May 11, 2022 Social Share
Why Our Roadways Are Dangerous For Bicyclists, And What We Can Do About It (Plus 15 Bike Accident Facts, Laws To Know, Crash Checklist)
As highlighted in a previous blog article here, the United States is in the middle of a traffic fatality crisis, where statistics show 39,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, the most since 2007. In this article, we’re highlighting how American roads have grown especially dangerous for bicyclists.
In fact, 20% of traffic deaths in 2020 were people not inside of vehicles — that is, bicyclists and pedestrians. Experts say the rise of these types of deaths can be attributed to larger vehicles (SUVs), higher speed limits, more vehicles on our roadways, bad road design, and reckless driving. Even more, traffic safety experts argue policymakers continue to prioritize the speedy movement of vehicles over the safety of everyone else on our streets.
Experts also agree that the fix to this problem is multi-faceted: adopt stricter rules regarding speed limits, seatbelts, drunken driving, helmets and vehicle safety standards. This also includes rolling out protected bike lanes everywhere, and alter busy intersections so that bicycles and pedestrians are given marked, safe places to wait and specialized signaling to let them know when to go.
In the meantime, we must do what we can to make sure everyone gets home safe. Below are 15 facts, tips, and other pieces of information to help bicyclists stay safe, courtesy of Chain | Cohn | Clark and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
15 BIKE ACCIDENT FACTS
- Most accidents happen in urban area. As can be expected, urban areas are the epicenter of road accidents for cyclists. Urban arterial roads (high capacity roads that deliver traffic from collector roads to freeways) have the highest percentage of cyclist fatalities. These roads are responsible for around 44% of cyclist deaths.
- Cyclists are more likely to be killed at night. For instance, the NHTSA reports that during weekdays and weekends, the highest proportion of bicycle fatalities occurred between 6 p.m. and 8:59 p.m. On weekends, 20% of fatalities occur within that timeframe.
- Most cyclists killed in accidents are above 40 years old. In 2007, the average age of bicycle fatalities was 40. This number has been on the rise. Ten years later the average age of bicycle fatalities was 46.
- Alcohol plays a part in cyclist accidents. The NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis reports that “alcohol involvement either for a motor vehicle driver involved in a fatal pedal cyclist crash and/or the fatally injured pedal cyclist – was reported in 37% of the traffic crashes that resulted in pedal cyclist fatalities.” That is, cyclists riding under the influence of alcohol are putting their lives in danger. They also show that some innocent cyclists are killed on roads by motorists driving under the influence.
- Most accidents include single-vehicle crashes. Most cyclists killed on U.S. roads would have come into contact with a single-vehicle. The highest number of deaths can be attributed to light trucks (representing 88%). However, passenger vehicles are responsible for most injuries (75%). The front of the vehicle struck most injured cyclists.
- Rear-end collisions are the most common type. Rear-end collisions (in front of the vehicle to the back of the bicycle) are the most common types of collisions. This is essential information because it helps organizations involved in cyclist safety to design effective training programs. To ensure that motor vehicle drivers can see the cyclists on the road, it’s always crucial that riders make themselves more visible. Increasing visibility may be achieved by wearing bright-colored clothes. Neon-colored clothes are a good option, especially if you are riding during the night. To improve your visibility, consider having lights installed on your cycle. A white light in front, a flashing red light behind, and multiple reflectors all over your bicycle are some of the recommended measures to help cyclists remain visible.
- Picking the right bicycle makes a difference. This involves making sure that your bicycle is the right size for you. When buying a bike, consider the bike’s size and weight, the design of the tires, and your body size. If you’re going to use the bike daily, you may need to invest in a stronger bicycle. Check to make sure that your bicycle has all the right safety fittings, including tires whose treads are not worn down, tightly-screwed wheels, working brakes, a well-oiled chain, a strong handlebar, a comfortable seat, and lights and reflectors on both ends and at either side of your bicycle.
- Accidents can be avoided by being prepared. Being prepared means investing time in learning the road rules. It may also involve taking time to learn about road safety for cyclists and the main reasons why cyclists get injured or killed. Prepare yourself by putting on all the protective gear that you need before mounting your bicycle. These include your bicycle helmet, bright clothes, and reflective gear. Plan your route and avoid overly busy roads, using bike lanes where available.
- Know the hazards. One of the common hazards for cyclists involves motorists opening doors in front of cyclists. Knowing this will ensure that you will always be alert when you approach a car with someone inside. Other hazards to look out for include: motorists driving out of concealed driveways; drivers overtaking from the wrong side; cyclists cycling against traffic; motorists indicating to the right, and turning left, and vice versa; motorists failing to stop at intersections controlled by traffic lights or stop signs
- Bicycle helmets are effective. Bicycle helmets can save lives, period. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveals nearly 3 out of 4 crashes (74%) involve head injuries, and almost all (97%) bicycle fatalities involved cyclists not wearing a helmet. The World Health Organization advises cyclists to wear helmets because such head coverings “create an additional layer for the head and, thus, protect the wearer from some of the more severe forms of traumatic brain injury.”
- It’s essential to follow the traffic laws. It is dangerous to ride against traffic flow. Use appropriate hand signals when switching lanes or making a turn. Make no assumptions. Just because you are in a driver’s lane does not mean they can see you or are paying attention to the road. Stay alert and avoid making any sudden turns.
- Don’t forget to always ride in a straight line. This helps others on the road predict your actions.
- Become a better cyclist. You can improve cycling skills by taking cycling classes. You can also practice in safe environments like parks, empty parking lots, and clear pathways. It’s crucial to learn necessary on-bike communication, including how to signal a turn or a lane switch. Other skills you can practice include sitting still on a bicycle and relaxing your shoulders while riding.
- Avoid headphones. Headphones can drown out external sounds. When riding, you need to hear traffic noises for your safety. When you decide to go on the road, whether as a cyclist, pedestrian, or vehicle driver, you need to be fully alert.
- The cost of cyclist accidents. The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention reports that non-fatal crash-related injuries could result in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of around $10 billion.
BIKE LAWS TO KNOW
Here are bike laws you need to know to pedal safely and legally.
- Pedestrians have the right of way: In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians.
- Stop behind the crosswalk: Leave crosswalks free and clear for pedestrians. Always stop behind the line.
- Mind the signs and lights: Stop at stop signs and obey red lights, just like all other vehicles.
- Stay on the streets: It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk.
- Go with the flow: Ride the same direction as traffic. Walk your bike on the sidewalk if you find yourself on the wrong block of a one-way street.
- Take the lane: If you’re next to parked cars or you’re riding in a narrow lane — if you feel safer, take the lane and ride outside the door zone.
- It’s OK to leave the bike lane: If you feel safer outside the bike lane, you can ride in other vehicle travel lanes. Merge when safe and signal when changing lanes.
- Light up the night: Reflectors and a front white light are required by law. We recommend you use a rear light as well.
- Keep an ear clear: Even when using hands-free devices, bike riders and drivers are required to keep one ear free of headphones.
- Be a friend to disabled neighbors: Sometimes people with disabilities need access to the curb. Paratransit carriers (including taxis) may have to enter the bikeway to drop them off. Be a good neighbor and give them room.
- Pass on the left: Although bike lanes are often on the right side of the road, people biking and driving are required to pass on the left.
BICYCLE CRASH CHECKLIST
If you are involved in a collision while riding a bicycle, it’s important to know the steps to follow to ensure that you receive fair response from the police and collect information you may need for future legal issues.
Immediately after a crash
- Tell the driver to stay until the police arrive. If they refuse to stay or don’t provide ID, get their and the car’s description, vehicle’s license plate # and state of issue.
- Call (or ask someone to call) 9-1-1, and ask for the police to come to the scene.
- Get name and contact info for any witnesses. Ask them to remain on the scene until police arrive, if possible.
- Ask for the driver’s license and insurance card. Write down name, address, date of birth, and insurance information.
When the police arrive
- Ask them to take an incident report.
- Get reporting police officer’s name and badge number.
- If you’ve been doored, ask the officer to cite the motorist for dooring.
- Ask the officers to speak to witnesses, if possible.
- While a doctor’s report of your injury is important for insurance and/or legal action, you do not need to take an ambulance.
In the days after the crash
- Contact witnesses to ask them to email you their version of what happened while it’s fresh in their mind. Email yourself a description of what happened with relevant information and capture as much detail as you can.
- Take good photos of your injuries and any bike damage. Get an estimate from a bike shop before making repairs.
- Request a copy of the incident report from the police.
- Contact an attorney who has experience with bicycle accidents.
CHAIN | COHN | CLARK EFFORTS
At Chain | Cohn | Clark, we believe we should all share the road, and be extra careful when driving around motorcyclist and bicyclists.
Our law firm has been a proud partner of Bike Bakersfield, whose mission it is to promote bicycling as a safe, fun and environmentally-friendly means of everyday transportation. Recently, Chain | Cohn | Clark served as a sponsor for Project Light Up The Night, where volunteers hand out hundreds of free bicycle lights in various locations throughout Bakersfield. The law firm also donated 100 safety helmets to east Bakersfield students during a Bike Bakersfield “Kidical Mass,” which featured bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.
Chain | Cohn | Clark also helped launch a video campaign focused on the safe use and enjoyment for all of Bakersfield’s Kern River Parkway — a paved trail over 30 miles long that runs from southwest to northwest Bakersfield used for recreational use and commuting. The three videos highlight the rules of using the Parkway safely, how the entire family – adults with children and pets – can use the Parkway, and lastly, how the Parkway is “a trail to enjoy together,” as the campaign slogan states. The videos can be viewed on-demand at our firm’s YouTube page.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.