In the state of Wyoming, cyclists enjoy the freedom of exploring stunning landscapes on two wheels; it has terrain that serves as an escape for travelers and residents alike. The state boasts picturesque views of the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the vast expanse of the Great Plains.
With these local features and various state-sponsored advocacies, bicycling has grown its popularity, not only as a recreational pursuit but also as an alternative means of transportation. This trend showcases positive progress for the region; however, it also brings attention to the heightened risks faced by physically vulnerable road users in the form of bike riders.
In fact, according to Wyoming’s report on traffic crashes, there were 56 pedalcyclist accidents involving possible and actual injuries in 2022. Nine of these incidents resulted in cyclists sustaining serious injuries. At 34%, the leading contributing factors to bike accidents during the same year were cyclists failing to yield to the right of way and crossing improperly.
The state’s regulations emphasize that bicycles are vehicles and should be treated as such. Nevertheless, given that bikes are a lot more prone to risks than other types of vehicles, they are provided a little more leeway and protection.
This article outlines various traffic regulations, state-specific laws, and other essential information that can help bikers and pedestrians in case they get involved in a bike-related accident.
Categorizing Bicycles Under Wyoming Laws
In Wyoming, bicycles are considered vehicles, and their riders are subject to the same rules as motorists. This means cyclists should adhere to traffic regulations, obey traffic signs, use the right signals when making turns, and yield the right of way when necessary.
Although not technically illegal, it is highly discouraged to ride a bike on sidewalks since pedestrians always have the right of way when it comes to both sidewalks and crosswalks. Cyclists are also advised to ride as far to the right side of the road as possible while following the flow of traffic. However, there is no specific law discussing the consequences of violating this rule. Consequently, it is a cyclist’s responsibility to prioritize their own safety and make prudent decisions.
Bikers are also required to keep both hands on the handlebars at all times, except when signaling to turn. Moreover, only up to two bicyclists are allowed to ride side by side at a time.
Riding a bicycle while intoxicated, like in other states, is illegal. Causing an accident while in violation of this rule can result in fines and jail time.
Rules on Riding Safely in Wyoming
Bike laws in Wyoming further stress the importance of riding in a predictable manner. The key is riding in a way that others can anticipate, staying alert to turning vehicles and the behavior of other motorists, and being mindful of pedestrians.
Since a big portion of the state is still considered rural, bike riders often share roadways with motor vehicles due to the lack of dedicated bike lanes. However, in cities like Cheyenne, Laramie, Jackson, and Gillette, there has been a growing trend of implementing this type of infrastructure. This development enhances the safety of riders and further improves their overall biking experience.
Another way for cyclists to mitigate road risks is by installing the required features on their bikes. A bicycle should have a front white light visible from at least 500 feet, as well as a rear red reflector or light visible from a minimum distance of 300 feet. Cyclists are also required to wear brightly colored clothing to increase their visibility while on the road. In addition, they must always carry an emergency kit and know how to use repair tools in case of accidents or mechanical issues.
Safe Passing Law
The state of Wyoming adopted a safe passing law, which means motorists must maintain a three-foot distance from cyclists while on the road. Failure to do so can result in a $70 fine.
Despite this law, it is still essential for bike riders to exercise caution and remain mindful of the potential size and power disparity between their bicycles and other vehicles, especially when asserting their right of way.
Wyoming Helmet Law
Wyoming is one of the 13 states that do not legally require wearing helmets while riding a bike. This means it falls solely on the rider to decide whether to wear one or not. However, it must be noted that choosing to wear safety headgear significantly reduces the inherent risks associated with riding a bike on the road. Helmets provide riders with extra protection that can save their lives in case of an accident or collision.
Although the state encourages the use of helmets while on the road, its efforts unfortunately do not yield the ideal result. As a reference, out of the 56 pedalcyclist injuries in 2022, only 14 involved riders wearing helmets at the time of the crash, leaving others with more serious injuries.
Electric Bikes in Wyoming
Electric bikes, considered bicycles under Wyoming law, are defined as bicycles or tricycles with fully operable pedals, a seat or saddle for the rider's use, and an electric motor power lower than 750 watts. Operating an e-bike does not require a driver’s license, insurance, or registration.
E-bikes are allowed on roadways as long as they are in the rightmost lane. E-bike users can also utilize bike trails, but they are only permitted in certain portions of national parks in Wyoming. Moreover, local authorities and state agencies are allowed to regulate the use of electric bicycles on trails that fall under their jurisdiction.
Wyoming's Bicycle/Pedestrian Program
In line with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, Wyoming designed a program that integrates the needs of cyclists and pedestrians into consideration when planning and implementing transportation projects. This initiative involves the development of various facilities, including bike lanes, shared-use paths, sidewalks, and crosswalks. It also aims to guide local governments in the state when creating their own bicycle and pedestrian plans and infrastructure.
Despite these efforts, however, Wyoming still ranked 50th in the Bicycle Friendly State survey conducted by The League of American Bicyclists in 2022. It considered factors such as the state’s bike-related infrastructure and funding, traffic laws and practices, policies, and plans. In its 2018 Progress Report, the organization also noted that while the state was generally a safe place for bike riders, it had not displayed a consistent effort to improve bicycling on its roads.
These circumstances further reinforce that cyclists should familiarize themselves with the biking laws in their area and know what to do next and who to go to for aid in case of an accident.
Is Wyoming a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?
No, Wyoming is a fault state or a “tort state” when it comes to bike accidents. Because it follows a fault-based system, the party that causes an accident is legally liable to cover the resulting damages. The injured victim can ask for compensation by filing an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
It is important to note that more than one party may be determined to be at fault in a bike accident case depending on the surrounding circumstances. Additionally, according to the modified comparative negligence rule that Wyoming follows, if the injured party is found to be partially at fault for the accident, their compensation may be reduced appropriately. This means a plaintiff who is deemed 30% responsible for a bike collision will have a 30% deduction in their total awarded damages. Moreover, if a plaintiff is found to be more than 50% guilty, they are barred from receiving payments from the other party.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Wyoming?
In Wyoming, there is no cap on the economic damages a person can recover in a personal injury lawsuit. This means a plaintiff can be compensated for the total value of their current and future medical expenses, lost wages, and personal property damage costs. If you are a bike accident victim, it is important to keep track of all expenses and bills related to your case to accurately determine the compensation value you are entitled to.
There is also no limit in place for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and psychological impact. That being said, non-economic damage claims are inherently more difficult to quantify and vary from case to case since each person experiences suffering differently.
What Is Wyoming’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
Wyoming has a four-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases against private parties, such as individuals and companies. This means that the injured party in bicycle accidents must file a lawsuit against the at-fault party within that period. If they pursue legal action after the given timeframe, their case will likely be dismissed.
Meanwhile, for those planning to sue a government entity, the statute of limitations has been shortened. A notice of claim must be filed within two years from the date the injury occurred, while the actual lawsuit must be filed within a year from the date of the notice. This time limit, along with the complexity of proving another party’s liability, typically compels victims to look for an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Legal Resources for Wyoming Bicycle Accident Victims
If you are involved in a bicycle accident, here are several resources to help you start your journey toward claiming the compensation that you rightfully deserve:
Wyoming State Bar maintains an exhaustive resource of qualified lawyers that bicycle accident victims can look through when trying to make a personal injury claim. Since the organization is committed to promoting accessible legal services to the public, it provides a list of low-income options that link out to organizations and sites that can help personal injury claimants with their search for legal advice.
This online platform provides free legal assistance to individuals who meet certain income qualifications. A person can submit questions related to their bicycle accident case or other legal matters and receive answers from volunteer attorneys.
Legal Aid of Wyoming offers free legal consultations through its hotline for eligible Wyoming citizens who are in need of legal advice. It should be noted that it mostly focuses on civil legal matters and will only be able to provide limited advice on personal injury cases stemming from bike accidents.
The Wyoming State Law Library offers various legal materials that can help you understand relevant laws, regulations, and legal resources that pertain to your bicycle accident case.
Cycle Wyoming is a nonprofit organization that aims to boost the use of cycling as a form of transportation, recreation, and community engagement through various programs and services. Aside from raising awareness about cycling and its safe use, the group also provides financial assistance for various initiatives to help prevent bike accidents in the state.
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