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Where do cyclists fit in traffic laws?

Hundreds die in bicycle accidents every year across the U.S. Many of those happen when a cyclist crosses paths with a car, and most of the time it’s the rider that feels the pain. This means it’s essential for cyclists to know where they stand when it comes to Tennessee’s traffic laws.

Car accidents killed 854 bicyclists in 2018, according to the most recent data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. An increase of 7% from the year prior may be enough cause for alarm, but even more worrying is the 38% increase in fatalities since 2010. Even if a bike accident doesn’t turn fatal, it can still benefit bikers to know their legal protections.

Protecting pedalers

Tennessee has a few requirements for cyclists to keep everyone safe on the streets. You need a front light and rear reflector at night, you must yield to pedestrians and you need to obey traffic signals. But not all rules aim to place fault on bicyclists. Some can offer you protection in case anything goes wrong.

Bicycle boundaries

Cyclists can inhabit an area between pedestrians and drivers when it comes to traveling, but their space in state traffic laws is usually pretty clear-cut:

  • Roads: Bicycles have the right to use designated lanes, paved paths and greenways, but your clearance doesn’t end there. You are clear use most roadways across Tennessee.
  • Rights: While using roads, a bicycle legally counts as another vehicle. You’ll have the same responsibilities as a car, but also the same rights.
  • Rules: You aren’t restricted to the shoulder when cycling on streets. You have a claim to the lane and can ride with traffic as long as you can keep with the flow.

Knowing the protections you have under the law can be essential if you need to file a claim. Make sure you can spot where a driver may have been the one out of order, and you could see a path toward compensation.