According to the League of American Cyclists wearing a helmet is not our first line of defense for safe cycling, education is! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 718 bicyclists were killed and 51,000 were injured in crashes with motor vehicle in 2009, but car-bike collisions account for only 17% of all bike crashes.
So let’s look at the other crash statistics to help you learn how to control your bike and not be an accident statistic: 50% involve falls, 17% are bike-bike, 8% bike-dog, and 8% other. In this article we will look at the car-bike data with future articles educating us about safety and skill building to prevent the other types of crashes like dealing with dogs and avoiding falls.
The car-bike crashes where cyclists are to blame include riding on the wrong side of the road so remember to always cycle in the same direction that cars drive – the right side. Cyclist making left turns from the right side of a road causes crashes. Position your bike just right of the center line with your left turn hand signal. Other cyclists’ mistakes are failing to yield from a driveway, riding on the sidewalk, running a stop sign or signal, and swerving in front of a car.
Okay, car drivers also need some education about sharing the road with bicyclists. The most common errors are motorists turning either left or right in front of a cyclist followed by running a stop sign or signal. Motorists are known to inadvertently open car doors into the path of cyclists. Bike riders can ride defensively by cycling five feet left of parked cars. This position allows you to avoid car doors, avoid the swerve reflex, and more space so cars are less likely to pass the cyclist and the parked cars.
Other common accident causes are motorists not seeing bicyclist and errors in overtaking cyclists. Cyclist should wear bright clothing avoiding dark clothing that make you difficult to see in low light conditions and blending into the Maine foliage. Front and rear bike lights are needed at night for both safety and legal reasons. Cycling in a more leftward lane position aids in visibility, because it puts the cyclist more where other drivers are already looking for traffic.
For more information, read about the “Rules of the Road” by visiting bikeleague.org/roadrules. Cyclists remember to follow the laws, ride predictably, be conspicuous, think ahead, and keep your cool.