Ask an Attorney: What are my rights as a pedestrian or cyclist?
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In a state as car-centric as Nevada, being a pedestrian or cyclist can leave you vulnerable, especially when fatality rates have seen such a dramatic rise.
In 2015, there were 73 reported pedestrian fatalities, up from 36 in 2009. While these numbers on their own are alarming, they don’t account for the people injured when hit by a car. Knowing and understanding road rules and your rights as a pedestrian or cyclist can help prevent injury, or help guide you toward the correct course of action if you or a loved one are hurt.
What if you get injured as a pedestrian or cyclist?
If you’ve been hit by a vehicle while walking, running, cycling or riding any other person-propelled mode of transportation:
• You, the driver and/or any witnesses should call 911 immediately and wait for the police to arrive. Do this even if you don’t think you’re injured or if your injury doesn’t seem critical.
• Make sure the driver stays until the police arrive. Gather his or her information and take pictures of the scene.
• Once you’ve given your statement to the police, seek medical attention immediately. Even if you’re not sure you need it, it’s best to err on the side of caution. After the shock and adrenaline of the moment wear off, you may find that you are more injured than you realized.
• Call an attorney. Do this once you’re out of harm’s way, are safe and have been treated, if necessary — but don’t wait too long beyond that. The sooner you have legal counsel on your side, the better.
• File an insurance claim (if applicable). You may be entitled to more damages later on, but your insurance should help cover the basics until then.
Key tips for pedestrians and drivers
• Right-of-way: Many pedestrians think that because they are on foot, they always have the right-of-way. However, this is not true. Pedestrians most often have the right-of-way, but are required to follow the rules of the road and not behave erratically (such as darting into the road when oncoming vehicles don’t have enough time to stop, etc.).
• Intersections: Crosswalks exist at all intersections, whether or not there are pavement markings or crossing signals to denote them. This means cars must yield to pedestrians waiting to cross, and pedestrians need to exercise caution when crossing (especially if the crosswalk is unmarked). Pedestrians should never cross diagonally or against the light.
• Sidewalks: Pedestrians must use sidewalks whenever they are available. If there is not an available sidewalk, pedestrians should walk on the left side of the street facing traffic. It is illegal for pedestrians to use the bicycle lane if there is a sidewalk available.
Key tips for cyclists and drivers
• Act like a vehicle: A bicycle is not technically defined as a vehicle because it is propelled by human power. However, in most instances, cyclists assume the same rules and responsibilities of the road as drivers do. This means riding with traffic, adhering to the road signs and signaling — and being subject to citations if you don’t.
• Bike lanes: When there is a bicycle lane available, cyclists should use it, but they are not required to ride on the shoulder of the road if there is no bike lane. Cyclists should be cautious, though, when riding in mixed travel lanes and are required to ride as far to the right as possible (unless they’re making a turn or riding at a comparable rate of speed as vehicles on the road).
• Passing: Vehicles are responsible for keeping a minimum of 3 feet between them and the cyclist when passing (even if the cyclist is in a bike lane). On multilane roads, when possible, vehicles should move over one lane when passing a cyclist.
• Insurance: If you’re a cyclist who also owns a vehicle, make sure your UM/UIM and MedPay insurances cover you while you’re bicycling. If you don’t have UM/UIM and MedPay as part of your car insurance, or if your coverage doesn’t extend to bicycles, consider calling your insurance agent to make a change. For cyclists who ride frequently, having full coverage can protect you in the event of an accident and generally afford you peace of mind.
What else can I do?
If you have noticed broken sidewalks, unsafe intersections, areas that need a crossing light or anything else that you think may make being a pedestrian or cyclist safer, you can report it. Contact the public works department for Clark County (702-455-6000), Las Vegas (702-229-6272), Henderson (702-267-3000) or North Las Vegas (702-633-1200).
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