Lyft vs Bicycle Accidents in Philadelphia

Commuters are turning to Lyft and other ride-share companies to get them around the Philadelphia metro area. They are overtaking traditional cabs as their users like the cheaper prices and ease of use. Today’s younger crowd feels much more comfortable ordering something on an app rather than calling and talking to a live voice.

In Philly, cycling is also trending upward in both traditional pedal bikes and the recently rolled out ebike bike-share programs. In 2016, Philadelphia was named the 9th most bike-friendly city in the U.S. putting it in the same breath with Seattle and San Francisco.

The reason for this honor is due in part to Philly’s over 200 miles of bike lanes—with plans to add another 100 in foreseeable future—and over 30 miles of protected bike lanes which is the holy grail of bike lanes.

Lyft and Cyclists Mingle

With more bikes and ebikes on the streets alongside and increasing fleet of Lyft vehicles, accident and injuries are bound to happen. An analysis of these accidents shows certain patterns and accident hotspots, and when accidents happen, so do the inevitable lawsuits as those injured seek to recover their financial losses.

One of the hotspots for accidents turns out to be affected in part by Philadelphia’s traffic codes and laws.

Philadelphia Bike Lane Laws

Philadelphia’s bike lane laws have three stages of vehicle protection. So, where there is a bike lane, a sign will designate the type of vehicle protection on that portion of the bike lane. They are:

  • No Parking: Vehicles may not park, but may load/unload for up to 20 minutes (eg. groceries, FedEx trucks).
  • No Standing: Vehicles may not park or load/unload goods, but can drop off/pick up people (eg. taxis).
  • No Stopping: Vehicles may not stop for any reason except to obey other traffic laws or in case of emergency.

Cyclist groups have shown their dislike for the current parking laws in the city as they feel that it renders many of the bike lanes useless as they are filled with drivers “unloading or loading”. When one gets done, another takes its place keeping the lane on that street filled with stopped cars.

Picking Up/Dropping Off

Since Lyft cars drop off and pick up their customers curbside, that often puts them right in a bike lane. If the sign says “No Parking” ironically, it means that it’s ok to park as long as you aren’t there for more than 20 minutes.

Even in the “No Stopping” zones, cyclists complain that they see little enforcement which frustrates them as they see an already dwindling amount of un-cluttered bike lanes grow even smaller. One of the dangers in these cases is that the bike rider has to veer out into traffic or risk hitting a car or pedestrian in the bike lane.

Dooring

Dooring happens when a cyclist rides by a parked or stopped car and someone opens the car door right in the path of the cyclist. This can cause severe injuries to the cyclist. In bike lanes, this happens when the bike lane is relatively clear but there’s a single car (parked legally or illegally) and the cyclist veers around the stopped car, he or she is met by an open door.

Another dooring scenario occurs when there is no bike lane but the space next to the curb is filled with parked cars (most of the time legally). Since Philly laws require the cyclist to ride on the fight side of the right lane—under most circumstances—this puts the cyclist riding right by the row of cars.

One open door can change the cyclist’s life forever.

Sidewalks

In Philadelphia, cyclists under 13 are allowed to ride on the sideway so long as they do so safely and give the right-of-way to pedestrians. Though this gives cyclists more options, it doesn’t solve the dooring problem as the door can still be opened on the curb side of the car.

Liability and Insurance

Lyft and the state of Pennsylvania require all Lyft drivers to have their own car insurance. Also, lift has an insurance policy with around $1 million in coverage for damages from an accident. This is good for the injured cyclist as it means there is coverage if the Lyft driver is at fault. However, the circumstances of the accident can make a difference in the amount of liability coverage available.

When a cyclist is injured by a Lyft driver or passenger, the driver’s insurance will cover the damages. If the Lyft driver is on a trip (meaning with a customer) and in an accident, the injured person can sue Lyft and then has access to their $1 million coverage.

However, if the driver is not on a trip—which starts as soon as the passenger leaves the car—then the driver’s own insurance will cover the damages. This policy has a minimum policy requirement of $15,000 for bodily injury which is obviously a lot less than Lyft’s policy cap.

Closing the Loophole

Since Lyft only requires its drivers (as of May 2019) to have the state minimum insurance requirements, many Lyft drivers do just that. However, if they get into an accident and are not on a trip, then the insurance company might deny their claim because they hadn’t disclosed that they drove for Lyft.

The state recently passed a law that required all ride-share drivers to disclose to their insurance company that they worked for them. This was designed to avoid an injured person being denied compensation from the Lyft driver’s insurance company.

What Should I do if I get hit by a Lyft Driver?

If you’ve been injured riding a bike by a Lyft driver or passenger, you need to talk to someone about the law and your rights. There are potentially complicated insurance issues, and you need information you can rely on.  Contact our offices right away to arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation. We’ll listen carefully and then we’ll advise you on your rights under the law.

Don’t suffer alone and leave it to an insurance agent to determine what compensation you deserve for your injuries. They don’t owe you anything but they do work for a company whose profits rely on paying you as little as they can.

Call the Philadelphia Bicycle Accident Lawyers at the Pearce Law Firm, P.C.