Today, about one-third of Americans over the age of three say they have ridden a bike in the past year. According to a recent study, participants said they rode to get to work, for exercise, and simply for fun. More than half of those surveyed said bicycling is a convenient way to travel, but about the same number of people say they are concerned about being hit by a car while on a bike—those fears are not unfounded.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 726 pedal-cyclist fatalities in 2014 and approximately 50,000 injuries. Cyclist deaths represent about two percent of all traffic fatalities, even though they make up just one percent of the trips taken on the road. Learn more about why bike crashes happen and what you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe when they share the road.
Who Is Involved in Cycling Accidents?
Surprisingly, adults are more likely than children to be involved in fatal bike accidents. While young people suffer more bicycle-related injuries than those in other groups, teenagers and older Americans (those over the age of 40) accounted for the most cycling fatalities. The NHTSA states that the average age of those killed in bicycle crashes in 2013 was 44.
Government data also states that men and riders without helmets are more likely to suffer fatal injuries in an accident. Additionally, urban riders are at a greater risk than those in rural areas. Of the fatal crashes that occurred in 2014, the majority (68 percent) happened in an urban setting.
What Are Some Common Causes of Bicycle Crashes?
There are many causes of bicycle crashes with cars, and most of these are preventable with a reasonable amount of care by both cyclists and drivers. Some of the most common accident causes include:
- Rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions occur for many of the same reason car-to-car rear-end collisions happen. Often, a driver is following a cyclist too closely and cannot stop in time to prevent a crash.
- Cars turning right. Cyclists typically occupy the space on the road between the curb and vehicle traffic. When a driver turns right, the cyclist can get trapped and struck by the car.
- Drivers opening car doors. When cars are parked along a curb, cyclists must ride between the parked cars and the moving traffic. Often, drivers exiting their cars don’t see an oncoming cyclist and open the car doors, hitting the bike and rider.
- Failure to yield. Similar to common motorcycle accidents, as a cyclist traverses an intersection, they are at risk. In many cases, drivers fail to yield and turn left into an oncoming rider. Failure-to-yield accidents also commonly occur when cars are pulling out into traffic from a side street or parking lot as a cyclist approaches.
Safety Tips to Prevent These Dangerous Bike Accidents
Whether fair or not, cyclists must be proactive and exercise a good deal of caution when traveling among cars on the road. Experts offer a number of safety tips to help keep cyclists safe, including:
- Wear a helmet. Helmets have repeatedly been proven to reduce injuries and save lives. In New York City, the department of transportation offers a free helmet for those who learn the proper fit and sign a waiver.
- Be predictable. Ride in a straight line as much as possible. Don’t weave in and out of traffic. When motor vehicle drivers can anticipate your actions as a cyclist, you are less likely to be hit.
- Be visible. Wear bright colors and don’t be afraid to utilize a horn or bell. In the dark, be sure to use lights or attach reflective material to your bike. Many accidents are caused when a driver simply doesn’t see a cyclist.
- Don’t wear earphones. New York law states that a cyclist may have one earbud in while riding, but a safer bet is to avoid the distraction and focus on the situation around you.
Cyclists Have Same Responsibilities as Drivers on the Road in New York
In New York City over the last decade, commuter cycling increased by 262 percent. With so many more cyclists on the road, it is important for everyone to understand their responsibilities. Cyclists are obligated to follow the same rules of the road as vehicle operators. Some of the main rules include:
- Ride in the street, not on the sidewalk.
- Ride with traffic, not against it.
- Obey all traffic signals and signs.
- Use a white headlight and red taillight.
- Use marked bike lanes if possible.
Unfortunately, even when cyclists do their best to follow the laws and ride safely, accidents happen. If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a bicycle accident, the experienced legal team at Oginski Law may be able to help. Call our New York office at 516.487.8207 to speak with Gerry Oginski to learn more about your rights and what compensation could be available to you.