By Logan Quirk
Bicycle accidents can be serious, and they can result in permanent health issues for those that experience one. This situation is why many municipalities in the United States started taking a closer look at what they can do to make roads safer for everyone who travels, including bikers. These accidents will continue to happen until both motorists and bicyclists start doing their part to stay vigilant and safe as they travel.
Bicycle Accident Statistics
Researchers conducted studies over the years to track the number of bicycle accidents throughout the United States. They found a steady decline in the number, but fatalities have become more common. In 2018, there were 857 fatalities from bicycle crashes across the United States, an increase from 2017’s 777.
So, how is it that there are fewer bicycle accidents overall, but more people using bikes to travel? Advocacy groups are instrumental in convincing cities and towns to enhance their safety measures for bicyclists.
Spurred on by these advocacy groups, areas across the United States are working to spread education about bicycle safety, building bike lanes and parking areas, and encourage general information. They’re making resources available to both motorists and bicyclists about their legal obligations, and any steps they can take to prevent accidents.
Fatalities with Bicycle Accidents Are on the Rise
There are a few reasons why there are fewer accidents but more fatalities. Those include:
- Drivers aren’t exercising caution when they have to share the road with bicyclists.
- People new to bicycling may not know all of the essential, safe biking practices.
- Cities may plan, but they have yet to implement infrastructure changes to help support the safety of their bicyclists.
Bicycle Accidents by Area
Research shows that around 70% of all fatal bicycle accidents happen in urban areas instead of more rural communities. Urban areas have busier roads, after all. Additionally, there are more obstacles in urban areas that prevent them from installing safety features for bicyclists. This is why the most dangerous cities for someone to ride a bicycle in includes:
- Albuquerque, NM
- Columbus, OH
- Las Vegas, NV
- Los Angeles, CA
- Memphis, TN
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the safest cities in the nation for bicyclists. Smaller cities usually have a sharp decline in the severity and number of bicycle accidents. These cities are:
- Boston, MA
- Dallas, TX
- Detroit, MI
- Fort Worth, TX
- Portland, OR
In Portland, the entire city completely redesigned its infrastructure to make it safer for bicyclists. Portland installed better bicycle parking stations, improved the parking spaces it had, painted more bike lanes along busy highways, and reduced traffic speeds in areas frequented by a larger number of bicyclists.
Since the city put these things into play, Portland has had a large rise in the popularity of biking. Due to this, it intends to make roads even safer for bicyclists. There are plans to add more bicycle routes, make certain areas traffic-free, and add more bicycle repair and assembly stations.
Common Bicycle Accident Causes
Bicycle safety advocacy groups’ efforts will be more successful as a whole if they can give people a good understanding of why bicycle accidents happen in the first place. Some of the most common causes of these accidents include but are not limited to:
Dangerous Road Conditions
All cities have an obligation to ensure their dedicated bike lanes and roadways are in good condition and properly maintained. When roads or bike lanes fall into disrepair, it increases the chances of having a severe accident.
Not having clearly marked bicycle lanes makes it difficult for bicyclists to know where they are and where it isn’t safe for them to ride. Cracks or uneven pavement make it easier for a bicyclist to take a fall and end up in oncoming traffic.
Distractions are everywhere, and drivers are having a harder time focusing on the road. With Bluetooth headsets and hands-free options available, staying aware of the surroundings is difficult, especially if the bicyclist is wearing clothing that makes it harder for drivers to see them.
Drivers who give in to their distractions are more likely to hit a bicyclist and injure them. Sometimes, a driver may even clip a bicyclist and not even realize it because they’re engrossed in their phone or conversation. However, this phenomenon goes both ways.
Inattention and distractions on the bicyclist’s part also contribute to accidents. To lower the risk of having an accident and getting hurt, riders have to be vigilant and exercise a high degree of caution when they share the road with more powerful vehicles.
A large number of riders are using hands-free devices or wear headphones. These things can cause the bicyclist to swerve into traffic, or fail to stay in the bicycle lane. Headphones also block out the sound of oncoming traffic.
Failure to Yield
Both bicyclists and drivers can be at fault with an inability to yield. Both parties may not understand their respective responsibilities. At an intersection, who goes first? When should a motorist yield to someone on a bike? If a motorist doesn’t yield like they’re supposed to, bicycle accidents happen.
Crosswalks are another example of places where a failure to yield is common. A bicyclist could pull into the road when the car has the right of way, and the car may not be able to stop in time. Or, the crossing area is right by a corner that makes it difficult to see anyone using it.
Riding at Dusk or at Night
Dust and nights usher in a severe decrease in the overall visibility on the road. People who don’t wear reflective gear or have lights on their bikes while out riding are harder to see. Drivers may see them too late and not have time to stop before they hit them.
Cars Turning Right
When a vehicle makes a right turn, the car passes directly though the cyclist’s path. This is true for both cyclists in bike lanes and cyclists traveling in the traffic lane. The car will go past the person on a bicycle and slow down in preparation for turning right. When this happens, the person on the bicycle has nowhere to go. Another possible scenario is the motorist doesn’t look, turns right, and steers the vehicle straight into the bicyclist.
Reducing Bicycle Accidents
How do cities and towns help ensure that the more significant number of bicycle riders on the road stay safe while they’re out riding? Advocacy groups should encourage infrastructure changes and general education for every rider and driver.
Cities can sponsor community educational programs that make all of the rules, regulations, and safety information concerning bicycle culture is readily available. Several educational outreach programs have been very successful across the United States, and they include:
- Making information about bicyclist and driver responsibilities readily available to the public
- Implementing student and children educational programs
- Offering bicycle safety courses
More Safe Infrastructures
So, how do cities and towns change their highways and roads to increase the safety of bicyclists when they’re out and about? In cities like Portland, they’ve successfully implemented the following:
- Blazing off-road bike paths
- Constructing better and more bike-parking facilities
- Installing bicycle wayfinding signs
- Linking gaps in any existing bicycle networks
- Striping dedicated bike lanes
Advocating for bike safety initiatives with your local city council will also go far in spurring the city on in this endeavor.
What to Do in the Event of a Bicycle Accident
If you should find yourself the victim of a bicycle accident, there are a few things you want to do. They include:
Wait for the Local Authorities to Arrive on the Scene
It is critical that you wait for the police to arrive at the scene. Once they get there, they can take a statement and file a police report about the accident, even if you’re not hurt. Minor injuries can turn into significant health issues overnight, and they could even develop into permanent problems. If you leave the accident scene straight away, you might never be able to find who the at-fault driver is.
Don’t negotiate or attempt to negotiate with the driver of the vehicle. It’s common for many drivers to apologize right away and accept blame. However, they later claim it wasn’t their fault, or they deny that they were even involved. Wait for the police to come and start documenting everything. They might give the driver a ticket, and this can be helpful to you when you settle with their insurance company.
Give an Accident Report with Your Version of Events
Sometimes, the local authorities will go to the motorist and take a statement, but they don’t talk to the bicyclist and take their statement. Make sure you get your side of the story and give it to the police to put in their accident report. Remember to report all of your injuries, even the minor ones. It’s important to remember that minor injuries can turn into more serious ones.
If, for whatever reason, the police decline to add your version of events into the accident report, you can request an amendment later on.
Get Witness and Driver Contact Information
Try and get the name of the driver of the vehicle. You want to get their phone number, address, vehicle license number, driver’s license number, and any insurance information. If there are witnesses to the accident, try to get their contact information and names.
Don’t assume the police will take the time to get all of this information. They may not record it all. If you have injuries that prevent you from getting all of this information on your own, ask a bystander for help.
Document Everything That Happened
Even though it’s chaotic, try to take mental notes about everything about the accident. Remember as much as you can to the events leading up to the accident. Think about how the accident happened, what happened, where and when it happened, traffic, the road, and weather conditions. As soon as you have a chance, write all of this information down. Don’t try to remember it all without writing it out. It’s easy to forget details or get confused.
Document Any and All Injuries
Even if you have minor injuries, go to your local emergency room for immediate medical treatment. This fact alone will give you proof and a record that you got injuries due to the accident. Medical records are hard proof of how extensive those injuries are. Ask the hospital staff to take several pictures of your injuries for your file. Start a journal detailing your physical symptoms and update it every few days.
Preserve Any Evidence
Leave any damaged property in the same condition it is in after the accident. Don’t wash your clothes. Don’t send your helmet, bike, or any other equipment to anyone but your attorney. Take a few pictures of the damage to your equipment. This can serve as another form of proof if your case goes to court or you settle with an insurance company.
Seek Out a Professional for Advice
Many bicycle accidents involving cars come with complicated legal issues. It may be a good idea to consult an attorney who has experience working with bike accident cases. This type of attorney can:
- Advise you on how to move forward with your best interests in mind
- Negotiate with any insurance companies on your behalf
- Represent you in the event of a lawsuit
Don’t talk to any insurance companies before you talk to an attorney. The insurance company could use anything you say to them against you later. Sometimes, having the attorney send a letter to the insurance company will help you avoid legal pitfalls while resolving any issues. A vast majority of cases settle without going to trial.
Contact Quirk Law Group for Bicycle Accident Advice!
If you need advice regarding bicycle accidents, our staff can help. You can reach out and get in touch with any questions or concerns you may have. We’re happy to set up a consultation with you and go over your bicycle accident case.