Many people ride bicycles for exercise or to commute. While riding in urban areas is common, some ride in rural areas. Those who do ride on roads with higher speeds are more likely to die in a bicycle accident, but the actual quantity of wrecks is higher in urban areas since more people ride bicycles in these areas. A bicyclist shares the road with motorists and is bound by the same driving rules that they are. However, because a bicycle does not offer protection and is no match against a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds, bicyclists need to make safe choices to help reduce the number of injuries and deaths that bicycle accidents cause.
Bicycle Accident Statistics
Recently, in a span of six years, there were 16,807 wrecks involving bicycles. Only one-third of those accidents were on roads with higher speeds, and the rest were on city streets. Even so, the death rate was 33 percent higher for the one-third who rode on streets with higher speeds. Of that percentage, only 15 percent were injury crashes, with the rest resulting in fatalities. Of the total bicycle wrecks over that time period, there were 362 fatalities, according to Share the Road Texas.
In a recent year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, bicyclist accidents resulted in 72 fatalities, which was an increase of almost 29 percent from the year before. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that pedalcyclist accidents across the nation declined by 3 percent.
Avoiding Bicycle Accidents
Sometimes, regardless of how hard you try, you cannot avoid an accident when a motorist does not pay attention and collides with you. A vehicle might pin you to a sidewalk, or even between the vehicle and a fence or wall. But in many cases, you can avoid a bicycle accident and protect yourself by contacting us if you do get into an accident.
Helmets and Other Personal Protection Equipment
Helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, and gloves can help to protect you in a bicycle accident. However, if you are wearing the wrong sized helmet, you could suffer additional damage. Make sure the helmet fits properly, according to the manufacturer’s sizing information. Other personal protective equipment should also have the proper fit. For example, you should have properly fitted gloves to help protect your hands.
While a helmet might not protect you from broken bones and other injuries, it could mean the difference between life and death or a traumatic brain injury.
People try to avoid crashes when possible. When riding in high-traffic times, like during rush hour, consider taking the road less traveled, a block over. Additionally, the NHTSA stated that alcohol was involved in 37 percent of bicycle wrecks in one recent year, but did not say whether the bicyclist or motorist was under the influence. Since alcohol reduces your reaction times and your senses, avoiding alcohol when riding a bicycle is as important as avoiding it when you are a motorist.
Additional safety suggestions that could help you avoid an accident include:
- Make sure your bicycle is not too big for you and that everything is in working condition.
- Make sure you wear personal protective equipment and, if you are riding in the early morning or at or after dusk, be sure to have reflectors and lights on your bike. Also, wear reflective stripes on your clothing so you can increase the chances of being visible while on the road. For the same reason, never wear dark clothing while riding at night.
- Never carry a second rider on a bicycle made for one person.
- Make sure your shoes are tied, as loose laces may get stuck in the chain of the bicycle. If you wear pants with wide pant legs, tuck them in.
- Make sure you ride with, not against, traffic.
When riding, always assume that a motorist does not see you. Often people do not look for bicyclists on the street. They may be distracted, unable to see you, or they may believe (wrongfully) that bicyclists should only remain on the sidewalk. Watch for hazards, such as potholes and transitions to bridges. Also, refrain from using headphones or earbuds while you are riding—they make it nearly impossible to hear traffic around you.
What Motorists Should Do
Motorists have a duty to watch for bicyclists, just as bicyclists have a duty to watch for motorists and follow the traffic laws. Motorists often underestimate the speed of a bicycle, and may turn in front of you at an intersection. Always keep an eye open, even when you believe you have the right-of-way.
Motorists should not go through stop signs in large parking lots, and should always check their blind spots before turning or merging. This is especially true if they are driving in an area known to have bicyclists. A motorist should only pass a bike rider when it is safe to do so, and should always make sure there is enough room between the vehicle and bicycle.
Bicycle Accident Injuries
As a bicyclist, you do not have much protection from motorists. The size and weight of a small car are much more than a person on a bicycle. In an accident, you could suffer catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, or even death.
Injuries could include:
- Minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes, bruises, pulled muscles, and other soft-tissue injuries;
- Simple and compound fractures;
- Traumatic brain injuries;
- Internal injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Back and neck injuries; and
Recovering Damages From a Bicycle Accident
If a motorist is at fault for your bicycle accident, you may recover damages.
These could include:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future lost wages;
- Replacement or repair of personal property;
- Physical, cognitive, and psychological therapy expenses;
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of companionship;
- Inconvenience; and
- Wrongful death.