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Louisiana is a state renowned for its lively culture and breathtaking natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for cyclists looking to appreciate its urban centers, countryside, and scenic trails. Bicyclists in New Orleans have a wide range of options to explore, from the flat roadways of New Orleans City Park to the more demanding Sam Houston Jones State Park Trail. Owing to the rising popularity of cycling in the state's bike-friendly roads and trails, the Pelican State has implemented rules and regulations to protect both bicyclists and motorists and lessen the number of traffic accidents. 

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reported that in 2021, there were 35 bicycle-related fatalities and 504 injuries. Alcohol contributed to nearly 17% of accidents involving bicycles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also noted a total of 966 bicycle-related fatalities throughout the U.S. in 2021. Hence, road users must be considerate and mindful of each other when out on the streets. It is also important to be familiar with local legislation in order to avoid accidents and legal issues. 

This article provides an in-depth analysis of Louisiana's bicycle laws, focusing on important regulations, safety requirements, and guidelines for cyclists. Awareness of these laws helps bicyclists and motorists contribute to creating a safer and more enjoyable environment on Louisiana's roads and pathways. 

Louisiana Bicycle Passing Laws

Likewise known as the Colin Goodier Protection Act, La. RS §32:76.1 states that a driver in a motor vehicle may pass a bicyclist going in the same direction only if doing so does not endanger either party. It further specifies that drivers must allow at least three feet of space between their vehicle and the bicycle before passing and that they must keep that space until they have safely overtaken the bicycle.

The law was enacted in 2009 in response to an accident that led to the unfortunate death of Dr. Colin Goodier. An alumnus of Louisiana State University School of Medicine, Goodier was in the third year of his surgery residency when he lost his life in a fatal bicycle mishap on River Road in Baton. The doctor was preparing for his first triathlon when he was struck by a truck. 

Any individual found guilty of violating the provision is subject to penalties of up to $250. A victim seeking financial compensation holds a strong case if a major accident is caused by the aforementioned violation.

Bike Helmet Law in Louisiana

When riding a bicycle in Louisiana, anybody under the age of 12, whether they are the operator of the bicycle or a passenger, is mandated by the law to wear a helmet. A passenger must also be properly placed in and securely fastened to a restraint seat if they weigh less than 40 pounds or are shorter than 40 inches.

According to RS §32:199, it is required for passengers and riders to wear helmets that meet specific standards. Bicycle helmets manufactured after March 1999 must meet or surpass the minimum safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Similarly, any previously manufactured helmets must meet or exceed the minimum safety standards for bicycle helmets regulated by the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American National Standards Institute.

Signs stating the rule on helmets and restraining seats must be at least 24 inches in length and 12 inches in breadth and must be displayed by businesses who engage in renting or selling bicycles. Parents, custodians, and other individuals with legal accountability for the safety and well-being of children may also be held liable for violations of this law, especially if their negligence leads to an accident.

Louisiana Laws on Bicycle Turn Signals

Just as motor vehicles are equipped with signal or brake lights when making turns or slowing down, cyclists are also required to make advanced signals of what they intend to do. In accordance with RS §32:106, all required hand and arm signals must be done from the left side of the vehicle and indicate the following:

  • To signal a left turn, extend your left hand horizontally with the palm open and facing behind you.

  • To signal a right turn, extend your hand and arm upward at a 45-degree angle from your shoulder or elbow. Keep your hand open with the back of your hand facing behind you. You can extend your right hand and arm horizontally with the hand open and the back of the hand facing backward.

  • To indicate stopping or slowing down, extend your hand and arm downward at a 45-degree angle from your shoulder or elbow, with your hand open and the back of your hand facing behind you.

  •  When pulling from the curb or side of the road, do the same as for a left turn.

Additionally, a bicyclist does not have to continuously give signals if they need to use their hand or arm to control the bicycle.

Bicycle Equipment Law in Louisiana

Louisiana has laws that require all cyclists to use certain bells, front and rear lamps, and side and rear reflectors for their bicycles. 

Bicycles must have a bell or similar device that can be heard from at least 100 feet away. However, sirens or whistles are not allowed on bicycles. 

All bicycles must also be equipped with brakes that allow the cyclist to skid the wheels on dry, level, and clean roads. Additionally, bicycles should have the following equipment at all times between sunset and sunrise:

  • A lamp on the front, which emits a white light prominent from at least 500 feet ahead. A cyclist may use a generator-powered lamp that provides light only while the bicycle is moving.

  • A rear lamp that must emit a red light that can be seen from 500 feet away, either flashing or steady.

  • A red reflector on the back and reflectors on each side that are visible from 100 to 600 feet away when in front of a vehicle's headlights.

The law also states that it is prohibited to ride a bicycle on a state highway, parish road, or city street between sunset and sunrise unless the bike is equipped with the necessary lamps and reflectors as specified in the requirements. Anyone who violates this provision will be liable to pay a fine of up to $25, which will include all court costs. Similarly, no retailer, distributor, wholesaler, or manufacturer in Louisiana may sell or offer for sale a bicycle that is not equipped with the required lamps and reflectors.

Louisiana Bicycle Laws on Cyclists’ Safety

Louisiana law includes specific provisions aimed at protecting cyclists across the state. An example of such a law is RS §32:201, which states that it is illegal to harass, taunt, or maliciously throw objects at or toward individuals who are riding bicycles. Any person who violates this regulation will be subject to a fine of no less than $200 or a maximum imprisonment period of 30 days.

Another law to consider is the “dooring law,” which can be found under RS §32:283. It stipulates that drivers should not open any door of a motor vehicle on a highway without first taking precautions to ensure that doing so does not disrupt the flow of traffic or put any other person or vehicle at risk. Furthermore, it is prohibited for any individual to keep a door of a motor vehicle on a highway open for an excessive duration beyond what is necessary for loading or unloading passengers.

Cycling Prohibitions in Louisiana

Louisiana has implemented a number of regulations that prohibit cyclists from participating in certain types of activities. It is not allowed for cyclists to hold onto motor vehicles while riding their bicycles. Additionally, cyclists are not allowed to ride in groups of more than two side by side and obstruct the flow of motor vehicle traffic.

Local ordinances also outline specific rules for bike owners regarding parking regulations. For instance, Section 11:229 of Ord. No. 18344 §1, 11-23-21 in Baton Rouge prohibits Louisianians from parking their bicycles anywhere other than in designated areas. These include bike corrals, docking stations, sidewalk racks, against buildings, or at the curb. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure that bicycle parking does not obstruct pedestrian traffic.

Louisiana does not have a law that specifically bars riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. However, cyclists must always prioritize the safety and well-being of pedestrians. It is also highly recommended that residents check their local ordinances for specific biking regulations in their area. 

Is Louisiana a No-Fault State for Bicycle Accidents?

Louisiana operates under an at-fault system, which means individuals deemed liable for an accident are also held accountable for the damages and injuries resulting from the incident. If a bicyclist is involved in a collision with a car or truck, and it is determined that the motorist is responsible for the accident, the driver's insurance should cover the costs of the cyclist's damages. The biker's own policy can be used if they have personal injury protection as a part of their auto insurance. Medical insurance can also provide coverage for physical and bodily injuries. Typically, your health insurance will initially cover your damages and then seek reimbursement from the at-fault party's insurer.

Comparative negligence is also followed in the state of Louisiana. This means you have the ability to file a claim, but the amount of compensation you are to receive will be reduced based on the degree of responsibility attributed to you. For example, the judge determined that you bear 10% of the blame for the injuries you suffered in the bicycle accident. If the jury were to award $250,000, the amount would be reduced by 10%, resulting in an actual award of $225,000.

How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Louisiana?

Determining appropriate compensation after an accident can be challenging. In addition to calculating your financial damages, it is important to consider non-economic damages. Financial damages include medical expenses, loss of earnings or future income, and bike repair or replacement costs. You can calculate these by collating and adding up receipts, bills for medical treatment, and pay slips.

Accident lawyers also emphasize that non-economic losses are equally valid. Bicycle accidents, especially serious ones, can cause significant mental and emotional suffering for victims. The impact can last for a long time. You can claim damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.

Louisiana's minimum insurance requirements are roughly low when compared to those in other states. For instance, the state requires a minimum of $15,000 for bodily injury coverage in driver insurance policies. Many cases in litigation involve negligent parties with only minimum coverage. The injured party can only recover up to $15,000 in damages in these cases.

Likewise, there is no cap on damages for personal injury lawsuits in Louisiana, except for medical malpractice and if the at-fault party is a government agency.

What Is Louisiana’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?

Louisiana's statute of limitations stipulates that an accident victim only has one year to submit a claim. Civil Code Article 3492 states that a personal injury lawsuit may only be pursued or claims made within a year of the day the harm or damage occurred. The one-year statute also starts when the injuries are discovered, even if their full extent is discovered later. Personal injury claims are subject to this time limit in order to ensure the preservation of evidence and the prevention of fraudulent lawsuits.

The Louisiana statute of limitations for personal injury is strict, but there are some exceptions to the one-year claim reporting deadline. The limit may be extended in certain circumstances, such as if the person who was injured is a minor, mentally ill, jailed within the year after the accident, or resides out of state. It is possible for minors whose parents are not with them to file a lawsuit on their behalf to do so within a year after turning 18. If a personal injury attorney in Louisiana refuses to take your case because the statute of limitations has expired, you may still make a legitimate claim if these exceptions apply to you. 

Legal Resources for Louisiana Bicycle Accident Victims

Louisiana Bar Association

The LSBA website helps prospective clients in verifying whether the lawyer they are considering retaining is licensed to practice in various courts in Louisiana. Additionally, clients who wish to dispute their legal fees with their respective attorneys may use the site to seek arbitration through the Lawyer Dispute Resolution Program.

Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board

Aiming to address attorney misconduct, the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board takes charge of looking into all claims of wrongdoing and making suggestions to the Court about how to discipline them when necessary. The agency comprises a statewide board, hearing committees, disciplinary counsel, and admin staff chosen by the board and disciplinary counsel.

Louisiana Highway Safety Commission

The Louisiana HSC administers the state's highway safety grant program. Louisiana's highway safety program aims to effectively bring together and align state and local initiatives to decrease traffic crashes, fatalities, and injuries by prioritizing enforcement, public information and education, and legislation.

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