In 2022, Kentucky was ranked 37 out of 50 states for bicycle safety. Although the Bluegrass State made significant progress from its 49th ranking in 2015, the League of American Bicyclists concluded that Kentucky still has ample room for growth and development to improve biking accessibility, comfort, and safety in the state.
According to the 2022 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card for Kentucky, the state has a higher bicycle fatality rate compared to the national average. It recorded 13.7 deaths per 10,000 bike commuters. Some of the common causes of bicycle accidents are alcohol intoxication, unsafe lane changes, weaving through traffic, running a red light, and poor environmental conditions.
Kentucky has done a lot to lessen bicycle accidents on the road and protect the rights of bike crash victims. For the past years, it has adopted a statewide active transportation plan and continues to strictly implement various laws and regulations for bicyclists and other road users.
Kentucky Bicycle Operation
Kentucky Revised Statutes 189.010 states that vehicles refer to "all agencies for transportation of people or property over or upon the public highways of the Commonwealth" and "all vehicles passing over or upon the highways." This means that bicycles are considered vehicles in Kentucky, and cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other motorists on the road.
Cyclists must adhere to all the laws and regulations for vehicle drivers in the state, except for those that don't apply to bicycles. They are required to follow traffic signs, speed limits, and lane markings.
When on the road, it is mandatory for cyclists to ride on the right side whenever possible. They may swerve from the right side only if they are:
Preparing for a left turn
Avoiding accidents with right-turning vehicles
Passing a narrow lane
Traveling on a one-way street with two or more lanes
When moving from the right side, they must travel at the same speed of traffic. If a road has a lane exclusive for bikes, cyclists must travel in that lane. A single lane cannot accommodate more than two bicycles riding side by side unless it is a bike lane. When riding side by side, the two bicycles must not obstruct traffic flow. In addition, a cyclist must keep at least one hand on the handlebars when their bicycle is moving.
Like other vehicle drivers, bicyclists are also required to signal when turning or coming to a stop. When overtaking, they must use caution when passing a stopped or moving vehicle in the same direction.
Kentucky Bicycle Safety Standards for Equipment and Gear
The state has safety standards for bicycle equipment and gear. These include the following:
Lights and Reflectors
There must be at least one front light on the bicycle or the bicyclist operating on a highway at night or during atmospheric conditions specified by the law. The front light must be visible for 500 feet and be able to show substantial objects at least 50 feet from the front of the bicycle.
It is also required to have a red reflector or red light visible from the rear of the bicycle for at least 100 feet. At night or during atmospheric conditions specified by the law, there must be a red light or a flashing red light visible from the rear of the bicycle for at least 500 feet.
Bell or Horn
Bicycles must have a bell or horn that can be used to alert pedestrians or other motorists when they are near.
Using sirens or whistles is not allowed in Kentucky.
Bicycles must have a properly attached seat. When operated on a highway or highway shoulder, a bicycle shall not carry more people than it is designed or equipped to carry.
Bicycles with no brakes are not allowed to be operated on a highway or highway shoulder. A bike's brakes should be able to control its movement or stop the bicycle within 15 feet at a speed of 10 mph on a dry and level surface.
Kentucky is one of the few states in the United States that does not implement statewide helmet laws. However, some cities and municipalities have their own ordinances for wearing a helmet while riding a bike. For example, in Louisville, bicyclists under 18 years old must wear a helmet at any metro park in the city.
In general, not wearing a helmet won’t result in a citation, but it may affect the amount of compensation a jury may award to an accident victim.
Kentucky Non-Motor Vehicle DUI
Under KRS 189.520, it is illegal to ride a non-motor vehicle, such as a bicycle, anywhere in the state under the influence of alcohol or any substance that affects a cyclist's reaction time, coordination, and judgment.
If a biker's blood alcohol content reaches over 0.08, they may be charged with the offense and receive a fine of up to $100. They may also be required to complete an alcohol treatment program.
Kentucky’s Rules for Carrying a Package in a Bicycle and Attaching to a Vehicle
In Kentucky, bicyclists riding on a highway or highway shoulder must keep at least one hand on their bike's handlebars. They are not allowed to carry a package, a bundle, or an article that may result in them losing their grip on the handlebars while riding. It is recommended that they carry all their belongings in a backpack or securely attach the items to the back of the bicycle.
Additionally, neither the bicycle nor the bicyclist can be attached to a motor vehicle while on a highway or highway shoulder.
Kentucky Sidewalk Riding Laws
Unless prohibited by a local law or ordinance, cyclists can operate on sidewalks and crosswalks in Kentucky. While operating on a sidewalk or crosswalk, bikers have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians.
When riding a bike on a sidewalk or crosswalk in the presence of pedestrians, cyclists must slow down and maintain walking speed. They should yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or crosswalk and alert pedestrians by using their bells or horns.
They are also required to keep a walking speed when approaching a crosswalk or crossing where a motor vehicle may be present. They must pause at the corners of the sidewalk to check if there is another vehicle and ensure that its driver has seen them. To avoid accidents, bicyclists must leave the sidewalk slowly and avoid moving into the path of another vehicle that is too close.
In addition, cyclists must follow the traffic control device for pedestrians in the area where they are riding unless a police officer or another official gives a different instruction.
Is Kentucky a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?
Kentucky is a no-fault state for bike accidents. Under this system, the parties involved in an accident must first file a claim with their insurance carrier to recover damages, regardless of who is at fault. In case the bicyclist involved in the accident does not have an insurance policy, they can rely on the personal injury protection (PIP) insurance of the other motor vehicle driver if the latter was responsible for the crash. The PIP insurance will cover the cyclist's medical expenses, a percentage of lost wages, and other damages.
However, if the motor vehicle is not insured or underinsured, the cyclist has two options. The first is to file a personal injury lawsuit, while the other option is to submit a claim to the Kentucky Assigned Claims Plan. This plan provides basic reparation benefits to eligible individuals if they are not qualified for any PIP coverage.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Kentucky?
The suable amount for a bicycle accident in Kentucky would depend on various factors, including the extent of the victim’s injuries and damages and the percentage of negligence or fault of the parties involved.
Individuals who sustain injuries in bicycle accidents are entitled to compensation for economic damages, including past, present, and future medical costs; property damage; and lost wages. They can also collect payments for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
In Kentucky, a lawsuit can be pursued against the at-fault party if the bicycle accident resulted in a minimum of $1,000 in medical costs or a fatality. A bike accident victim may also file a case if they suffered from permanent injuries, a broken bone, or disfigurement.
What Is Kentucky’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
In general, a victim of a bike accident has one year to file a case against the at-fault party to recover damages for their injuries and losses. If the victim fails to submit their claim within a year after the incident, they will not be able to receive compensation for the losses they incurred. Wrongful death cases also have a one-year period, starting on the day the victim died.
However, in some cases, the statute of limitations can be extended to up to two years after the accident.
If a motor vehicle is involved in a bicycle crash, the victim can file a claim up to two years after the accident or from the date of the driver's last PIP payment.
The two-year limit also applies if the victim is submitting a claim for damaged personal property.
Legal Resources for Kentucky Bicycle Accident Victims
The Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service assists people in the state in finding an attorney who can offer legal guidance and representation in their specific cases. It provides the names, contact information, and operating hours of attorneys in different practice areas and locations. Interested individuals can reach KLRS through its website or phone number from Monday to Friday. The public service is an initiative of the Louisville Bar Association and is not affiliated with the Kentucky Bar Association.
For Kentuckians who need legal assistance but cannot afford one, there are legal aid programs that they can try applying for, depending on where they are in the state. These include the Legal Aid of the Bluegrass, Legal Aid of Kentucky, Appalachian Research & Defense Fund (AppalReD), and Legal Aid Society. These initiatives help eligible individuals dealing with legal matters by connecting them to an attorney who can provide advice and refer them to a firm for further counsel.
BL Foundation is an organization that advocates for safer biking through education, community outreach, and legal representation. It has a network of attorneys across North America who are also bicycle enthusiasts and provide pro bono services to cyclists and the families of biking accident casualties. BL Foundation was established in 1998 and has rendered hundreds of hours of legal representation.
Bike Walk Kentucky’s page contains links to various resources that cyclists and other drivers on the road can use. These include information about road sharing and state cycling laws, driver's manual, and guides for safe bicycling and driving. In addition, it provides links to cycling clubs in the state, trail town guides, biking communities and organizations, and government resources.
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