Bicycling continues to soar in popularity. If you’re one of the growing number who has taken up the sport, you will enjoy improved health and wellness, the camaraderie of other cyclists, among numerous other benefits that are unique to each rider. Not to deter you from bicycling, but it’s important to be acutely aware of the hazards that all too often befall bicyclists when on the road. Cyclists are often at the mercy of vehicles on the roadways. And, despite laws and regulations aimed at protecting bicyclists, accidents continue to happen with alarming frequency. According to Bicyclinginfo.org, the number of bicycle related injuries and deaths is lower than it was a few years ago, but instances of bike fatalities are still much too high.
Keep Your Eyes Open to These Scenarios
Cyclist-caused or driver-caused, according to Bicycling magazine, there are five primary causes of bicycle accidents, and they may not be the ones you expect:
- An oncoming car does not see a bicyclist and makes a left turn in front of him. (According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, this type of accident alone accounts for half of all bicycling accidents.)
- A driver opens a car door right into a bicyclist’s path as he is riding along a row of parked cars.
- A car passes a bicyclist and makes a right turn into the cyclist’s path.
- A driver exits a parking lot right into a cyclist’s path.
- A driver hits a bicycle from the rear.
Other common causes of accidents include cyclists running stop signs or red lights, cyclists making unexpected moves, and cyclists riding against oncoming traffic, all of which you can easily avoid. Although many of these accidents are caused by car drivers, it is important for cyclists to be aware of these statistics. Bicyclesafe.com offers steps you can take to reduce the chances of being involved in such accidents.
Avoiding an Intersection Collision
Because three of the five primary causes of bike accidents have to do with intersections—left turns, right turns, and turns out of parking lots—you should take extra precautions in these areas. First, you should attempt to get the driver’s attention, either by waving or making noise. If you see a car start to turn in front of you, yell to get the driver’s attention.
Second, ride as far to the left as possible. Most riders tend to hug the curb, thinking this keeps them out of harm’s way. But, this actually makes you harder to see. Riding to the left also makes it easier to get out of the way if a driver starts to make a right-hand turn.
Third, never ride on the sidewalk. Drivers simply don’t check the sidewalk for cyclists. So, should you venture out into the crosswalk, it is more likely that a car will not be able to stop in time.
Finally, be sure that your bicycle has a headlight, especially if you ride at night.
Protect Yourself from the Cars Behind You
To avoid being hit by a car from behind, make sure that you have a rear light or reflectors. This is especially important if you ride at night. Bicyclesafe.com reports that 60% of bike accidents happen to cyclists who do not ride with lights. A rearview mirror can also be a huge lifesaver by allowing you to see any cars that are coming up behind you. And always looking behind you and signal that you are about to turn before you make a move. This is especially important when moving in and out of a lane with parked cars.
Avoiding Car Doors
To prevent an accident caused by an opening car door, one thing you can do is ride further to the left. Then, you will be away from the parked cars. Most bikers ride as close to the parked cars as possible to avoid being hit by cars coming up from behind. However, the likelihood of being hit by an opening car door when hugging the right hand side is far greater than the likelihood of being hit by a car when riding farther to the left.
Though you will always be at the mercy of drivers on the road to some degree, knowledge is power. Learning as much as you can about bicycle safety can mean a safer bicycling experience. Exercising caution, wearing reflective clothing, and always wearing a helmet will put distance between you and the very tragic statistics. Be safe out there, and have fun … it’s autumn in New York!
About the author:
Joseph G. Macaluso is a personal injury lawyer practicing at the Bronx law firm of Macaluso & Fafinski, P.C. A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Mr. Macaluso has been in private practice since 1990 with an exclusive focus on personal injury and medical malpractice. A member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, he has served on the Legislative Committee of this organization and is also a member of the Bronx County Bar Association and has served on the Board of Directors of Bronx Legal Services.