As more people choose to travel via bicycle than by car, the number of bicycle accidents has increased. Even though bikes do not travel as fast as other moving vehicles, bicycle accidents can be more dangerous and result in more severe accidents because of the relative lack of protection afforded to bicyclists.
What Can Cause a Bicycle Accident?
Any number of things can cause bicycle accidents. A car or other motorized vehicle may hit a cyclist while on the road, or a pedestrian may force a cyclist into oncoming traffic.
A bicycle accident may also result from riding a bicycle on a property where a dangerous condition such as a hidden pothole on a paved bicycle path in a park causes harm to the bicycle or the rider.
Statistics for Bicycle Accidents
There are several chilling statistics related to bicycle accidents. Here are some statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Center for Disease Control, and the National Safety Council:
- 69% of fatalities happened in urban areas.
- 30% of fatalities happened between 4 pm and 8 pm, which is the peak time for people commuting between home and work, including many cyclists.
- The cumulative cost of deaths and injuries of cyclists is over $4 billion per year.
- The most frequent cause of bicycle accidents is cars hitting bicycles.
Should I Wear a Helmet?
Every bike ride should begin with putting on a helmet. You must ensure a proper fit so your helmet can best protect you.
Helmet size can vary between manufacturers. Follow the steps on the helmet to fit a helmet properly. It may take time to ensure a proper helmet fit. It’s usually easier to look in the mirror or have someone else adjust the straps. For a comprehensive list of helmet sizes according to manufacturers, go to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute website.
How Can I Decrease My Risk of Crashes?
There are two main types of crashes. The most common type of crash is falling. The most serious crashes are the ones involving cars. Most bicycle crashes can be prevented. There are things you can do to decrease your risk of a crash. First, know some bicycle safety facts:
- Regardless of the season, bicyclist deaths occurred most often at night
- Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (78%) compared to rural areas (22%).
- Bicyclist deaths are six times higher for males than females.
- One in four fatal bike crashes involves a bicyclist who had been drinking alcohol.
All states require bicyclists to follow the same rules and responsibilities as motorists on the roadway.
Pedestrians can practice better bicycle safety in these ways:
- Ride a bike that fits you—if a bike is too big, it’s harder to control the bike.
- Ride a bike that works—check your brakes before riding.
- Wear equipment to protect you and make you more visible to others, like a bike helmet, bright clothing, reflective gear. Use a white front light and red rear light and reflectors on your bike at night or when visibility is poor.
- Ride one per seat, with both hands on the handlebars, unless signaling a turn.
- Carry all items in a backpack or strapped to the back of your bike.
- Tuck and tie your shoelaces and pant legs to avoid getting caught in your bike chain.
- Plan your route—if you’re driving as a vehicle on the road, choose routes with less traffic and slower speeds. Your safest route may be away from traffic, in a bike lane or on a bike path.
Be focused and alert to the road and all traffic around you. Anticipate what others may do before they do it. This is called defensive driving. The quicker you notice a potential conflict, the quicker you can act to avoid a possible crash:
- Drive in the same direction as traffic.
- Obey street signs, signals, and road markings.
- Assume the other person doesn’t see you. Look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall, like pebbles, potholes, grates, or train tracks.
- Don’t text or use anything that distracts you by taking your eyes or mind off the road and traffic.
How Can I Ride Predictably?
By driving predictably, motorists understand what you intend to do and can react to avoid a crash.
Drive where you are expected to be seen. Travel in the same direction as traffic. Signal and look over your shoulder before changing lanes or turning.
Avoid or minimize sidewalk riding. Cars don’t expect to see moving traffic on a sidewalk. Cars may not look for you when backing out of a driveway or turning. Sidewalks sometimes end unexpectedly, forcing bicyclists into a road where a car isn’t expecting to look for a bicyclist. If you must ride on the sidewalk, remember to:
- Check your state’s law to make sure sidewalk riding is legal;
- Watch for pedestrians;
- Pass pedestrians with care by first announcing “passing on your left” or using a bell;
- Ride in the same direction as traffic: If the sidewalk ends, you should already be riding with traffic flow. Motorists will look left, right, left for traffic crossing a street. When you are to the driver’s left, the driver is more likely to see you;
- Slow down and look for traffic when crossing a street from a sidewalk: be prepared to stop and follow the pedestrian signals;
- Slow down and look for cars backing out of driveways or turning.
How Can I Improve My Bike Riding Skills?
No one learns to drive a bicycle safely without practice and experience. Safely riding your bike in traffic requires preparation. Start by riding your bike in a safe environment away from traffic. A park, path, or empty parking lot are great locations to practice riding a bike.
Take a biking class through your school, recreation department, local bike shop, or bikers group. Confidence in riding a bike through traffic comes with learning how to navigate and communicate with other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Reviewing and practicing as a safe pedestrian or bicyclist is great preparation for safe riding.
How Can Drivers Safely Share the Road?
People on bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as people behind the wheel of a car:
- Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists: Yielding to bicycles will help to avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road, sidewalk, intersection, or driveway.
- In parking lots, at stop signs, or when parking, look around for other vehicles and bicycles
- Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the rear. Stop completely, look left-right-left, and look behind before turning right on red.
- Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
- Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists when it’s safe to move into an adjacent lane.
Should I Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Bicycle accidents are common and can result in expensive and harmful injuries, even death. Suppose you are involved in a bicycle accident. In that case, a bicycle accident lawyer can help you figure out how you can be compensated for the harm you have suffered and how you can preserve your rights in the aftermath of such an accident.