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I was riding my bicycle home. I live on a one way and was waiting in the crosswalk while oncoming traffic down the one-way was green. This was at a 4 way intersection. There was no oncoming traffic and all other lights were red. I rode into the crosswalk and was nearly through when the light turned green for the oncoming right side traffic. A man flew through the crosswalk, not seeing me, and we collided. I hit his mirror off, made impact with his door, and fell down. I was then treated by the EMT and taken to the ER for further evaluation.

I am suffering no broken bones, but a painful hand contusion, cuts and bruises, as well as enhanced neck pain from a previous neck injury.

The cop found me still very frazzled in the ER and told me I was getting issued a citation for going the wrong way on a one way (while the man who hit me got off scot-free). The cop also said she could be giving me 3 other tickets but was trying to be "nice." I thought you didn't have to do that if it was a traffic infraction...

I understand that local bike laws in Santa Barbara say you are treated as a car. However, I was in the crosswalk (which is parallel to the one way street) when I was hit.

I need help understanding the laws regarding these specific circumstances. Is this worth fighting in court?

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You need to check your local laws. In many cases bikes are not allowed on sidewalks. I generally walk my bike across intersections if I find I must use the "sidewalk" crossing. Walking your bike you're a pedestrian and have right-of-way so long as you didn't start across against a light. (The "notice to appear in court" is fairly standard in many cases. If you don't want to contest the citation you can generally pay off the fine before the court date.) –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 29 '12 at 22:51
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Welcome to Bicycles! I'm sorry about your crash. This site is a Q&A site, and your question is really too open-ended to work with our format. Could you maybe rewrite this into some more specific questions, not just "anyone else have an experience like this"? Maybe "What's the law about riding in the crosswalk?" or "Is this worth trying to fight in court?"... We'd like to help, but you'll have to be more specific. –  freiheit Oct 29 '12 at 22:54
    
What was the state of the crosswalk signals (walking person or hand) when you entered the crosswalk? –  freiheit Oct 29 '12 at 23:01
    
Thank you for the input. I just made edits with more specific questions, sorry about it being too widespread! Also, the light for me was red (hand) because oncoming traffic was a one way so technically a right hand turn in a car would force the car to cross the crosswalk. I waited for a very long time and the light never turned to walk, which is why I went. (Knowing that most likely, the only car who would hit me would be doing so from the one way facing me.) –  Sarah Oct 30 '12 at 0:04
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If there was a push-button and you pushed it and the light didn't change, or the light is timed and never gave you a "walk", you can argue that the light was malfunctioning. Generally the law allows you to "proceed with caution" against the light if the light is not functioning properly. But different states have different rules about how long you must wait, etc. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 30 '12 at 0:14
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closed as not constructive by Unsliced, Benzo, freiheit Nov 1 '12 at 16:40

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3 Answers

According to Santa Barbara City Ordinances:

10.52.130 No Bicycles on Sidewalk. No person shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk except at a driveway; provided, that a person may ride a bicycle on any area designated by the City Council as a bikeway.

So, unless this was a designated "bikeway," you were clearly in violation of at least one law. I'm a little unclear on your story, but it also sounds like you crossed against the signal. That would, of course, be a second infraction.

You mention that you live on a one-way street but were crossing at a four-way intersection. This doesn't make sense. A two-way street crossing a one-way street is a three-way intersection. But I'll do my best to make sense of it.

If you were riding on the sidewalk on the left side of a two-way street, or if you were riding the sidewalk against traffic on a one-way street; the ticket for riding against traffic also sort of makes sense. It may or may not be entirely correct, but a case could be made.

In short, you were clearly in violation of some law, probably several. If you try to fight it, you may get out of the ticket you were specifically given but you may also end up with several others.

I would also encourage you to read all of section 10.52 in the attached city ordinances as well as the California Vehicle Code Sections 21200-21212, all of which pertain to bicycling in California. For the best understanding, read the state laws first and the local laws second and look at the local laws as an addendum to the state laws.

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A note for the OP: you can still walk your bike on a sidewalk (or in a crosswalk), e.g. to cross through a busy intersection you don't feel safe riding through. –  Jefromi Oct 30 '12 at 16:05
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If the OP was riding over the crossing then he was a vehicle and in breach of traffic laws. If he was walking the bike across then he was a pedestrian and provided the light was green when he started crossing is innocent of any infractions. However, it's the OP's word against the driver's unless photographic evidence comes to light. –  GordonM Oct 30 '12 at 17:07
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Consider for a moment that you walked away with your life, instead of being killed by that car, and call it a victory. Some people don't walk away with theirs.

From what you said, you crossed the street without a walk signal, that right their is worth a citation, so it's reasonable that you ended up with 1 citation. It also sounds ordinary that you'll have to show up to court to pay it, that's how a lot of cities handle all traffic fines.

Try not to get discouraged though. Stay safe out there.

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Her story was ambiguous, but this may have been a scenario where crosswalks were present without pedestrian signals, which gives the right-of-way to pedestrians in most jurisdictions. Of course, bicycles are not pedestrians, so... –  Stephen Touset Oct 30 '12 at 7:01
    
@StephenTouset: Well, bicycles might be pedestrians, depending on jurisdiction and circumstances... –  freiheit Oct 30 '12 at 17:24
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The usual disclaimer: none of us are lawyers.

It does sound possible that what you were doing doesn't meet the definition for the citation you were given, depending on the details. But you may well have been technically breaking another law; I don't know enough about your local laws (or law in general) to say for sure. So fighting one citation could just turn it into another, and this means that as usual, the best advice would be to talk to a lawyer who'd know details about this sort of thing.

Now for the safety bit.

The general spirit of "bicycles are vehicles" laws is that cyclists should behave like vehicles, and drivers should similarly treat cyclists like vehicles. If you're riding in a crosswalk or on a sidewalk, you're not following the laws for vehicles. As you discovered, this can be pretty dangerous. It's not a license to just ride however's convenient. Most cyclists think it's pretty much always a bad idea to ride on a sidewalk - it can be dangerous for both you and pedestrians.

I will admit that sometimes it may be safer than the road, though. But if you're going to ride on a sidewalk, it's important to behave like a pedestrian. Sidewalks are designed for pedestrians. This means you need to ride slowly, maybe even walking your bike at some points, and cross streets the way pedestrians would. Drivers have more time to see you if you're not sprinting across a street.

Now, along with the safety, perhaps you can see how this is less clear than you might think. Cyclists are expected to act like vehicles, and a car doing what you were doing would've been cited, especially if it led to an accident. A pedestrian wouldn't really have been doing what you were doing either. By all means, talk to a lawyer if you want to pursue it. But it may not be cut and dry.

So good luck with your recovery, and I hope you're back on the road soon. Stay safe!

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