New law shows bikes can be dangerous to pedestrians

When one thinks of a bicycle accident in the Bay Area, one may envision a bicyclist getting hit by a car. Indeed, these are often very serious accidents, and they may even lead to a brain injury, even if the bicyclist involved was wearing a helmet.

However, residents of Alameda County need to remember that bicycles too can be hazardous to those with whom they share the road. For instance, if a bicyclist hits a pedestrian or another bicyclist, particularly if going at full speed, the chances are fairly good that the other person will suffer a significant injury.

While getting hit by a bicycle might not be what a typical Californian thinks about when walking to work, it is apparently a common enough occurrence to attract the attention of this state's lawmakers.

Among other laws that got passed in the last session and that are taking effect in this new year, one provision now makes it a crime for bicyclists to strike a pedestrian and then flee the scene of the accident, at least when the accident happens on a public trail reserved for cyclists and pedestrians.

The law was prompted by a case in which a cyclist hit a pedestrian and fled. The pedestrian suffered several broken bones, including a fractured skull. While the cyclist was eventually located and will, presumably, be responsible for the victim's injuries, police were not able to file criminal charges against the cyclist for leaving the scene of the accident.

If anything, this law illustrates that while cyclists can be the victims of serious traffic accidents, they can at times be the party responsible for them. In the latter cases, victims may have the right to pursue compensation for their injuries.

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