Sometimes the black letter law passed by the legislature is unclear. The legislature can’t anticipate every possible fact scenario when they pass a law, so it lay to the courts to interpret the law and give guidance to what it means. This interpretation is called case law. When the court decides a certain meeting to the law it essentially answers a legal question. Lawyers and other courts then can rely on that ruling when they have a similar issue in their case. The following case answers the question above.
Kendrick v. Manda, 38 Kan. App. 2d 864, 174 P.3d 432 (2008).
This case addresses the following issue:
What obligations does a bicyclist have when riding on the sidewalk?
This case revolves around whether a bicyclist was acting as a “pedestrian” or a “vehicle” at the time of the accident at issue. Id. at 868. The court essentially ruled that a bicyclist cannot have the best of both worlds: if the cyclist is acting as pedestrian, the cyclist has all the obligations of a pedestrian. Id. at 869-70. Because the Plaintiff here was using the crosswalk and heading towards a sidewalk, she was acting as a pedestrian and was “jay-walking.” Id. at 870.
This case arises from a car-bicyclist accident. Id. at 865. Plaintiff was cycling to work and had been riding along the shoulder of an Olathe road. Id. at 866. There was no sidewalk running along the road. Id. Plaintiff stopped at a red traffic signal, and when that signal turned green, she began cycling in the crosswalk and heading towards a sidewalk on the far side of road. Id. The intersection was very large—five lanes—and included two right-turn-only lanes. Id. Because of these lanes, the crosswalk was controlled by a separate signal that allowed vehicles making right-hand turns to go, then switching to allow pedestrians to cross. Id. The signal was stopping pedestrians at the time Plaintiff was cycling in the crosswalk. Id. Defendant was in the inner-right-hand-turn-only lane, and began turning when he struck Plaintiff. Id.
The court began by noting the oddity of cyclists: they aren’t motorists and they aren’t pedestrians. Id. at 868. Yet, the law treats cyclists as both motorists and pedestrians depending on the circumstances. Id. When riding on the road, Section 8-1587 imposes all obligations that a motorist has upon a cyclist. Id. When using sidewalks, cyclists “have the same rights as pedestrians,” as well as the same obligations. Id.
In this case, Plaintiff was cycling in the crosswalk at the time of the accident: “an area where westbound traffic had no right to be.” Id. at 870. This made Plaintiff a “pedestrian,” which meant “she enjoyed not only the benefits of being treated as a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but assumed the attendant duties as well.” Id. Plaintiff had disregarded the pedestrian signal, however, and choose to cross the street at a time when vehicles making right-hand turns had the right-of-way. Id. Thus, Defendant should have been allowed to turn in front of Plaintiff. Id. Because the court did not instruct the jury on the obligations of a pedestrian when using a crosswalk, the case had to be remanded for a new trial. Id.