyclists. Frequently, the accident fault lies with the vehicle driver. The driver wasn’t paying attention and didn’t see the cyclist or did something to cause the cyclist to collide with the car. However, there are also instances where a bicyclist is at fault.
Determining fault for your accident requires more investigation than a simple police report. That’s where a Houston bicycle accident lawyer can help find the cause and the party responsible for the accident so you can get the compensation you need.
In Texas, the comparative negligence rule is followed. This means both parties involved in a crash can bear liability for the accident. The amount of damages compensation each responsible party can receive is based on their percentage of fault. The determination of the exact percentage of responsibility rests with the insurance companies and the court.
For instance, if a car is speeding through a green light and collides with a cyclist who ran a red light, the cyclist might be deemed 80% responsible, while the car could be assigned 20% responsibility.
Under modified comparative negligence, if the bicyclist’s fault percentage exceeds 50%, they cannot seek recovery of damages. In the cycle and car collision, only the car would be eligible to pursue a claim. This means that if the car sustains $10,000 worth of damage, the cyclist would be responsible for $8,000.
Enclosed vehicles offer considerable protection for the occupants, whereas bicyclists have none. That leaves a bicyclist vulnerable to more serious and debilitating injuries than the vehicle’s occupants in a collision with another vehicle. Even a minor accident at a slow speed can cause major injuries. Without the protection of an enclosed cab, an accident can leave a cyclist with:
• Bone breaks, fractures, or dislocations
• Facial injuries
• Internal injuries, including internal bleeding
• Joint injuries, especially ankle, knee, elbow, and shoulder
• Permanent disfigurement and scarring
• Soft tissue injuries, such as tears, sprains, and strains
• Spinal cord injuries
• Traumatic brain injuries
Injuries like these will require prolonged and expensive medical care. They can also disrupt your daily routines and impact your ability to maintain employment.
When a driver is at fault, your claim will typically seek compensation from the driver’s insurance company. Rarely does a personal injury claim require a lawsuit, but it happens. In either event, you can seek compensation for your losses, including:
• Medical expenses, current, ongoing, and future
• Lost wages, current and future
• Property damage (bicycle, smartphone, eyeglasses, etc.)
• Pain and suffering
• Other losses and expenses
We strongly suggest that you DO NOT attempt to negotiate with the insurance company yourself. Their goal is to pay you as little as possible, and work to deny your claim any way they can. With their own legal team, they work to find the best way to pay little or nothing that won’t help you recover, pay for your medical care, and compensate you for lost wages and other losses.
To get started, contact Paxton Law today for your free consultation.
We know how difficult riding a bicycle in Houston can be. The potential for an accident exists anytime you ride, especially outside of a bike trail or other designated riding area.
Safety and prevention are vital every time you get on your bike. We offer some safety tips for your next—and every—ride:
1. Wear a helmet every time you ride. This can’t be emphasized enough—the chances of a traumatic brain injury are higher without one. Cyclists and riders under 18 are required to wear one in Houston, but adults are not. Nevertheless, children and adults should always wear a helmet to reduce the chances of serious injury.
2. Check your bike before you ride. Make sure your tire pressure is optimal, or at least adequate. Make sure your brakes are working the way they should, and check wheel spokes.
3. Reflectors. The City of Houston requires bicycles to have a white light that’s visible from at least 500 feet on the front of the bicycle, and a red-rear reflector that’s visible from 50 to 300 feet from the rear of the bike. Use these when riding during the early morning, late afternoon, and at night.
4. Wearing bright colors and reflective gear helps drivers see you. Avoid loose clothing, which can catch in the chains and cause a crash.
5. Use appropriate hand signals for turning.
6. Ride WITH the flow of traffic. Riding against traffic greatly reduces the amount of reaction time both you and the driver have to avoid an accident.
7. Ride in bike lanes or on paved shoulders
8. Do not ride on the sidewalk
9. Avoid speeding
10. Avoid distractions, such as listening to music, podcasts, or other entertainment with headphones or earbuds
11. Keep at least one hand on the handlebars; that’s actually a law in Houston.
Both hands are ideal, except for signaling; once you’ve signaled, return both hands to the handlebars.
12. Check the weather forecast before your ride to be better prepared once you hit the road
If you do experience an accident, contact our office to discuss your case and learn about your legal options.
If you, or a family member, are struggling after experiencing a bicycling accident in Houston, Paxton Law Firm can help. Let us review your case and advise you of your rights. You may be able to recover money for your past medical bills, lost wages because you cannot work, future medical bills, disfigurement, impairment, and for your pain and suffering. We offer free consultations, and you do not pay any legal fees until we recover for you.
Do you believe you have a case? Understand that time is of the essence in getting you the justice you deserve! We would love to hear from you.