The Dangers of Road Bike Accidents
People bicycle for commuting, exercise, or pleasure. Texas is a great place to bicycle, with miles of scenic trails and beautiful weather. For many people, bicycling is their primary form of transportation, especially in cities such as Austin and San Antonio.
In one recent year, 857 bicyclists died in traffic crashes in the United States. Learn what you can do to keep safe on the roads from our experienced bike accident lawyers below.
5 Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents on the Road
When bicycles and motor vehicles share the road, drivers must remain safe and attentive.
Many bicycle accidents are caused from:
- The left cross. This type of accident is responsible for nearly half of all bike motor vehicle crashes. It happens when a motor vehicle turns left without seeing a cyclist on the other side of the road, traveling in the opposite direction.
- The right hook. When a car or truck passes a bicyclist and then makes a sudden right turn, they move into the cyclist’s path and cause a crash.
- Getting doored. A car or truck driver opens the door right into the path of the cyclist. Texas law requires that no person “open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic, unless the door may be opened in reasonable safety without interfering with the movement of other traffic.”
- Alley crashes. When a car or truck pulls out of an alley, parking lot, or garage, they may not be paying attention or simply fail to see the bicyclist.
- Rear-end crashes. If a motor vehicle follows a bicycle too closely and can’t stop quickly, it might hit the bicycle from behind. These accidents are common at stop signs.
Factors Contributing to Road Bicycle Accidents
As with all crashes, many factors may contribute to the accident. However, negligence, whether on the part of the driver or the bicyclist, causes most bicycle accidents.
Negligence may include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs/alcohol. In just one year, alcohol contributed to 37 percent of all fatal bicyclist crashes.
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failure to yield
- Passing on the right
- Failure to check blind spots
- Bicyclists who do not drive in the designated bicycle lane
The Texas Department of Transportation reports that four road conditions that are hazardous for bicyclists include:
- Sewer or cattle grates. Bicycle wheels can get caught in these grates.
- Parked cars. Whenever possible, keep a car door’s width away from parked cars to avoid unexpected door openings.
- Surface conditions. Risks on the road surface include ice, water, loose gravel, irregular pavement, rumble strips, or any other road surface that could cause a rider to lose control of a bicycle.
- Railroad tracks. Because bicycle tires are narrow, they may fall in the gap between the rail and surface of the road. Keep an eye out for gaps, cross the tracks perpendicularly if possible, and avoid leaning or turning while crossing.
Because bicyclists lack the protection provided by motor vehicles, road bicycle accidents often result in severe injuries or fatalities. When vehicles are traveling fast, the crashes are more likely to result in fatalities. Two-thirds of bicycle crash injuries occurred on city streets, but the largest number of bicycle crash fatalities happened on U.S. and state highways.
The most common injuries sustained in bicycle accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Head or neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Broken or fractured bones
- Internal organ damage
Head injuries cause approximately 60 percent of all bicycle rider fatalities. Wearing a properly-fitted bike helmet reduces the head injury risk by 85 percent. Texas does not have a state helmet law, but some cities, including Austin, have passed mandatory helmet laws for children under the age of 18.
Texas is not unusual in that its laws define bicycles as vehicles. Therefore, under the rules of the road, a person riding a bicycle has all the rights and duties of a person driving a vehicle, except for special laws specific to bicycles and those provisions that don’t apply to them.
Texas laws for bicyclists include:
- Bicyclists must ride on the right side of the road, close to the curb, unless they are passing a vehicle or making a left turn
- Bicyclists may not ride on the sidewalk
- Bicyclists must use arm signals when turning
- When riding at night, bicyclists must have a white light on the front and a red light or reflector on the rear of their bicycle
- A person may not use a bicycle to carry more people than the bicycle is designed or equipped to carry
- A person operating a bicycle may not carry anything that prevents them from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars
- In Texas, state statute does not govern the distance a motor vehicle must maintain from a bicycle. However, the motor vehicle must maintain a safe distance. Some Texas cities, including Austin and San Antonio, have passed safe passing laws requiring a three-foot distance.
If a bicycle accident injured you, you can sue anyone who may have caused or contributed to the accident. Negligent driving causes many bicycle accidents. However, a poorly maintained road may provide a cause of action against the municipality in charge of road maintenance. If the bike was defective, the designer or manufacturer might be liable. In most cases, the victim of a bicycle crash has two years from the date of the accident to file a bicycle accident lawsuit, but there are exceptions, so it is best to consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Compensation for Road Bicycle Accidents
Bicyclists often suffer serious injuries as a result of a crash.
Therefore, they are entitled to full and fair compensation for their losses, including:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering due to injuries
- Emotional trauma
- Lost wages or time at work
What Should You Do Following a Bicycle Accident?
If you find yourself in a bicycle accident, you should:
- Seek medical care. Always seek medical attention after an accident, even if you think your injuries are minor. Keep in mind that for some injuries, the symptoms may not be apparent right away.
- Gather evidence. If possible, take pictures of the accident scene and your injuries from many angles. You should also write down the names and contact information of anyone involved in the accident and all witnesses who saw the accident.
- Gather and keep documentation. Keep copies of the police report, any medical documentation or bills, any pictures, and witness statements in a safe place.
- Contact an attorney.
If you were in a road bicycle accident, you need an attorney to advise you and guide you through the legal process. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, reach out to a bicycle accident lawyer today.